Monday, 23 May 2016

The true self

For the last few months, I've been attending two dance classes and continuing with my study of counselling skills.  What I haven't been doing - and it's a change that was forced upon me - is attending lessons in wing chun.

Before my temporary break from martial arts practice, a number of things had pointed the way to feelings of which I was barely aware.  Some of the other students, and one in particular, had said that I was one of the more defensive fighters in the class, and didn't seem particularly eager to attack.  More tellingly, my performance in sparring sessions was poor.

As recently as six years ago, when I was a student of jujitsu, my performance in sparring sessions was anything but poor.  I'll say no more about that, because I take little pride in it now.  A few minor incidents outside of my time in the wing chun class also showed that I was more than capable of applying what I'd learned, if needed.  A sparring session with some mixed martial artists convinced me that I'd built up a great deal of skill.  So, why the poor performance in sparring and chi sao?  Why was I a defensive, rather than attacking, fighter?


The way that I came to learn to dance could almost be described as an accident.  I was at an outdoor concert, and one of the ladies present mentioned that she was going to give a dance class about which she'd heard a go, if someone would go along with her.  Eventually, it became obvious that I was the focus of her request that someone go with her to the class.  I agreed, with the warning that I probably wouldn't enjoy it.

I was wrong about not enjoying it.  I was learning a new set of movements, and none of them had anything to do with combat!  How could I be enjoying it?  Around this time, in the counselling skills class, we were learning about the concept of the organismic, or true, self.  The theory is that we try to mould ourselves to fit in with the expectations of others but, as much as we try to hold it back, the truth of who we are will eventually make itself known, to some extent, in a way that even we may not be expecting.  The real me likes to dance, apparently.

Things change

Now, the time has come for me to go back to wing chun, and taking a break from it has changed things.  When I tried to run through the forms again, I noticed that some muscle groups had been neglected, through not training, but dancing had developed other muscle groups.  More importantly, I'd had time to analyse my relationship with martial arts, and come to terms with it.

I've come to realise that violence, and the threat of violence, have always been a part of my life: sometimes in the background, and sometimes very much to the fore.  My response was to commit much of my time to attempting to make myself a one man army, so to speak.  On that journey, however, I became more interested in Zen and the other elements of philosophy behind the combat arts I was practising.  Again, this was a very clear sign that my true self was gradually becoming known to me.

A little bit of self-reflection, courtesy of my study of counselling skills, put the final piece of the puzzle into place, and revealed something that I really should have known all along.  I have no interest in fighting, and it's likely that I never did.  I've seen too much violence, and taken part in quite a bit of it myself, and I have no wish for that to continue being a part of my life.  I'm going back to wing chun, but with a different focus, or maybe the same focus that I had all along, if only I'd been able to admit it to myself.

I was reluctant to take a break, because I feared that a temporary break would become permanent.  What happened, though, was that the break became a chance to check my motivation, to ask the questions that weren't being asked.  The result is that I'm returning to something I love, but now it's different because, this time, I'm going as myself.

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