In the dojo we train vigilance as a tripwire for defense. In every class we work to maintain awareness continually. We do that in class formalities, hojo undo, kata practice, two person drills and kumite.
Compressing the perception-response interval – the speed to action in a combative situation – is decisive both in training and in personal defense. It requires sharp, unbroken vigilance.
Awareness, specifically threat awareness, is a critical skill. For personal defense, perceiving a threat at a distance may give you time to avoid it. If the threat is not one you can or should avoid, then threat awareness will allow you to move or close the distance for tactical advantage.
In contact, sharp awareness makes it possible for you to sense incoming attacks as well as weak points in the defenses of the threat. This happens much faster than we can consciously track, but it happens. And the more intensely we train our awareness, the better our performance under pressure.
Avoiding “condition white” is standard personal defense training advice. Condition white refers to a state of mind which is pre-occupied and as a result oblivious to potential threats.
Trainers advise remaining in “Condition Yellow” – a state of mind engaged with the environment – not ramped up, but open to perceive threats, should they appear.
In martial arts we consider awareness to be a core competence. We train it all the time. But the awareness that results from our training can be applied to everything, not just threats.
Sometimes “awareness” in martial arts is treated as the cultivation of a tense, hypervigilant paranoia. That’s not good. It is brittle, unstable and exhausting. It projects an aura of menace or mania, which attracts trouble and repels pretty much everything else. That is not the quality of awareness we need.
In mind training class we focus specifically on cultivating powerful, deep and clear awareness, strengthening and stabilizing the mind just as we strengthen and stabilize the body in the karate classes. Since we have built a foundation of awareness in karate, it is easy to bring that into the mind training setting, and take it further.
It becomes evident that a calm, clear mind allows us to perceive not just threats but many dimensions of experience which may have gone unrecognized – because our minds were turbulent, dim or oblivious. We find that, little by little, we are more able to detect beauty, opportunity and miracles when they appear.
There were times when I would pull over a car with stuff stacked up on the dashboard and hanging from the mirror, obstructing the driver’s view of the road. Maybe the person was a hoarder. Maybe they lived in their car, or they had no more room in their house, so they started filling the car. Maybe their car full of stuff was a layer of protection against a hostile world, or just their stuff, which they wanted to keep close at hand. Anyway, the obstructed windshield was dangerous to them and to the others on the road. The driver couldn’t see. So, I would advise them to clear the obstructions from their view, stay safe, keep other people safe, and see more, more clearly.
Our mind training allows us to see immediately and clearly, so we can respond with skill, without delay. Our awareness applies to threats, miracles and everything else.
Post Copyright © 2021 Jeffrey M. Brooks, author of The Good Fight – The Virtues and Values of the Martial Arts.
Photo by Jenny Uhling, Pexels