A Critical Appreciation Of Meditation For Martial Arts & Self Defence Assessing It’s Benefits, Importance, Purpose and Development Of Ki
1.1 Definition & Reasoning
Meditation can be defined as the training of the mind to induce a mode of consciousness to create some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content.
The term meditation indicates a wide-ranging variety of practices that includes techniques designed to promote relaxation and increase internal energy or life force such as Qi, Ki and Prana etc. A particularly determined form of meditation aims at effortlessly sustained single-pointed concentration desired to unlock an indestructible sense of positive mental well-being while engaging in any life activity.
The word meditation carries different meanings in different contexts. Meditation has been practiced since antiquity as an integral part of many Asian martial arts systems. As martial artists, we understand that meditation can formulate a fantastic sense of calmness and self-centredness that is crucial in hectic situations. Whether we are talking about dojo training, real-life self-defence or just everyday life, having the correct state of mind in the face of adversity is crucial.
Just as with any other skill, our ability in meditation improves over time and with regular practice. Meditation is often used to clear the mind, improve calmness and help to prepare individuals to better handle whatever challenges they encounter. For centuries, martial art masters have taught their students that meditation creates an optimal state of mind and increases martial power. They have also concluded that meditation improves many health concerns, such as high blood pressure, depression and anxiety as well as combating disease.
1.2 History Of Meditation
Meditation has been practiced throughout the world for over 2500 years. It originated in India and spread throughout Asia and then to the West. The Samurai meditated before in Japan. In the 13th century Zen Buddhism spread among the Samurai, helping to shape their standards of contact. Meditation prepared the warriors to face their fears, such as death and killing, and became a way of life for the Samurai. In the martial arts, the “Yin” of the meditation provides balance for the “Yang”. As western culture began to adopt the practice of martial arts, meditation was dropped and the more physical aspects of the arts were practiced. Eastern cultures have long understood that the body and the mind reflect each other and one cannot exist without the other. As the mind calms, the body relaxes and vice versa.
2.0 Why Learn To Meditate
The purpose of meditation is to ensure that our mind is one of calmness and peacefulness. To experience true happiness we must be free from worries and mental discomfort and therefore our mind must be peaceful. However, if our mind is not peaceful we will not be peaceful even when life is favourable. If we train in meditation and positive affirmation we will experience a purer form of happiness and therefore be able to stay happy all the time even when life does not act in our favour.
The mind can be very difficult to control and our mind becomes like a ‘stormy cloud’ affected by external circumstances. If things go well, our mind is happy, but if they go badly, it immediately becomes unhappy. For example, if we get what we want, such as a new possession like a brand new car, we will become excited and want to drive it. However, since we cannot have everything we want we will inevitably be separated from this enjoyment, this mental stickiness will cause us pain.
These fluctuations of mood arise because we are too closely involved in the external situation. We are like a child making a sandcastle who is excited when it’s first made, but then becomes upset when its washed up by the sea. By training in meditation, we create an inner space and clarity that enables us to control our mind regardless of the external circumstances. Gradually, a balanced mind that is happy all the time is developed like a mental equilibrium, rather than an unbalanced mind that vacillates between enjoyment and un-enjoyment.
If we train in meditation systematically, eventually we will be able to eliminate the delusions in our mind that are causing problems. In this way we will become permanently peaceful and calm experiencing pure joy and happiness.
3.0 Meditation Posture
To ensure meditation is successful we need to have a comfortable seat and a good posture. The legs should be crossed but the most important feature of the posture is to keep our back straight by inclining our pelvis slightly forward. This is the basis of the meditation position as used in most martial art systems. Other practitioners sit on their knees with their backs straight not the most comfortable ways to meditate as you cannot attain meditation efficiency. Most martial art systems all agree and recommend meditating before and after workout / competition for at least 30 minutes to gain the best out of meditation.
The seven features of the most used mediation posture are :
1. The legs should be crossed to help reduce thoughts and feelings of desirous attachment.
2. The right hand should be placed in the left hand, palms upwards, with the tips of the thumbs slightly raised and gently touching. The hands are held about four fingers’ width below the navel to help develop good concentration. The right hand symbolizes earth and the left hand symbolizes earth – the two symbolizing success and positivity through heaven and earth.
3. The back should be straight but not tense to aid in developing a clear mind and allowing energy to flow freely.
4. The lips and teeth are held as usual, but the tongue touches against the back of the upper teeth to prevent excessive salivation and to stop our mouth from becoming too dry.
5. The hand should be tipped a little forward with the chin slightly tucked in so that the eyes are cast down to prevent mental excitement.
6. The eyes should neither be wide open nor completely closed, but remain half open and gaze down along the line of the nose. If the eyes are wide open we are likely to develop mental sinking.
7. The shoulders should be level and elbows are held slightly away from the sides to let air circulate.
4.0 Breathing Meditation
In order to understand the concept of breathing meditation, you have to know the basic energy systems of the body. The human body has two polarities, one resides in the brain, and the other is in the abdomen region. The abdomen polarity region is the battery for the whole body and it is the structure of the abdomen that allows Ki/Qi/Chi to be stored to a high level.
Breathing meditation prepares our mind for developing good motivation and positive affirmation and is used in martial art systems all over the world to develop Ki. When we sit down to meditate our mind is usually full of thoughts and stresses of every day life and we cannot immediately clear them out. A negative, disturbed state of mind is like a ‘stormy cloud’, and a clear focussed mind is like a deep blue sky.
When we have settled down comfortably in our meditation posture we begin by becoming aware of the thoughts an distractions that are present in our mind. Then we gently turn our attention to our breath, letting the rhythm remain normal. As we breathe out we imagine that we are breathing away all the disturbing thoughts and stresses that build up eg. “Im not good enough / I will never succeed”. As we breathe in we imagine that we are breathing in all the positive energy that flows around us and mentally tell ourselves “we will succeed / I will pass” which enters our body and absorbs into the heart. We maintain this visualization single-pointedly with each inhalation and exhalation for twenty-one rounds, or until our mind has become peaceful and aware. If we concentrate on our breathing in this way, negative thoughts and distractions will temporarily disappear because we cannot concentrate on more than one object at a time. At the end of our breathing meditation we should think: “I have received the blessings and inspiration of life and I can achieve mastery in martial art and self-defence performance”. In this way we become stronger versions of ourselves and succeed in everything we do and develop our Ki dramatically.
The first stage of meditation is to stop distractions and make our mind clear by practicing simple breathing meditation. We choose a quiet place to meditate and sit in a comfortable position usually the traditional cross-legged posture with our back straight to prevent us from becoming sluggish and lazy.
We sit with our eyes partially closed and focus on our breathing. We breathe naturally through the nostrils without attempting to control our breath, and we become aware of the breath entering and leaving our nostrils. This sensation should be focused on to the exclusion of everything else.
At first, our mind will be very busy and the mediation will make us more naturally aware of how busy the mind actually is. There will be a great temptation to follow the different thoughts as they arise, but we should resist and remain totally focusses on our breathing. If we discover temptation to follow the different thoughts as they arise, but we should resist and remain totally focusses on our breathing. If we discover that our mind has wandered and is following our thoughts, we should immediately return to our breath and we should repeat this as many times as necessary until the mind settles on our breath.
5.0 Meditation Benefits
Breathing mediation will have a great effect on your health. The diagraphm drops down as you inhale which massages the organs that are below it, in particular the kidneys, liver and spleen. The kidneys produce hormones and through massage, the production increases. These hormones are bio-catalyst which helps make chemical processes in the body run more smoothly. As we age, the hormone production decreases; therefore it is important to keep the hormone production at a proper level.
Through proper, relaxed and natural breathing, you take in a lot of oxygen. This will ensure that the practitioner has a faster metabolism. Only with air we are able to change food into energy, therefore, it is extremely important to build up the right breathing habits. In addition, you will learn how to manipulate your energy. Using the correct technique of breathing, it is possible to manifest more energy or store it in the centre and in the bone marrow which allows energy to be manifested when necessary.
Furthermore, the meditation benefits that masters have concluded are getting closer to being proven by science. A team of psychiatrists from Harvard Medical School have researched how meditation techniques can affect the genes and the brain activity of people who suffer from chronic stress. After a 5 year study using the latest neuroimaging and genomic technology, scientists have researched how mind-body harmony through meditation techniques can turn on and off genes that have been linked to stress and immune function. This research of the benefits of meditation takes us deeper into the relationship between meditation and human physiology.
Other studies have concluded the benefits of meditation, but those findings were based on variables such as participant-reported feelings, heart rate and blood pressure. The Harvard study regarding the benefits of meditation has unlocked a deeper examination of the effects of meditation techniques on the human body. This evidence suggests that the reason we feel less stressed and healthier when we meditate is the genes that control stress and the immune system are being manipulated.
Harm to the body is caused by inflammation and stress particularly when it is present for sustained periods of time. Stress is a natural part of life, however as martial artists we face it consistently in the dojo. The subsequent recovery period during which the stress is removed enables us to cope and even thrive. We desperately need time to recuperate so we can be ready and refreshed when we have to tackle another stressor. Meditation seems to control our genes in a way that helps shut down stress, thus allowing us to consciously bring about that recuperation period.
It has become that martial art masters who meditate appear healthier, more vibrant and younger than others their age. This is in line with research findings made by scientists at UCLA. They found that engaging in 12 minutes of yoga meditation daily for eight weeks increased the body’s supply of telomerase, which they have dubbed the “immortality enzyme”. The cellular aging process is actually slowed down by Telomerase.
We should remember that as we live our lives that although pharmaceuticals are necessary for the treatment of many illnesses and conditions, meditation techniques are a tried and true way of helping us to reduce stress and when combined with proper nutrition, rest and exercise they avoid those illnesses in the first place.
In conclusion, meditation can be a very powerful tool in your life for improving mental well-being as well as physical health. If practiced correctly, it will ultimately allow you to draw upon the infinite force of gravity, channel it through your own physical centre and extend it in whichever direction you choose. Once you have mastered the breathing technique and internalized the process, and are extending Ki, you may start experimenting with it, standing, moving, lifting, pushing, punching, kicking, and throwing. Virtually every movement you make will be greatly enhanced if your movement and entire physical body is centred, balanced and in harmony transmitting Ki.