The Art Of Not Giving A S***! (Or . . . Accept As Is)

Many Oriental philosophies talk about mind, body and spirit; as they recognise that the 3 are all intrinsically connected.  For the sake of this post, I’ll be mainly focussing on the mind and body.

If one tenses, the other tenses.  You tighten your mind, your body will start to tense; you tighten your body, your mind will start to tense.  Conversely, you relax one, the other will relax.

So when you make a mistake, or don’t perform a technique/kata/pattern the way you want to, or you get corrected by your instructor; don’t get upset about it.  If you do get upset (even if its just with yourself), your mind will tense, then your body will tighten and the whole thing gets progressively more and more difficult.  I have one student in particular who gets exasperated with himself every time I correct him.  It’s not that he resents the correction in any way, he very desperately wants to get it right and his frustration is aimed at himself (rather than me)!  Then it becomes even more difficult.

You have to try to the best of your ability to do it right, but when you don’t, you have to learn how not a give a sh . . . . damn!

Now this may seem contradictory at first glance, but let me elaborate.
You should care about getting it right and doing it as well as you can, but don’t care about the fact that you’ve made a mistake.  Just use the mistake as a learning experience to help you get it better next time.  By not caring that you’ve made a mistake, you don’t tense the mind, hence you don’t tense the body!

Not caring that you’ve made a mistake, is not the same as not wanting to get it right.  It’s not the same as just giving in and stop trying.  It’s not same as not giving your best effort to get right.  It’s just a state of acceptance that you’ve made a mistake.  And acceptance is a very important life skill!

Me emotionally resisting being hit by my mate Keith!

The more you emotionally resist any situation in your life (be it martial arts training, your job, relationship, where you live, how much you earn, whatever) the more you drain your mental capacity to do something about it!

Read that last sentence again; the more you emotionally resist any situation in your life, the more you drain your mental capacity to do something about it!

Emotional resistance (non acceptance) to any life situation is stress – one of the worst diseases of the modern world.  Simply “accepting what is”, is a very simple concept but can be very hard to apply.

Now just to clarify, I’m not suggesting that you simply accept a given situation, (or failure to perform a technique correctly) for the rest of life; I’m saying that you accept that this is the situation NOW, at this present moment in time.  Simply accepting current circumstances (your situation/your life/your job/your relationship/the mistake you’ve made in training) suddenly removes all the stress from your life.  With all the stress removed, you now have much more mental capacity to deal with the situation and put it right.

Simple isn’t it?  Well, it’s a simple concept, but can be hard to apply!  Like anything else, it can take practice, but it can be very rewarding when you do.

Now I want to look at 3 different paradigms for getting what you want: (don’t worry all will become clear):

Neuro Linguistic Programming:   Developed as an approach to communication, personal development and psychotherapy in the 1970s.  One of it’s key principles is focusing all your minds attention on what you really want.  For example, you want to give up smoking?  If you focus on giving up smoking, you are always thinking about smoking!  Giving up smoking is not what you ultimately want; you ultimately want to be healthier.  Giving up smoking is the means to that end, so focus your mind on being healthier.

Religion:   Most religions tell you to pray for what you want.  Basically, you ask God to give it to you!  The Bible actually says (and I paraphrase), pray for what you want, then feel gratitude for it as if you already have it.

New Age/Spiritual/Zen:   New age/spiritual people often talk about sending their energy to a given subject/situation.  They also often talk about The Law Of Attraction, which means that you attract more into your life of what you habitually think about!  Or as some would say, whatever the state of your energy/vibration, you attract circumstances into your life of a similar energy/vibration.

Moksu (Meditation)

Now I’m not going to argue that any paradigm is better or more valid then any other (and I’ll ask that you don’t either please as I don’t want distracting arguments).  But when it comes down to it, they are basically saying the same thing.  Being in the “vibration” of what you want to attract is the same as being “grateful” as if you already have what you have prayed for.  It’s also the same as focusing your mind on what you really do want rather than what you don’t want.

So back to the accepting what is (your current situation).  None of the above paradigms tell you to feel bad about what you don’t have or can’t do!  It’s all about feeling good!  It’s all about being in a state of gratitude, or the vibration of what you want to achieve/have or purposefully focusing your mind on what we want rather than don’t want.

So every major philosophy for self development/betterment is basically saying the same thing, though using a different paradigm to explain it.

So going back to the original topic of not giving a damn when you make a mistake in training; if you do get frustrated you take yourself out of that state of gratitude and you focus you mind on what you do NOT want.  To put it right stay in the vibration of grateful as if you can already do it!

A famous experiment was conducted years ago.  Three groups of people tried shooting balls through a basket ball hoop and the scores recorded.  One group did nothing more, one group practiced and the third group did not practice but simply visualised shooting the baskets.  Then try were retested.  Now I can’t remember the exact figures but it was something like this.  The group that didn’t practice made no improvement.  The group that practiced improved about 25%.  The group that didn’t practice at all but visualised, improved by about 24%.

That is amazing when you think about it.  The most important factor towards the improvement was simply the focusing of the mind on the desired outcome.  Remember, mind, body and spirit are linked!

Now the group that visualised, did not visualise missing.  As they visualised scoring, they would feel the joy (vibration/gratitude) of succeeding.  And putting themselves in that positive mental state gave the results.  That’s why I say, “accept what is”, and release the emotional resistance/stress; and like the visualising group, your mind is freer to find a solution.

This is why when I teach Midsomer Norton Karate classes, I never tell students of for making a mistake.  Maybe for lack of effort, but never for making a mistake.  I will give constructive feedback and encouragement, but never a telling off!

Spirituality In Traditional Martial Arts

Many traditional martial arts talk about Mind, Body and Spirit; or that training develops you spiritually. But what does this spirituality actually mean, how do martial arts help develop it and (probably of most interest to many readers) what use is spirituality in a martial context?

First of all, it could take a whole book to cover this big topic, so I’m not going to be able to cover it all in a blog post. All I’m aiming to do here is to give a brief overview of how I see it.

To quote Deepak Chopra, who is widely revered as one of the World’s greatest spiritual leaders, “if we understand spirituality not as some kind of religious dogma or ideology but as the domain of awareness where we experience values like truth, goodness, beauty, love and compassion, and also intuition, creativity, insight and focused attention”. Continue reading “Spirituality In Traditional Martial Arts”

Being “Present” (In The Now) And Martial Arts Training

Many self development/spiritual teachers’ today talk about “being present” or “living in the now” (which is the same thing really).  It’s also part of Zen, which is often goes hand in hand with martial arts.  But what does this actually mean, how can martial arts training help you achieve it and what benefits are there for you from both a self protection and everyday life point of view?

Let’s start with what is meant by “being present” or “living in the now”?  This is a big subject which many books have been written about, so this is just a short overview.  Many people spend most of their time living in regret over things they’ve done wrong, things they should have done but didn’t, things that other people have done to them, missed opportunities; whatever!  They are spending a lot time focusing on their past and generally feeling bad and unhappy with it. Continue reading “Being “Present” (In The Now) And Martial Arts Training”

Martial Arts In Times Of Peace

Martial arts vary in times of war/chaos compared to times of relative peace.  Despite what you hear and read in the media, most of us today live in relatively peaceful times where we can call the police if anybody threatens or attacks us.  Obviously if you have a job such as policeman, prison officer or bouncer; you will see more violence then most others.  Also if you go to rough pubs or join gangs who clash with other gangs, then you also will see more violence.  But if you don’t have a job that requires you to sort out trouble; and if you don’t deliberately mix with violent people; then the chances are that you will not actually see much violence in your day to day life.

That means that we are free to put more into our martial arts and explore them in more depth.  If you are likely to face danger everyday then you would probably just focus on a few techniques that you’d repeat over and over again, endlessly, as your life could depend on them.  But in times of peace however we can increase our syllabus and include more self development aspects within our training and things like sport. Continue reading “Martial Arts In Times Of Peace”

Moksu: Does It Actually Have A Martial Application?

For those not familiar with the term, Moksu it is Japanese for the kneeling meditation at the beginning and end of a martial arts class.  It is often seen as just clearing the mind from the day’s ups and downs to prepare you for training.  It does of course do that, but it can actually represent a lot more in the long term.  Apart from just clearing the mind, when practiced regularly it can over time help to completely silence the mind.  Silencing the minds usual internal chatter has a feeling of peace and tranquillity (a bit like the sudden quietness of turning off a factory air conditioning system).

This can sometimes be achieved quite quickly, but sometimes it can take years.  How often have you knelt there thinking “my knees hurt”, “how long is this going on for”, “I hope we do sparring tonight” or “I hope we don’t do sparring tonight”, whatever! Continue reading “Moksu: Does It Actually Have A Martial Application?”

Mind Like The Moon & Mind Like Water

Mind Like The Moon (Tsuki No Kokoro)  and Mind Like Water (Mizu No Kokuro) are old Japanese/Chinese phrases which are integrated into Zen and martial arts and are inter-related to each other.  This posting looks at them primarily from a martial arts context.

Starting with Mind Like The Moon, whereas the light of the moon shines on everything below it evenly, so you should see everything when facing an opponent.  Clouds blocking the moonlight are likened to nervousness, fears, doubts and distractions blocking your mental clarity.  By seeing “everything”, I don’t only mean Continue reading “Mind Like The Moon & Mind Like Water”

Do You Have A Monkey Mind?

I recently wrote about how to keep calm in the face of danger, which was basically about silencing the mind so that it does not distract you too much when you really need it to stay calm.  Shortly after that my Sensei, Paul Mitchell, started talking about the “monkey mind” in one of his classes.

Now maybe I’m insecure, but I wondered if he meant me at first!

However, it is an old Chinese phrase for when the Continue reading “Do You Have A Monkey Mind?”