Saturday, January 26, 2013
As a black belt in karate, I could be basking in the feeling that I have Achieved Something. Arrived Somewhere. Hold some vast store of knowledge that I didn't hold before. Of course, most anyone who has achieved the rank of black belt knows that it's just the opposite. It's more like holding open a door to the vast yawning abyss of all that you don't know in your martial art. It's a dawning realization that even your entire lifetime would not be enough to master all of the skills encompassed in your study. That you have barely scratched the surface.
On top of that, my son recently convinced me to join him in studying Wing Chun, a form of Kung Fu. Now I should point out that all of my training in Karate prepares me to be absolutely incompetent in Wing Chun. I would probably be better off if I had no martial arts training whatsoever. When I'm punching, my Karate instinct is to bring my hand back into the chamber position and then fire it off using my hips and whole body to throw a big old punch, focusing on a fist that is parallel to the floor with the striking surface being the first two knuckles.
Still, I'm loving this new focus, this new way to turn myself inside out. A new opportunity to still my mind, to unlearn and to learn anew. And when I take it back to my Karate classes, I find myself better prepared to understand what I am studying there. My focus in preparing for my 2nd degree black belt is a "package" of 10 kata (or forms), and these kata are all influenced by White Crane Kung Fu, which is different than Wing Chun, but shares some similarities. In essence, I'm learning the origins of moves that were folded into Shudokan karate many years ago.
As I study both arts, I find myself wrapping back around, like the tails of the yin yang symbol, into a place of understanding. A hard art, a soft art. An intercepting fist, a redirecting touch. Both effective in their own way, both with a place in my body and mind.
I'm learning to be empty, and I'm learning to be full.