The Way, the Zone, Stress Testing and the hope for a better person

Dojo - The place you practice the Way
In recent weeks, I've come across people who are preparing themselves for academic tests and exams.

However they're preparing themselves for their tests, few of them prepare themselves for the stress of the situation.

In my previous life as an Assistant National Coach, much of what we do is to prepare the sportsman for the rigors of competition. What we do is a mix of physical ritual and mental visualisation. We do this in the hope to bring the relaxedness found in certain aspects of practice into the competition environment. We put in a lot of effort in order that the sportsman consistently enters 'the zone' and of course to peak at the right time.

Without too many words, we do many similar practices in the martial arts.

I remember a time I was planning for a dojo to be built at the back of my house. One of the consultants that participated in the planning process was a kenjutsu practitioner, and whilst he was drawing up rough plans for my little backyard dojo, he described the surrounding and the path he wanted to create leading up to this place. He says traditional outdoor dojos typically come with this 'path' so that as the practitioner is walking up to the dojo, they leave the outside world behind them and prepare themselves mentally to enter the space of the training hall, the place where you practice 'the Way.'

What an elegant way of mental preparation, to have the environment welcome you into this sacred space where you put aside worldly concerns in order to work on the way.

But what is the Way? Just recently I read on another blog that the kanji shows a person balancing on a boat. The Way, or 'do' or 'tao' originally indicated the natural order of the Universe. The later Buddhist connotation indicated a middle path that is achieved through the following of doctrine. Ch'an or Zen, a particular sect of Buddhism further believes that 'do' is about being present; not to be waylaid by extraneous thought.

The place where you engage in 'Walking the path', however, is not to be mistaken for some blissed out state. The path especially for the warrior is a path that is described by constant striving in physical, mental, and spiritual terms. It's partly analogous to modern sports psychology, where the modern approach would be to include any preparation to get that person into 'the Zone' as consistently as possible for peak performance.

In addition to the concepts of physical ritual and mental visualisation I mentioned before, lots of this preparation is about stress testing the participant. This idea that a practitioner only has to do technique to perfection and will be adequate for the challenges of real confrontation is ridiculous. Stress testing is a valuable tool to prepare the individual for confrontation and combat. Such stressors that you can replicate in your training environment that will mimic the kind of stressors that you will face in competition or conflict will mean your practitioner will be able to focus on the task at hand rather than be a loose and unpredictable cannon which will misfire at the wrong time.

Facing one opponent is easy? Well, then increase the time of those encounters. Still coming out tops? Bring in fresh opponents. When that's fine, introduce two opponents. Then when that becomes easy, tie up one arm, and repeat. Keep on increasing the odds and make sure the student practitioners keeps his cool. That's stress testing.

The priority of 'Do' of course is not solely on physical preparation as high-level sports people seek, as martial artists we want the mind centred and we want the individual to be progressing spiritually through further study and meditation.

While there are those who would speak poorly of martial art philosophy and traditional training techniques, the Way is not an excuse for poor performance nor does it mutually exclude solid ability. It is merely a philosophy of how things should be. Many think of the Way as tied to those schools which have isolated themselves from practicality or from reality.

I urge all practitioners to understand their path, and to look at how they are improving on themselves.


Colin Wee
Joong Do Kwan Chung Sah Nim
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Rick said…
"Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning." - Thoreau
Colin Wee said…
I like that.

I remember my last belt test - about a month ago. After all the kihon, kata, and calisthenics, was kumite. My opponents were fresh...I wasnt.

5 one-minute rounds of that, ending with my instructor, was enough to take almost everything out of me.

Great training, though!

Colin Wee said…
I bet it was grueling! When I was back in the US - twice a week we would have sparring sessions. You fight for 3 minutes, rest for one. And you did that for about two hours. People just have no idea how that changes a person.

"People just have no idea how that changes a person".

You are absolutely right. Funny timing too... yesterday I had a conversation with my dad about exercise and fitness. Told him he should incorporate lunges into his afternoon walks, like I do.

dad: how many do you do?

me: (a lot)

dad: why kill yourself like that?

me: that's karate.

dad: yeah, but, at that time it's just a walk.

me: it's always karate.

He didnt "get it" and looked at me with a puzzled expression. So I know just what you mean when you say that people don't know how tough fighting can change a person.
Colin Wee said…
No, they don't get it.

I was told recently by a high ranking master to call him by his name in private, but address him using his proper title and name when I'm in uniform.

While I courteously comply, the fact is my uniform and belt are tied around my beating heart and soul.

I've also come to the conclusion that tough fighting is like a cleansing session. And there are quite a few martial artists out there who are in need of more cleansing. Hahahhaa...

Cheers. Good chatting. :-)

SooShimKwan said…
"tough fighting is like a cleansing session"

It definitely helps to keeps one humble.
Colin Wee said…
Spot on brudder.

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