Written by: Laura Seeber
I have always had a keen interest and familiarity with martial arts. I remember as a child watching old kung fu movies and trying to figure out how I could do that. Many of my friends in high school and college were martial arts practitioners, and I have watch with pride as the children of some of those friends continued on in the tradition of their families.
In truth, I was a relatively latecomer to formal training in the martial arts, having started to seriously study tai chi in my 20s and later bagua zhang. Over the next twenty years, I practiced, studied, and learned under some phenomenal teachers, but my focus was always on something other than the usual things, such as learning how to fight, discipline and improving my health.
From day one, martial arts for me has always been about striving for balance. Where others may have started studying karate to learn how to defend themselves, I did it to calm my tumultuous mind, and that’s not such a bad idea, according to a study published in Contemporary Psychology. Men and women alike in my class saw tai chi as a way to increase health and vitality. I saw it as a way to learn about the world around me and the people within it.
It is not to say that I don’t enjoy the “normal” benefits of martial arts such as discipline, physical health, confidence, and knowing how to defend myself. I do. Martial arts has help me to achieve all those things, and so much more. In fact, more and more scientists and health practitioners are starting to study the various benefits of martial arts like bagua zhang and tai chi as detailed in this informative blog by New York Internal Arts.
Have I reached the point where I am in balance and able to adjust as needed to what life throws at me? The answer is a qualified “yes.” I will admit, there are times when I’m tossed about by the storms of life and become disoriented. But martial arts has always helped me get back on track.
A Practice of Life
Martial arts isn’t just something I do; it has become something I am. The practice of tai chi, chi kung and bagua zhang has impregnated every part of my life in some way. It influences how I move, how I breathe, how I think, and how I interact with the world around me. While this may seem obsessive at first glance, it is actually quite helpful in the chaotic world that we live in.
By having the steadying influence of martial arts in my life, I know that I can move and adapt to the world around me in much the same way water moves and adapts to the land and air in which it exists. For example, last week was a rough one. Finances were tight, friends were in crisis and demanding my attention, work was starting to become more demanding, and my asthma was acting up based on the weather, something that hadn’t happened in years. To say I was in a stressful situation would not be an understatement.
How did martial arts help me to find balance in all that turmoil? Three different ways. First, the discipline of practice helped me to calm my mind and spirit so that I could see about meeting the various demands on my life, or putting them aside as warranted. Second, the breathing techniques and energy flow techniques that I learned while circle walking, such as described in this article in the Pa Kua Chang Journal had become second nature to me, and helped to alleviate my asthma symptoms. Third, the calmness and world view that martial arts has instilled in me allowed me to understand that this too shall pass, and it’s all part of the bigger picture.
A Practice of Learning
Over the past two decades, I have learned three truths about martial arts, and my life in general.
The first truth is that to learn what is necessary, sometimes you need to unlearn what is unneeded.
The second truth is that the world both within and without is more amazing, more dynamic, and more beautiful than a person could even imagine.
The third truth is that when the body, mind and spirit are working in balance and unity, there is almost nothing that cannot be accomplished with time. There is always a way.
It may not be easy, and it may not always be pleasant, but there is always a way to transform either myself or the world around me to achieve a balanced and fulfilled life. And I’m not the only one. Many people who truly practice martial arts strive for this same understanding in live.
It is these lessons, these truths, that help me to keep my mind and heart clear when things seem their worst. It is this quite confidence and strength that I have learned through martial arts that allow me to quickly change my direction and adjust my strategies when reality throws me a few dozen curve balls. Just as the specialized footwork taught in !!br0ken!! zhang helps me know how to move out of the way of an incoming attack and set up a counter attack with ease, so does martial arts in general help me to easily adjust what I do to better respond and influence the world around me.
This adaptability, this flexibility helps me to find balance in my life because no matter what the world throws at me, I know I can adjust and move with the flow.
Will martial arts help you to find this dynamic balance in your life? It is possible, but it is not an easy path to travel. If you chose this way of life, as I have, there will be times that you will struggle, doubt, and rage against the world. There will also be times when you stand in awe at all you’ve accomplished and how the world is an amazingly beautiful place. And then there will be times when you’ll feel a serenity and acceptance that makes you realize that this – all of this– is exactly what living is all about.
About the Author
Laura Seeber is a freelance writer, small business owner, and geologist. She practices martial arts and living life. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Michael.