Being a martial artist, a true martial artist, one needs to have knowledge and continually work on gaining the wisdom of the body, among other aspects of life of course. One simply cannot claim to be a martial artist by practicing techniques, forms, styles and building the exterior of the body; muscle, sinew and so on. Anyone can do this with some focus and time.
The true essence of martial arts comes from the core, the depths of all an individual is, was and has the potential to be through the energies of the universe. This takes a strength that cannot be built by or sustained through muscle and the memorization of forms/katas and individual techniques. It cannot be nurtured and developed through sparring and conditioning.
Many practitioners of the martial arts today want the quick easy method of obtaining flashy skills to appease the ego. Those who do not understand view such practitioners as really good or even great martial artists. Rarely do you find an individual who has the wisdom and fortitude that it takes to develop what is really necessary to become a good martial artist, or better. Most, even those who can perform eye catching techniques are actually not very good martial artists, because they lack the internal foundation and depth of growth.
Potency of energy that fuels martial arts practices and lifestyle stream out of the organs. The organs dictate the entirety of the body. It is a common misconception that a weak muscle or joint is the weakest spot of the body, and the body in martial art practices will only be as strong as that weakest point. But the reality is that true strength of the body, and its fortitude, comes from the organs within.
Everything from our muscle strength, flexibility, stamina, drive, mental clarity, speed, intelligence, reflexes, ability to gauge timing and distance, and so on, all come from our organs and glands (endocrine system). The internal world of the body takes far longer and far more dedication and patience to develop than the exterior. Developing the internal regions also doesn’t usually draw many eyes like taught sinew and carved muscles do. So in our mostly frail ego driven modern world of materialism, that which goes unnoticed by the eye gets pushed aside.
Take for example the ability to make quick decisions, split second choices in a sparring match or a fight. The purely external martial artist may think this ability simply comes from practice and the development of the speed of the body. In reality however, this is not the case. Someone who has never trained in fighting martial arts can easily make split second decisions. So is it then the development of the brain in the specific skill one uses in life? Race car drivers, baseball players, first responders, fighters; even teachers, mechanics, skiers, parents and really anyone who lives requires the ability to make split decisions from time to time.
Split decision making actually comes from the energy of the organs. Have you ever had moments in your life where all of the sudden it was very difficult to make a choice? You just couldn’t decide! It could be something so simple like making a decision on what to order in a restaurant or what kind of music to listen to.
This energy comes from the small intestines. The job of the small intestines is to separate clear energy from turbid energy. It is the stage of digestion after the stomach breaks down food. The small intestine needs to literally separate what is useful from what is waste; clear from turbid. It must decide which is which. If the small intestine is struggling in health and wellbeing, a person will have difficulty making choices.
The spleen is the next stage of digestion as it takes the clear energy from the small intestines, processes it and feeds the lungs with that energy. If the spleen is weak then it can invade the small intestines, bogging down the natural decision making process, which then not only interferes with the body’s ability to gain proper nutrients from foods, but also suppresses with the brain’s ability to make clear choices.
How about someone who can come up with ideas, but is unable to actively, engage, pursue or initiate the drive to bring the ideas into fruition? Perhaps a martial artist was always able to play out the sparring game, many moves ahead, with ease and had the ability to see it through physically. One day they noticed the idea and visualization was there but they just couldn’t initiate the action. What causes that?
One of the liver’s jobs is to supply the energy of idea making. Like a growing tree it is a source of creative growth. The gall bladder, which sets atop the liver like the adrenals set upon the kidneys, is responsible for drive and initiation of formulated energy. The liver comes up with the idea and the gall bladder sees it through. They work hand-in-hand.
If the liver is congestion, hot and sluggish a person could have difficulty with the development of ideas. If the gall bladder is congested or aggravated then a person can have trouble following through with anything; a lack of gall or drive.
Another example of how the organs truly dictate our external abilities in this world:
The spleen needs to be warm and dry like a desert to function properly. If the spleen is cold or damp it fails to function properly. When the spleen is taken care of it transforms energy from digested food into clean light energy to support proper lung function. If the spleen is damp and imbalanced, it will struggle to make this light clear energy. It will not succeed in feeding the lungs with that energy. Instead it will bloat, create mucus from the digested food rather than light clear energy and either dump that mucus into the sinuses or lungs, or invade the small intestines, bogging them down.
If the spleen is weak a person will feel sluggish all over, unmotivated, bloated, cool, gassy and much like a grey damp, chilly day.
The study of the internal body can lend an understanding to why some martial artists develop coughs and are prone to strep throat living and training in places like Colorado or Arizona or even Spain for that matter. Or why certain practitioners develop digestive issues, stamina difficulties and sinus congestion in the Northwest, the Northeast, Great Britain and other such locations. There are reasons only the organs can tell about why a martial artist can develop overly tight tendons and stiff muscles, even if they stretch for 3 hours a day, or why a great sparring tactician one day suddenly gets hit over and over by a slower and weaker opponent.
A true martial artist studies not only style, technique and all the neat fancy stuff, but also the deep, slow unseen actions and structures of the body. Through constant study they will come to understand the liver requires a cool damp atmosphere to function optimally, but the spleen needs dry warmth. They will understand not only what environmental conditions (warm, dry, cool, damp, hot, elevation, season, time of day, phase of moon, air pollutants, allergens, pressure systems, mineral, plant and animal presence, etc) support and stress each organ, but also what foods, supplements, emotions, thoughts, visual and sound exposures, past traumas and physical ailments strengthen, weak or balance the body. This obviously includes the relationships between each organ and each system in the body; how they can support one another as well as invade and destroy each other from within.
This is not only a necessity for the understanding and optimal utilization of their own body, but also for being able to read their opponents body in a confrontation. The more one understands their own body, the more one can read the body of another. But also read where another person is mentally and emotionally. Though as it is with such wisdom gained, it is only possible to read in another what you yourself have already been through and surpassed. We can only read levels behind us.
The external studies of the martial arts, that which can be easily seen by others, is not even half of the totality of the true studies. Anyone can learn to hit, hit strongly and accurately. It takes a person with extreme dedication, patience, fortitude and understanding of greater things (things more lasting) to understand where that hit comes from, why, how it can be projected, how that will differ depending upon time of day, season, age, etc, what will interfere with it from within and without; at what point to strike and at what depth, angle and speed, and exactly what that will do to the deeper levels of the target, how and why.
To just learn how to hit hard gives one only the perspective to strike. But to learn everything else I mentioned above gives the wisdom to strike, not strike, and play other cards and possibilities, all based upon a greater and vaster view far beyond the vision of the external body and training.
A hard hitter can falter, weaken, become slow to react and make decisions, and lose accuracy; all of the sudden get upper chest cramps or sharp pains in their ribs when throwing a punch. A real martial artist with years of experience and depth of training will understand why and know how to fix the imbalances.
Life flows out of and through us all. To understand the self and others requires the study of life and the continual flow of energy in its infinite rivers. The martial artist then takes that knowledge and creates wisdom in the body that can project out from an origin of internally developed strength.
Train the external so it can withstand the powerful flow of internal development, but rely upon the internal strength to see you through the years and beyond from a deep place of honed wisdom.