"The exercising of weapons putteth away aches, griefs, and diseases, it increaseth strength and sharpeneth the wits, it giveth a perfect judgment, it expelleth melancholy, choleric, and evil conceits, it keepeth a man in breath, in perfect healthe, and long life." – George Silver (1599)
But all of us, whether we train in martial arts or not, do battle daily with some of our worst enemies: depletion of energy, ageing, illness, aches and pains, lack of direction, lack of concentration, stubbornness, laziness, and other ailments and negative proclivities of the human condition. Against these enemies, MMAs can’t hold a candle to TMAs—particularly the internal martial arts. Anyone who doesn’t believe this should watch the movies Requiem for a Heavyweight or The Wrestler. Both are realistic portrayals of the toll that ring combat sports take on the human body and spirit. Or, if you need real-life examples, think of Muhammad Ali, whose Parkinson’s Disease was probably caused by too many blows to the head or Mickey Rourke, star of The Wrestler, disfigured and also the recipient of too many head strikes, forcing him to retire from the ring and return to acting (thank goodness!). Then afterward, watch any YouTube video of traditional martial arts masters in their seventies and eighties who move as if they are decades younger than their calendar ages. To put it another way, the “broken-down pug” is a well-known stereotype for a reason, but how may of us have an image of the “broken-down karateka,” or, even more ludicrous, “the broken-down tai chi chuanist?”
This guy (Morihei Ueshiba – founder of Aikido) is 85!
The sages awaken through self-cultivation;
Deep, profound, their practices require great effort.
Breathing nourishes youthfulness.
The Shen depends on life form;
The Ching depends on sufficient Qi.
If these are neither depleted nor injured
The result will be youthfulness and longevity.
When the distant winds blend together,
In one hundred days of spiritual work
And morning recitation to the Shang Ti,
Then in one year you will soar as an immortal.
The first level of practice is called “Icy Woman.” At this level we develop a root so that when pushed the opponent’s force is directed through our body down to the ground. As the Icy Woman’s structure improves she is able to keep this rooted quality continuously during dynamic movement. If played as a game, both people will try to keep even pressure on their opponent’s root. The moment the pressure is broken either partner can move to sever their opponent’s root. The game can also be won root-to-root. In this case each person uses a blend of twisting, wrapping, expanding and condensing to improve the integration of their root. Root against root, the better root will win.
The second level of practice is called “Watery Woman.” At this level it is necessary to become weak. If played as a game, the goal is to try and find some ice in your opponent. Ice is either structure or rootedness. The Watery Woman does not attempt to compete structure-against-structure nor does she try to uproot her opponent. She gives up rootedness and structure for fluid movement and weight. The Watery Woman sloshes her weight in and around her opponent, she only wins when her opponent makes a mistake–the mistake of becoming icy.
The third level of practice is called “Steamy Woman.” At this level her body becomes cloud-like. Empty and full at the same time. When the Steamy Woman meets ice or water in her opponents she simply floats them out of the way. Her mind is not on her body at all, but all around it at play with the elements of volume, momentum, and density. Inside a steam-like feeling moves around freely without regard to purpose or concept. Like a cloud, it has no agenda. Outside the game is played by the shifts and swirls of presence.