Welcome to The Palace Guard, the tai chi chuan and martial arts blog for intelligent martial practitioners. As the blog develops, I hope to feature other writers with a fresh take on the martial arts and related subjects. For now, I hope you enjoy my posts: feel free to leave comments, or email me at the address available on the profile.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Here be Dragons

There is a story about  a man who loved dragons: he had paintings and sculptures, tapestries and vases all depicting dragons. But when a real dragon, curious about the man's passion ,appeared at his window, the man dropped dead in fright.

 There are times in training when you realise it’s all for nothing. All the hours of training and teaching can add only the merest iota to what the cosmos already has going on. You could take this in one of two ways: you could become dejected and defeatist and give up your training. Or you could accept the fact that this feeling of “there’s nothing much to be done” or “I am not in control” should in fact form the backbone of training rather than being an occasional flash of inspiration.
In the martial arts it is very, very easy to become complacent about conflict, to think “I could handle that.” Some martial art teachers even boast of instilling confidence in their students.
We got stuck into some intense training the other night, in a way that we‘ve not done for ages. I was not as “good” as I thought I would be which shows how complacent I was becoming. Because thinking that you are “good” at this stuff is simply not the point.
What’s crucial to bear in mind is that we are not trying to improve our sparring proficiency. Our training partners are not fellow competitors but rather training aids for us. Our goal is not to defeat martial artists in some tournament: it is to try and open ourselves in readiness for when life comes along in the form of someone who wishes to cause us harm.
Intense and pressurised training is a reality check. In the midst of chaos, there is no style, no technique, no winning, no losing, no action and no reaction. This may not sit well with the image we have built up of what our training is about. It may even make us feel like giving up. An unexpected dose of reality or near-reality can be difficult for someone who isn’t absolutely, totally ready to lose. "Invest in loss" isn’t a pretty aphorism: it is an essential imperative.
There isn’t some Truth to be proved in martial arts, some gritty baseline that only certain grizzled fighters can lay claim to. There is only that which life throws in front of you. There isn’t a Truth in the martial arts; but there are lots of opportunities for self-deception.