Martial Arts and Vulnerability

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Martial Arts and Vulnerability

This practice, no matter how hard you fight it, will expose you. It’s unforgiving in its delivery of truth–of the things within yourself that need changing–in stripping you of distraction’s disillusioned security blanket. It’ll knock you down but it will also provide you with the tools to build yourself back up and try again. We can fight it all we want, but if we truly want change, we have no other choice but to be vulnerable. Sometimes what needs to change is obvious and sometimes you have to dig a little deeper, allowing yourself more profound reflection. But regardless of the time it takes, the catalyst for change is honesty.

To many, honesty is scary as all hell–it means we are all the more vulnerable–but honesty is bravery, the courage to be vulnerable, the courage to not only see things the way they truly are but to also accept them as they are. Only then can the real work begin.

So then what does it mean to be vulnerable within the practice? This answer may or may not be the same from one person to the next–and that’s the beauty of it! For me, it goes beyond physical skill and allowing a margin of error when learning a new sequence of movements. It means recognizing that what may give me trouble inside of the dojang is exactly the basis for the challenges that I face, time and again, outside of the dojang.

Until you allow yourself to be vulnerable within the practice, there will always be a separation between you as an individual and the practice. Vulnerability dissolves this man-made dichotomy. Again, we can fight it all we want, make our futile attempts to run away or simply sulk in denial, but if we truly want change we have no other choice but to be vulnerable. There’s no running away from one’s self and the more we run, the deeper we dive into that vulnerability–even if we don’t fully realize it at the time.

Above all else, this practice has taught me the power of perspective. See, for me, it has less to do with the physical outcome and more to do with the mental and emotional process. Perspective is what keeps me in check–it’s the thunder that shakes through my soul, pulling me out of a perpetual downward spiral that will inevitably lead down a path that’s headed straight for Head-trash-ville, USA. It’s the voice amidst the chaos that says, “you can do this–you’re still breathing–you can do this.” Perspective lends a sympathetic ear when I’m too caught up striving for perfection to admit my shortcomings and offers support to try again another day. Each physical challenge provides a point of reference and reminds me that, if I’m still breathing then I have the potential to keep fighting–to keep chipping away at the mental and emotional roadblocks–to get back up nine times when I’ve been knocked down eight.

Practice for the sake of practice, because you are compelled to do so by something greater than yourself–by Truth.

What we do now, in this moment, is what matters most. A slight shift in perspective can either make it bearable or unbearable–it’s all in the way you see it and approach it. My legs may be screaming, my head may want to quit, but it’s because of the power of perspective that I understand it’s on me to decide the outcome–to learn what and when to let go of the things that won’t lead me in the direction I want to be. Without this practice, I may never have understand this beyond just a level of intellect. I would still be stuck in the allure of external blame rather than recognizing where I’m at and figuring out a way to make things better. Though sometimes I may feel lost, it’s because of this practice that I always have a reason to keep fighting. If I’m still breathing, I’m still fighting.

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