Meditation in Martial Arts

One of the unique and special elements of the Northstar Ju Jitsu system is a fundamental understanding that martial arts cannot begin and end at merely the physical dimension of fitness, technique and training.

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A visual aid to meditation – use it to ‘take five’ while at the computer! Don’t get too hypnotised though! Ben

If that was the sum of our martial arts journey, then all we are really doing is practicing a potentially violent form of dancing in case we are unfortunate at some stage in our lives to face a serious threat to ourselves or those under our protection.

Some other schools and styles offer some insight into the extra dimensions through concepts such as ‘self discipline’ and ‘self control’ , however these are just scratching the surface and focusing on the ‘mind over matter’ concept.

A truly refined martial arts system embeds mind-body-spirit into the training from day one and introduces students to these elements even though this may not be apparent for many month or even years.  At Quantum Martial Arts, teaching the Northstar Ju Jitsu system, we use the physical metaphors of training to help our students gain personal insights and to grow and evolve as a complete entity – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

In case this appears a bit too esoteric (airy fairy) or inaccessible I would like to share a few ways that I integrate ‘meditation’ into my day and training, as well as insights and guidance we have received from our Sensei (Andy Dickinson) – the founder of the system in which we all train.

Meditation skills transferrable from training (courtesy of Andy Sensei)

  • In a quiet and removed place start with ready stance and begin to practice your multiple defence (kata) in a slow and deliberate way.  If you can, close your eyes while you do this and focus on maintaining balance throughout the moves.  Observe yourself from the inside to out.  Work on refining your technique.  Don’t judge yourself, just be aware, adjust and ‘tighten the nuts and bolts’ of the framework of your multiple defence.  Aim for balance across the entire range of the moves and techniques.
  • When next in class, feel your mental / emotional state when we come back to ‘ready stance’ after vigorous exercise.  Note that feeling / internal state.  Then practice transferring that to your work and home life.  Cultivate a ‘mental ready stance’ – relaxed but alert and engaged with life, with a clear state of mind.
  • In training we often have instances when our ‘ego’ gets offended or rattled – sparring, being bumped, not being able to execute a technique, issues with a training partner.  In training we need to develop patience with ourselves and others.  We can take this patience – a slightly longer fuse – into our work and home life as well.

A simple breath meditation

There are many resources to assist in learning meditation and many practitioners. I have listed some below, including resources for children and teenagers.  It can be hard to identify true masters in this space and the old saying “many paths one destination” springs to mind.  I have been having weekly meditation training and assistance over the last 3 1/2 years and I still feel like a novice to journeyman.  My meditation teacher says, gently, that I have to work my way through the belts in the meditation space before I get to black belt, and even then that is just first dan! Hopefully I will be a green belt in meditation soon!.

Here is a simple meditation that I have developed with my teachers assistance that we are happy to share:

  1. Sit comfortably on a chair or stool whatever enables you best to keep the back and spine upright (not on the lounge or lazy boy sorry)
  2. Try and apply the right angle rule to everything – thighs at right angle to core,  calves right angle to thighs, feet flat and right angles to shins, spread thighs so that the angle between is as close to 90% as possible.  Shoulders back and imagine someone pulling you gently upwards by a little bunch of your hair at top.
  3. Let hands rest gently on knees palms down or up (touching thumb to fingers if you like)
  4. Close your eyes and take three deep long breaths
  5. Using which ever breathing pattern is comfortable for you begin to breath slowly and deeply in and out (for me it it is in and out nose, but mouth breathing might be needed if you are constrained – cold, narrow airways, poor lung health)
  6. Try and cultivate stomach (Buddha) breathing.  As you breath in the diaphragm pushes downwards and abdomen/lower back swells outwards around the spine.   As you breath out the diaphragm rises and the belly eases inwards.
  7. OPTIONAL – With eyes still closed, begin to visual a a scene that has a matching in/out component – I use a beach scene with waves lapping at the shore which aligns with the breath falling in and out
  8. OPTIONAL – cultivate a feeling of warmth / energy rising and falling from the nose/mouth/throat to the base (pelvic area) in line with the breath
  9. OPTIONAL – internally listen for a mental sound that resonates with the breath and repeat as a mantra (a very common one is ‘so, hum’ with ‘so’ on the in breath and ‘hum’ on the out breath.
  10. Set a timer or maintain the exercise for as long as beneficial.  Aim to lengthen duration over time.
  11. Consider also using some gentle music (or whatever suits you) to aid the meditation.

Zen walking

When I take a lunch time break and go for a walk I do the following:

  • Actively look around and become aware of my surroundings and the beauty of nature, or even the architecture of the City.  I am seeking to drop into a mindful awareness of the present moment.
  • Even when not feeling overly happy I try and put ‘a smile on my dial’.  Nine times out of ten it helps kick me into a happy space anyway, especially when other people walking past engage with you with a look or a smile themselves.
  • As I walk I align my in and out breath to a number of strides which I mentally chant as I walk (eg 1, 2, 3 etc ).  For me it is 8 steps / strides a breath in or out.  If I have to wait at pedestrian crossing I do little step/sways from side to side.
  • Aim to achieve a ‘flow state‘ and to be one with the rhythm, movement and the moment

Some resources

Some resources for meditation / mindfulness for all ages.  I suggest that even the sites for children and teens are great for all ages!

 

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