There was always plenty of punching and kicking, I spent hours and hours punching and kicking, doing kumite and kata and techniques and anything else I could. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of stuff telling me about the deep, down why behind arts like Jujitsu, Aikido or Karate. And, I don’t mean just why kick or punch, but a why to the whole zen martial arts behind it all.
Now, to be honest, the question was sort formulated wrong from the get go. If you ask a human being why, he’ll go crazy, if you ask him how, he’ll go sane. Go on, try asking these questions and watch how people react.
Anyway, I read every book I could find, couldn’t figure out what was under it all, and then, out of the blue, I found the answer. I found it in an Aikido class, not in a martial arts book. The answer was in the old martial arts saying, ‘A perfect circle has no corners.’
Well, that was simple. And I practiced my shoulder rolls, forward and backward across the mat, and I was astounded by the basic truthfulness of this simple saying. But even while I was thrilled at this simple answer, I was developing variations of much interest.
In arts like traditional Karate there is often noise. We talk about moving quick and silent, like a ninja, but the truth is that Karateka are noisy. And the light dawned upon me, ‘The perfect art can’t be heard.’
Now I practiced my moves like a real cat, yet sinking the weight in every move I made. My kata, especially the kiai (spirit shout) part of it, became totally different. I began to understand what it was like to do a kata like a ghost.
And then the third of these concepts manifested and totally undid me. This happened during my practice of Tai Chi Chuan, but it quickly wormed its way through all the other arts I knew. And the simple became apparent as, ‘The perfect art cannot be seen.’
Three simple sayings, yet they washed over me, and changed the complexion and the very heart of all my martial arts. I began to seek perfection through the smooth liquid of motion, the silent ghosting of movement, and the execution of technique without any discernible effort. Go on, try putting these three phrases into your practice, and watch how you turn arts like Karate, Kung Fu andTaekwondo into a more zen martial arts.
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