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

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