Forging Character

How do you respond when your back is against the wall?

For this week’s blog, I invite you to take a sec and just imagine it.  You, caught off guard, in a situation that terrifies you.  The fight’s not over.  You’re not lying there unconscious.  But things don’t look good for you.  What is your initial response?

For many of us, freezing is our go-to.  For others, it’s to fight like crazy – to go ballistic on whatever is in front of us.  Statistically speaking, whether your back is against the wall physically or metaphorically, either of these responses don’t produce great results, because we’ve lost our cool.  We’re not focused and present.

Martial arts teaches us how to calm down immediately, and call on the strength of our being in tough times.  When I say strength of our being, I mean the strength of the simple fact that we are alive, right now.  Dr. Ali Benazir explains, the “Probability of your being born: one in 102,685,000.  As a comparison, the approximate number of atoms in the known universe is 1080.”  You could not have beaten those kinds of odds without some incredible gifts for self-preservation inside of you.

Compared to other times in history, it is harder now than ever to connect with these natural gifts.  With the pace of modern life and the distractions from devices everywhere, combined with the financial pressure that is wrapped up in living this way, many of us feel so overwhelmed that we are unconsciously numb to that instinctual self.  But, what an amazing challenge!  As First Lady Abigail Adams said, “These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or in the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed”

From my years in Budo Taijutsu, I’ve found that, once I can move away the clouds that often cling around my instinctual self, I discover a natural ability to rise to life’s challenges with present, confident tenacity.  It is ever-present, waiting for me to put it to use.

And the more it gets used, the more powerful it becomes.

My challenge to myself this summer, is to let this natural response rise more often.  In our practice, we do this through these steps:

  1. Regular seated meditation.  This is simply the most basic way of practicing living through natural instinct.
  2. Facing pre-set challenges that I can only overcome when I stay present in the moment.  This is what we do in our martial arts classes.
  3. Challenging myself to respond to stressful events with calm presence in the midst of my day-to-day life.

This weekend, we’re heading to the Firefly Gathering, which is a convention filled with workshops all working on this very topic in different ways.  We’re going to be teaching our new “Speak Up and Move” workshop.  This is the revamped version of the empowerment courses we teach for kids, teens and adults!

In class this coming week, we’ll be working on calm presence as we challenge ourselves through the following techniques:

Techniques of the Week
Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri
Ukemi Break Falls All Directions Rolls All Directions
Technique 1 Katana Strikes and Blocks (BB pretend)
Technique 2 Kids: Ukemi from Koshi SanpoAdv. Kids and Adults: Ganseki Nage
Technique 3 Onikudaki and Haibu Yori

Kasumi Club: (most likely):  Taki Otoshi  – “Water Fall Drop”

Thanks for reading!  See you in the dojo,

Sensei Nesta

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