A few weeks ago, I decided to start martial arts training.
Big deal, eh?
Well, the big deal is that at 44, my body does not work like it used to. And the sad truth is that when it comes to physical skills, my body has not worked well at any age. Previous attempts to pursue martial arts have condemned in damaged shoulders, torn groin muscles, etc.
I’m a desk-jockey, not a fighter.
But here I am, 44, flirting with that mid-life thingy, and signing up for a martial arts class. (Sayoc Kali, if you must know. It’s the knife-fighting style featured in the movie The Hunted.
Based on the work I’ve been doing with a more knowledgeable friend, I’m doing something different this time. I’m making an effort to maintain The Beginner’s Mind, and keep the ego under control for a change. I’m trying to keep from over- analyzing the drills and skills, and to just “show up and do the work.”
My research and experience with enhanced awareness and accelerated learning indicates that the best learning takes place when the brain is in the alpha state. It can be a challenge to learn to access and maintain that state during physical activity, but it is possible.
Here’s what I’m doing: on the drive to class, I’m “heart breathing.”
I also have two other variations I do, but they’re a minor, and have no real purpose other than to help keep me from driving into other folks who have the misfortune to be on the same road with me.
That gives me 35 minutes of heart breathing. Once I’m at class, I try to focus on my breathing as much as possible, but I’m still learning to make it a habit.
When I’m getting instruction, and when I’m going through the motors, I try to keep my eyes in “wide-angle vision.” This is the focus used in PhotoReading (PhotoFocus), in tracking (“splatter vision”), and also discussed in Musashi’s Book of 5 Rings.
I’m amazed at the results!
For the first time in my life, a physical skill is coming easily for me. I’m no prodigy, by any means, but if you consider the way these things usually work out for me, it’s astounding.
* I’m able to stay loose and relaxed through the entire class period.
* I can quickly learn and retain the drills and moves.
* I experience very little soreness during or after class.
Sayoc Kali is rather physical, and since I congratulate often easily, I had concerns about it, especially when I saw the rows of bruises on the instructor’s arms. But so far, the only bruise is from a knife tip that got past a block and hammered my ribs. But it was gone in a couple of days, instead of the 2 weeks that I would have considered “normal.”
The biggest challenge I’m facing is with my ego-these results are so abnormal that my ego keeps jumping in there with all sorts of pats on the back. I have to keep reminding him to go back to making sure I’m breathing properly.
Here’s my theory: the 30+ minutes of heart breathing before class is dropping me into the alpha state, and the combination of focus on breathing and wide-angle vision during class is helping to keep me in the alpha state for most of the class.
What does this have to do with the extended mind? Simple. The alpha state is key to enhancing your awareness. When you’re in this state, you do your best work. You’re open to intuitive input. You notice more. You learn faster. And you react faster to incoming stimuli. In essence, you are experiencing one aspect of the extended mind.
In the martial arts example, the learning process is much easier for me because of my efforts to maintain the alpha state. By establishing the habit now in the beginning stages, I’m bypassing some of the “beginner’s frustration” and hopefully building a foundation to be even more effective as the physical skills progress.
You can learn more about heart breathing and the extended mind by visiting http://www.TheExtendedMind.com
Copyright 2006 by D. Sharpe Permission to use this article is granted as long as it remains unchanged and has the resource box attached.