Jump to the following topics (general martial arts):
- What are the martial
are various categories of martial art.
"soft" benefits from martial arts.
Jump to the following topics (regarding tai chi):
- What is tai chi?
are the benefits from the practice of tai chi?
- The technique of tai
Jump to the following topics (regarding aikido):
- What is aikido?
- Aikido has a
- The technique of
we learn about ki, we learn about spirit and intuition.
is an aikido routine which we can practice.
principles of aikido can be used in our psychological life.
What are the martial arts?
They are a variety of techniques which were developed in the Orient
for fighting, self-defense, sport, and meditation. They include
aikido, tai chi, judo, tae kwon do, etc. In this chapter, we will
examine the martial arts as a means of "moving meditation" -- and we
will see that any action -- including the actions which are
associated with violence -- can be used for the purpose of
are various categories of martial art. In addition to the specific
schools of martial art (e.g., karate, aikido, etc.), we can discern
different approaches to the study:
- "Hard" or "soft."
Emphasis on the outer technique or the inner state.
- The "hard" martial arts include karate and kung fu. They
employ muscular strength, a fierce attitude, and often an
intent of injuring or killing an opponent.
- The "soft" martial arts include aikido, tai chi, and pa
kua. They use the energy of the conflict rather than
muscular power as a means of resolution. The attitude is
detachment and serenity; the intent is to settle the strife
- The outer technique. Some teachers emphasize technique, for
students who want to learn martial arts as a form of
self-defense or exercise; these students are not particularly
interested in the philosophy or metaphysics of the practice.
- The inner state. Some teachers present the martial arts as
a means of self-discovery, meditation, and an education
regarding the energy and principles of life. However, even if
we study martial arts as a form of meditation, the outer form
needs to be performed correctly -- not to comply with a
meaningless rule but, instead, to convey the energy which
is innate in that movement. As we gain an awareness of that
energy, our "technique" is not built upon the traditional
routines which we have learned; instead, it is based upon
intuition which guides us in the spontaneous movements that
express the energy of that particular moment.
benefits from martial arts. In addition to their use for fighting,
self-defense, and exercise, martial arts grant the following benefits
when used as a form of meditation and self-exploration.
- We have unique opportunities to explore spiritual principles
in action. Every situation in life grants opportunities, but
martial arts test in ways which do not generally occur in our
daily activities -- with the immediacy of mock combat.
We can practice attentiveness. We must learn mindfulness
because of the speed and accuracy which are required in martial
mock-combat (and the painful penalty which ensues if we are not
observant). At first, we are mindful of the individual movements
as we practice; later, when those techniques become habitual, and
we become more aware of the chi or ki, we can be mindful of that
energy, in ourselves and in our opponent. Our alertness is
centered in our ki or chi, which responds intuitively with the
corresponding yin reception to the yang assault. The analytical
mind has neither the perceptiveness nor the quickness to process
the necessary data and to plan a defense, so we do not
intellectualize about our tactics nor do we speculate about the
attacker's possible approach; instead, we focus on the energy
which is a source of both knowledge and power.
We learn about the energy of life. In China, this energy is
called "chi" (as in tai chi); in Japan, the same energy is called
"ki" (as in aikido); the energy is also called "prana" or "life
force" (in yoga) or "libido" (in Jungian psychology -- in contrast
to Freudian psychology, which considers libido to be strictly a
sexual energy rather than the general energy of life); in
The Human Handbook, the life-energy is called "spirit"
(although, more precisely, spirit is a transcendental entity which
is translated into the life-energy of the material worlds).
Particularly if we are practicing a "soft" martial art (e.g., tai
chi or aikido), our aspiration is to become more aware of this
life-energy -- and how to conserve it (through grounding and a
relaxed stance), how to apply it effectively (with the correct
timing and intensity), and how to interact our energy-flow with
that of the world and other people (especially an attacker). The
knowledge of our energy is valuable also outside of the martial
arts studio; the ki or chi is the vitality which powers our entire
life in every activity.
- We are learning about principles such as emotional balance,
the life-energy (ki or chi), grounding, power, assertiveness,
the body, and so on.
- We study the yinyang through an opponent's attack (yang)
and our response (yin).
- We are schooled in humility as we discover that egotism is
a mental distraction, and it is an interference in the process
by which our actions can proceed directly from intuition to
action (without the irrelevant, time-consuming, and purposeless
imposition of a dysfunctional ego's vanity, outrage, etc.).
- We learn the difference between intellectual speculation
and experience-based wisdom. In martial arts, if we
misunderstand a principle, our error cannot be rationalized or
overlooked; instead, the error is confirmed for us decisively
by the immediate pain from an opponent's blow.
What is tai chi? It is one of the
martial arts, like judo or karate. However, most people use it as a
type of "moving meditation." Some of the concepts here are specific
to tai chi, but others are similar to those of other styles of
movement meditations or dance meditation.
are the benefits from the practice of tai chi?
- We gain physiological benefits.
We improve our mental facilities.
- We improve our muscle tone, blood circulation, and other
aspects of physical health.
- We also enhance our sense of balance, and our precision of
We become aware of the body's energy -- the "chi." As we
become more attentive and yielding to this energy, our "center of
gravity" drops to the level of the hara (which is in the lower
abdomen); we relax our muscles and our will, and we allow the
energy itself to move the body instead of willfully directing the
- We enhance our ability to concentrate, as we focus on the
movements of our body.
- We become peaceful as we perform these slow, gentle
The technique of tai chi.
We can learn some of the basics from videotapes and books, but we
truly need personal instruction in order to master the subtleties of
the positions and movements. However, for the purpose of meditation,
we can employ our own intuition to develop routines in which we use
graceful movements to explore the movement of life-energy through us.
Some general suggestions:
- Do the movements in a manner which is graceful, light, gentle,
and relaxed. The chi itself is propelling us, so we do not need to
be forceful. Although tai chi is a series of distinct movements,
they flow into one another seamlessly, to permit a continuing and
increasing flow of chi. To create this slow motion, we can pretend
that we are moving our body through water rather than air; we feel
the density and benign resistance of the "water."
- Be aware of your breathing. In tai chi, we inhale through our
nose while moving outward (i.e., raising or extending an arm or
leg); we exhale through our nose while lowering or withdrawing an
arm or leg. The breathing is centered in our lower abdomen.
- Move the body as an integrated whole, including the head,
torso, arms, legs, and internal parts.
- Allow the motions to follow a curved line, not a straight
line. The arms are never fully straightened.
- Maintain a posture which is erect and balanced .
- In the feet, experience a warm, grounded connection to the
earth. (To enhance this connection, we can do tai chi without
shoes.) Our feet and legs are our stability and our strength.
- Be expressive with your hands, as they extend the chi outward
or they withdraw it backward (depending on the direction of the
What is aikido? Aikido has two
- It is a means of self-defense. It is one of the martial arts
-- a "soft" martial art, like tai chi. The techniques can be used
when we are violently attacked.
- It is a type of meditation. Some people practice aikido for
the same reason that they practice tai chi: to learn about
self-discipline, and their body, and the "ki" energy which powers
the body. This ki energy (as in aikido) has also been
called chi (as in tai chi) and prana (as in the practice of
yoga); it is the energy of life -- an energy which is founded on
the nature and dynamics of spirit. Aikido teaches us a depth of
mindfulness which extends beyond our physical activity into the
energy which underlies that activity. As we learn about this
energy through the practice of aikido, we can apply its principles
to other styles of movement meditation.
Aikido has a
- Our intent. In other styles of self-defense, our intent might
be to hurt an opponent, but the purpose of aikido is simply to
negate the effect of an attack and to reestablish harmony and
peace, preferably without injuring the aggressor. The attacker
displays an aggressive (hence unbalanced) energy, and the defender
compassionately demonstrates the ineffectiveness and
inappropriateness of such an expression (by permitting the
attacker's psychological and energetic imbalance to create the
inevitable physical imbalance -- probably resulting in a
tumble on the ground). In our attitude, we harmonize with the
reality of the attack; we accept the human reality in which
aggression exists, and so we feel no annoyance or resentment when
conflict occurs. Those emotional reactions would distract us from
our task of resolving the assault, and they would create a
contentious yang factor within us rather than the yielding yin
which is the appropriate, balanced response. Because of our
willingness to be centered in spirit, we are compassionate in
acknowledging the injuries which have provoked the attack; our
compassion might not be expressed in words but rather in our
willingness to join the person in exploring the dynamics of
- Our opponent. The attacker is not viewed as an "enemy";
instead, he or she is a fellow human who is presenting an
opportunity for both people to learn about energy ("ki"). We are
competing against ourselves; we are challenging the efficiency of
our own body and thoughts and the energy tones which can arise
during a confrontation: fear, anger, frustration, etc. In any
interpersonal relations, we can resolve external disputes only if
we resolve the internal ones; otherwise our arrogance and
aggression and unskillful actions will exacerbate any conflict
which is presented to us. In some schools of aikido, there are no
contests or grades; the teachers create a mood of cooperation so
that the students can focus on their own development in a friendly
and contemplative manner. However, in other schools, the teachers
realize that we are in a culture which stresses competition, so
they permit competition in their classes; to do otherwise might be
hypocritical and even repressive of our ingrained social training,
and it might be denying us the opportunity to experience
situations which are closer to those of "real life."
- The yinyang. In aikido, we learn about this principle of yin
and yang. For example, an attack is not 100% yang. The assailant
is yin when he is drawing back his fist for a punch; during this
consolidation of energy, he is vulnerable. The punch itself is
yang. But in the aftermath of the punch, he again exhibits a yin
energy -- either drawing back for another punch, or losing his
balance because of our non-resistance.
The technique of aikido.
When we are attacked, we use the following procedure (as explained in
terms of energy and archetypal fields):
- We allow the attackers to come close so that we can blend our
energy with theirs. We can characterize the two energies:
We are centered in spirit, so the aggression (i.e. the actions
derived from these charged archetypal elements) does not "connect"
with anything within our own archetypal fields; for example, the
attacker's imposition does not trigger a personal response within
us, e.g, anger, or an "indignation" constellation, or a "victim"
constellation. Thus, from our position of intuition and
centeredness, we are free to respond to the attack in any way
which our intuition suggests. Because intuition cares only for
life itself, it seeks only to defuse the attack such that life can
go on for both of us, with the minimum of interruption and pain.
We manage the physical aspect of the attack; obviously, our
attitude and energy must be supplemented by physical action. In
aikido, we grasp a part of the attackers' body (probably the wrist
or hand) and then we pivot in a circular motion, changing the
direct assault of the energy into a centrifugal motion which spins
the attackers away from us. Because the attackers are probably
surprised by our lack of resistance, and physically perplexed by
the lack of a stable target, they are unbalanced and disoriented
both psychologically and physically; hence, they are overextended
and vulnerable. With our grip on their hand or wrist, we can add a
slight adjustment to the momentum, to send the attackers in any
direction which we choose. One option is to send them directly to
the ground, with an aikido "joint lock" -- a painful twist of the
shoulder, elbow, or wrist; if the attackers do not submit, we can
easily dislocate the joint. However, the ideal in aikido is to
cause no injury to the attacker but instead to create a resolution
in which the parties are strengthened, educated, and unified by
- Our yin energy is characterized by a lack of aggression or
physical resistance. We are centered in spirit -- balanced,
alert, ready to learn and to be tested by life.
- The attackers' yang energy is characterized by their
aggression and physical momentum. While there is nothing
"wrong" with yang energy per se, this particular
manifestation of it is not guided by spirit (which seeks only
the expression of life, not the advantage of one person the
advantage of another person); in the model which is presented
in this book, we could say that the attack is driven by
dysfunctional archetypal-field elements, e.g., thoughts of
greed, or the residual energy tones of anger from previous
circumstances. While the attacker might have a legitimate need
or complaint, the expression of that complaint is polluted by
those residual elements, resulting in actions which we label
"aggressive." This aggressive position is innately a position
- The attackers do not use the power of their surging
life-energy (which is available to people only when they
obey the dynamics of that spirit-based energy).
Instead, they are fueled by the limited residual energy of
dysfunctional elements in their archetypal fields; for
example, their actions arise from the charged thoughts of
resentment. That charge can be powerful and destructive, but
it is easily defeated by well-executed spiritual energy (as
- The attackers do not receive information from intuition,
which perceives all dynamic factors in a situation. Instead,
they are following directions from the charged
archetypal-field elements whose only intent is to discharge
themselves without concern for the damage and repercussions
which the actions would incur. Because the attackers are not
attending to intuition, they are not aware of other dynamic
factors; thus, the actions are imprecise, and the reactions
(from their intended victim) are unexpected.
we learn about ki, we learn about spirit and intuition. Ki is an
energetic expression of the substance which we call spirit; thus, as
we practice aikido, our awareness of the ki grants the same
benefits that we would gain from an awareness of intuition. In either
case, we are studying the same dynamics. The ki becomes stronger
within us because we are responding to it, and permitting its
expression, and eliminating any blockages to its flow. The energy
extends beyond our physical body -- as an aura -- and its range
increases as the ki intensifies. This energy field becomes so
powerful and "dense" -- and our awareness of it so refined -- that we
attain various abilities:
- Within this energy field, we can sense whatever is happening;
for example, we might become aware of the approach of an assailant
from behind. We "feel" the advance as distinctly as if the
assailant were touching our body rather than merely our energy
- We can detect more than just physical movement; we can also
discern the attacker's thoughts, including the specific plan of
action, e.g., a left fist to the head. This is not psychic
"telepathy" but rather the detection and interpretation of a
disturbance in our force field. An aikido master knows exactly
what an attacker is going to do.
- We can resolve an attack with the energy itself. When the ki's
flow is strong enough, it can repel an assailant simply by the
energy field itself, with no physical contact. Martial arts
literature gives many examples -- probably not mere myth -- in
which one or more attackers ran toward a master and then, when
they encountered the field, were knocked backward ten feet or
more. The master was so attuned to the ki that he or she would not
even need to be aware of the attack; the ki acted automatically.
The founder of aikido (Morehei Uyeshiba) demonstrated his ability
to knock people to the floor without touching them.
is an aikido routine which we can practice. In this simple, fun
exercise, we explore non-resistance as a means of confronting an
opponent. We can try two versions:
- Stand 24" from your partner, and place your palms against his
or hers. Maintain a low center of gravity by basing your energy in
the hara (which is in the lower abdomen). Hand-to-hand, try to
push one another off-balance; any movement of the feet is
considered an off-balance state.
Instead of putting your palms against your partner's palms,
simply stand in one spot while he or she tries to push you
off-balance. You are not allowed to touch your opponent; instead
you stay erect by relying on your balance, a low center of
gravity, and your non-resistance. For a greater challenge, stand
on one leg while someone attempts to push you over.
- When you are pushing: be careful not to overextend yourself
(by pushing too hard, or leaning too far forward); if you do
that, your partner is likely to give no resistance, so your
force will throw you forward.
- When your partner is pushing: feel the force but don't
resist it directly (i.e., don't push in response); instead,
yield and "soften" yourself with no bodily resistance or
emotional aggression but rather a simple response to the other
person's movements. If the person overextends, pivot your
waist, and allow the force to carry him or her to either your
left or right.
principles of aikido can be used in our psychological life. Aikido is
a physical practice, but its concepts can be applied to psychological
encounters; for example, when we are approached by an argumentative
person, our non-resistance allows us to be clear,
non-confrontational, intuitive, and effective. In our daily life, we
can practice "psychological aikido" by noticing the many
provocations, e.g., hostile people, a barking dog, a honking horn,
unpleasantly loud music, etc. Instead of responding with charged
archetypal-field elements, we can seek the balance of aikido --
welcoming the opportunity to interact, and then diverting the attack
while we explore the yinyang dynamics of spirit with graciousness and