Monday, 5 September 2011

The Inward Journey

After well over forty years studying martial arts my thoughts at the moment are that (as probably been said many times before), the real "message" of martial arts is not to compete with others. But instead to take that hardest of challenges the "Inward Journey" of competing with yourself.
Instead of the "outward" competition, the goal being to fight, win, destroy, kill, take, dominate – the list goes on!
If more energy was devoted to an inward journey in this case using martial arts as a vehicle.  Then maybe a less negative set of outcomes would result.
If you can absorb the "essences" of an art without the encumbrance of the need to compete with others to win and prove yourself/your art superior. 
You can concentrate much more on the nuances and the depth of the art.  Engage with the whole art, the physical, philosophical and ethical aspects which all activities hold. There will of course be the cry, that to learn a martial art you have to ‘compete’ with an opponent to see if the movements/techniques work, to test their effectiveness.  This is valid up to a point, where most people perceive martial arts training as two (may be more) people ‘squaring up’ for a match to test their skills.  Actually most people (me included) usually go through the competition phase during the first few years of training.
There are other ways depending on your attitude and whether you are on an inward journey or outward journey.
If you and your fellow artists are on an inward journey you tend to respect the fact that your partner is freely giving you their body and wellbeing to help your journey to improve your skills, knowledge and aspirations to improve your art.
They trust you to respect their commitment as you trust others in the same way.
The training can is as dynamic and positive as that of traditionally perceived competitive arts and in some ways more "in depth".
Taking out the requirement to "win", to beat your opponent, gives you that extra space to take a deeper look into the art.  The cooperative training method (keeping in mind the reality of combat), allows you to take your art to a different level.
It takes more skill to harmonise with and control an opponent without beating them up.  You are reconciling an aggressive act whilst limiting its negative impact.  Of course this extra skill can be very effectively applied to beat, win, and destroy, etc if necessary.  Hopefully with a positive view this path would just be used as a back up to cope with unforeseen circumstances.
The "inward journey" can be applied to any activity and allows an individual to better understand themselves.  They can develop a better sense of perspective, a balance and better sense of self. Maybe get a glimpse of themselves as others see them and allow them to develop into the person they would like to be seen as?
You also develop other skills, patience, empathy, tolerance, understanding body language, negotiation etc.  The ability to recognise, address, manage and reconcile aggressive behaviour so reduce the need for physical action. Especially useful as you get older – the older I get I feel I would tend to ‘over react’ with the violence to compensate for the physical "dimming" age brings.  Not a good thing.   
Conflict management/resolution training is also useful to help pull all your accumulated skill and knowledge together and keep you abreast of the legal implications of conflict – protects you from the law.

To find out more about Sensei Peter Seth's club visit You can e-mail Peter at

The space between...

One of the greatest ever Martial Artists was Morihei Ueshiba
(1883 – 1969).  He was an expert at a number of Martial Arts, which as common perception goes, after an experience of ‘personal enlightenment’ (Satori) he amalgamated into the martial art of Aikido.
Today millions of Aikido enthusiasts practice the techniques he adapted and developed, thinking it the way of the Art.
When in fact his message can be misinterpreted.  They only copy some refined techniques from other arts, which he used to enable students to practice Aikido on a technical level.  Giving them a ‘key’ and a path to follow, leading them to the door of the truth.  His real revelation was in fact the discovery of taking control of ‘the space between’.  Initially in a physical sense but then as the revelation unfolded he saw the parallels with all areas and aspects of life.
His control of ‘the space between’, his timing and his innate humanity allowed him to master the space and not be at any time in a vulnerable position.  He could blend with energies and bring them into harmony and balance.  He only used his experience and techniques to bring closure to his movements when necessary.
I am sure he would have said something like – ‘There is no me or you, only us, together, as one energy in harmonious flow along the energy stream of life’. 
A few other Martial Artists have also discovered this.  Bruce Lee for example, understood and had the same insight, albeit from a different perspective.  But all paths lead to the same truth eventually.
So it is not techniques that are important, at best they are only the ‘full stops’ at the end of the ‘energy’ sentence as it were.  See the attack before it develops (even in the mind of your opponent). Be somewhere else before it arrives (be where your opponent does not want you to be).  Blend with and balance their negative energy and lead them to realisation.
See the ‘form’ - Control the space.
So, maybe the secret to most things in life in general, is to control the space between, not the person, object or situation?  This applies to all areas of life – Physical, mental, emotional, behavioural, psychological, moral, ethical etc.
An example of the physical could be in combat, where you first ‘see the form’- the intent and manner of attack before it is developed (ideally before it forms properly in your opponents mind) -  (Sen No Sen – Before the Before).  Ensure you control the space by being in a ‘between’ position, a position your opponent does not want you to be.  They will instinctively know and have judged their correct timing, position and distance from you to deliver an effective powerful attack.  You, the defender must ‘see’, first the ‘intent’, then the ‘form’ before it is delivered and move into a position to break you opponent’s rhythm and spatial control so they are ‘in between’ good distance and timing.
Usually a pre-emptive half step in the appropriate direction (area of space) is enough to disrupt and unbalance an attack. You catch them ‘out of phase’ as it were.  You now control the ‘space’ and can lead (or even combine with) and neutralise the energy within it.
An attacker’s energy can be neutralised to varying degrees by blending with their energy.  As mentioned, their timing, balance and also direction can be affected to such an extent they have no viable base which with to continue.  They will be (depending on your blending), ‘without energy’ – they will be ‘in the void’.
An analogy:  A ball/object thrown in the air has mass, energy, timing and direction on the way up and also on the way down (slightly more – gravity).  A balloon may be a simpler example of the state you are trying to get your opponent in – light and easily moved.
But – there will be a split second at the top of the trajectory when relative to its surroundings it has no kinetic energy, just potential energy.  Relatively speaking it has no mass, direction, neutral time/distance therefore no energy to directly affect its surroundings. 
You can with practice be able to get your opponent extended beyond his balance, outside of his timing, going in more than one direction at the same time with his energy dissipating ‘every which way’.  In this way he will be unable to carry out his perceived attack, you will have harmonised and neutralised his efforts.
Its then up to you how you proceed?
These principles can be used in either a positive or negative manner in all areas of life.
 Positive - Imagine using the same principle in an argument, debate, business negotiation or the many other fields of life where a fair and equitable outcome is desired.
 Negative - Or as is so often done, to control or gain unfair advantage over others.
There have been many treatises written over the ages and all illustrate in so many words the fact that it is the ‘space between’ in its many forms which affects and connects all things.  By controlling this you can affect and control this connection and thereby, what is connected to it.
See for example:         The Art of War - Tsun Tsu. 
The Book of Five Rings –  Minamoto Musashi.
 NB:  Please read ‘become’ instead of ‘control’ the space between. 
If you ‘become the space’ everything in that space is yours, any other energy coming into that space does not belong and relies on you for its integrity.
(I’m not happy with the word ‘control’, it implies direct attachment to others and competition rather than harmony).
 The Analogy of Music:
 Imagine music without the ‘spaces’ of silence between the sounds, the gaps between the notes. Without the spaces there would be constant noise, which may vary in pitch and intensity but would be chaotic and unbearable.  These spaces set the time/timing, rhythm and beat of the music, which in turn affects/controls the whole composition.  So influence in this area of the ‘space/s between’, effectively allows the leading of all these energies.  You become the ‘conductor of this orchestra of energy’.  

To find out more about Sensei Peter Seth's club visit You can e-mail Peter at

Keep your windscreen clean!

In all martial arts (I am sure this also parallels all areas of life), practitioners can visit many different classes, recognise the techniques and training and feel comfortable with the practice.
But, is this wrong?  Should not art be taught at each class, which reflects the instructor’s individual knowledge, understanding, interpretation and feel for their art.
If an instructor is sincere in his quest for the art, each class should be different, individual and unique. Each should, when the basics have been absorbed, move constantly on, reminding and encouraging their students to create and develop their own art.  Only in this way will any art (thing) grow and flourish.
If you practice in an environment which concentrates solely on techniques, gradings (belts) and status = ego, you may end up with many student black belts who are good technicians.  But, being so self-absorbed and encased in the ‘system’, you will never move on to the level of an artist who strives to become the art, ‘being’, instead of just ‘doing’.
Technicians, no matter how good, just keep the ‘machine’ running, usually along a single road.  Their single-minded focus on the workings (mechanics) of the machine keeps them from noticing that the windscreen has become dirty and the artistic brakes are being applied.  Consequently, their vision is obscured and journey restricted and very little real progress is being made.  They only see the road ahead and the many other roads are missed.
Open your mind, adjust/release the brakes, clean the windscreen and see beyond the machine.
See all roads, explore, get out and walk round.  All roads weave in and around each other, it is easy to move back and forth bringing back new experience and knowledge with which to make your art.  Don’t restrict yourself to travel just one road no matter how familiar and comfortable it is.
In fact don’t just restrict yourself to travel many roads, it’s two-dimensional.  Spread your wings, be unconventional and fly, soar into the air, use every dimension life offers.  Engage your very being in the spirit of whatever art you practice (especially the art of life) and assist and encourage others to fly even higher and further than you.
Don’t just ‘do it’.  ‘Feel it’ then ‘be it’.  Easy to say, very hard put into practice – but try!

To find out more about Sensei Peter Seth's club visit You can e-mail Peter at