Building your capacity in martial arts to a high level takes a tremendous amount of purposeful practice. Yet, finding that time in our busy lives can be difficult. One thing that has helped me is recognizing that there are many moments in my life where I can give a little attention to my martial arts and that giving many small moments to martial arts can be very impactful in my life as a whole.
Waiting for the Bus
Posture is a central part of effective martial movement and healthy life movement. Having a tall spine, neutral shoulders, head up and proud, and your body relaxed but “stacked”. Building the alignment of your body promotes positive joint health and allows for efficient and powerful movement. Every moment you put into building your postural stability and your capacity to move in a healthy manner pays both life and martial dividends.
When I’m walking up the stairs I’m practicing my combative lunge. I focus on knee alignment and engagement of my glutes as I press my body up to the next step. When I’m walking down the street I seek to keep my feet aligned forward, traveling through my whole foot as I step, keeping myself tall, chest forward, shoulders back. This is the way I want my foot to align and my weight to travel when I’m launching through a powerful step in a longsword cut.
When I pause to wait for the bus there’s a moment to become aware of groundedness, alignment in standing, or even to practice a martial posture—if you’re not worried about looking goofy. One of my students proudly proclaimed to me that his rapier stance allowed him to keep balanced on a long train trip where he was trapped in the middle of an aisle with no handles to grab.
There is more time to practice healthy alignment on the street than you’ll ever be able to make in the school.
Combative Stress & Life Stress
My most profound experiences in martial arts have felt like movement meditations, and my non-martial meditation practice has made me a more relaxed and effective martial artist.
Approaching combat in a more relaxed manner as work, play, and collaborative interaction is a tremendously powerful way to promote the ability to stay present through complex actions. Mindfulness and focused relaxation protects you from frustration, over-tension (which leads to chasing in parries and chasing lost or false opportunities), or giving up too early—all significant detriments in sparring.
And the reverse is also true. Learning to be mindful and relaxed during the stresses of combat can have a meaningful impact on how you face stress in all areas of your life. Whether that is arguments, work frustrations, or the myriad of non-combative conflicts life presents. Swordplay might be the most interesting partnered yoga practice you can engage in.
Every moment of your martial arts practice can be a moment for life practice and many moments in everyday life are a time for martial practice.
Good training and good living everyone.