Musings on the Internal Aspect of the Martial Arts


September 2018

 

 

When I first started studying Martial Arts in 1973, it was for external reasons. I had taken on the role of head of Security for a spiritual group that was being harassed by local political activists, concerned about the draining of their Vietnam War protesters by the group. These groups could be extremely passionate, loud and violent. I turned to a local Shotokan School that was just opening in the neighborhood. While I was getting a good education on fundamentals and techniques, I quickly noticed something else taking place. I was starting to become more aware of myself internally. While the friendship, camaraderie and the simple joy of a good work out that training in Karate gave was enough to continue, it was evident that I had found a different reason to be there.


As I would perform my basics, pairs, kata (forms) and sparring (free-form fighting with rules), I became more aware of my fears, anger, ego, pettiness, self doubts, and concerns that I could previously ignore. In the Dojo I had to deal with these uncomfortable truths daily. As I pro-gressed I realized that being conscious of breathing was essential not only for the full body coordination and power on the physical side, but also as a discipline to focus purely on the moment and avoid my mental distractions. It had to be about me, my focus had to narrow in the Do-jo, and it became a haven from the day to day work environment that did not allow me that luxury.

 

September2018

 

(Shihan Mason awards Sensei Stamp his 6th Dan in Karate and 2nd Dan in Kobudo.  Sensei Stamp teaches Adult Kobudo Mondays at 6:45 pm, and an Advanced technical class on Thursdays at 6:45 pm.

Also, a new Tai Chi class, for any Adult, at 7:45 pm on Thursdays.)


A few years into my studies I was introduced to the art of Tai Chi Chuan. Tai Chi Chuan is one of the Chinese Internal Martial Arts. One of its components involves a slow moving long form, focusing on breathing, relaxation and full body connection with a progressive seg-mented power release. This further deepened my experience in Karate.


When I started studying with Mr. Mason in 1985, I found a system that truly incorporated the external with the internal. Although the internal aspect is not the major focus, it is there in every kata, technique and in sparring. Karate is an external form. Its techniques can be applied successfully the day you learn them, although many hours are needed to perfect them. An internal art such as Tai Chi has techniques that require years to understand the movement of power and the workings of the applications, which is why in the U.S. it is mainly taught as a health exercise. In our style Mudokai, this internal aspect is learned along side the external training.

 

I turned 60 on June 14th, 2009, on the 18th I gave myself a present, a new aortic heart valve and repair an aortic aneu-rism. I’ve known about the valve for years and it has not affected my lifestyle. But when they found the aneurism in August of 08, I was told I needed to drastically modify what I did, start taking a variety of drugs, and then wait and see. I figured if I altered my life style I would never again be in as good a physical shape as I was at the time, which had keep me healthy all these years. I told my Cardiologist that would not work for me; he sent me to a Surgeon who agreed with me to not wait. Once we decided on a date I focused on my internal preparation. I first noticed that fear of death is not an issue for me. Quality of life is, and I wanted to continue my Martial Arts studies. I altered my diet and lost 15 lbs. I reduced my weight work out to very light weights (banned from lifting more than 5 lbs). I worked my Tai Chi form more diligently and focused internally. Karate training was out for the time being, although I kept teaching my classes.


On June 18th at 5 am I entered admitting. From that point until they put me under I focused on my breath and releas-ing any tensions. I woke up in the ICU after a 3 ½ hour surgery. From that point of regaining consciousness until I was released on the 22nd, I spent my time being with myself, no TV, radio or other distraction. I was quickly able to reduce the amount of painkillers I was given and eliminated them, other than an occasional Tylenol, once I returned home.
Someone told me a long time ago that life is not good or bad it just is; we have little control over what happens. What we can control is how we perceive an event. I choose to see this as a special opportunity to delve deeper into my internal knowledge.


Sensei Brian Stamp, June 2009