« Archives in June, 2013

The body echoes the mind. Mental strength and the power of excuses.

According to many eastern philosophy’s, the mind and the body are closely linked. The body echoes the mind. I’ve often wondered about the power of mind over matter, magickal theory (I’ve dabbled) and how much control, besides the physical movement of your body, your mind has over external things. I also have been contemplating the connection between injury and illness with the mind. I have seen many an occurrence of someone focusing on an injury or illness to the point of making it worse.

People are so preoccupied with making excuses as to why they cannot do things. The simple reason is that people are frightened of failure, they think it makes them weak. They maintain this front of being strong and then making an excuse of why they cannot exercise that strength. This is true weakness.
Facing anything with complete conviction, making no excuses, attempting to overcome ones perceived problems and still failing is true strength.
You cannot know success until you have known failure. Failure is not a negative thing, it is the enabler of learning, understanding and the path to success.

There is a tendency amongst most people to focus on negativity. Events occur as they will, but the mind will generate the negativity of that event. It is simply how you approach things. If during a bout of jigeko, I attempt a technique and it is a failure, I try never to look on that as something negative. I could say “That didn’t work. I’m no good at that technique.” Or I could say, “That didn’t work. What can I change to make it work.” I always assume a failure is my own understanding not being up to scratch yet and something I can improve. Telling yourself that you should have been able to do it is lying to yourself.

This leads naturally to the conclusion that if mind echoes the body and body echoes the mind and in a state of mushin, your mind echoes the mind of your opponent, then also your body will echo the body of your opponent, thus you will feel their intentions and an instinctive counter will be obvious.
This is the nature of debana waza.

Last week I went to training feeling decidedly not 100% but had decided it would not hold me back and as a result, had a very good session. My upset stomach was something that I had to control and overcome. As such by the time we had finished, I’d completely forgotten about it.

It’s like the mental process of how you view pain. Pain is an indicator that something is going on and differentiating between something serious and just tension or tiredness is something I think you develop over time while training.
It leads to mental strength and that is the core of where these excuses and strength to continue come from. I think having children gives you a lot more mental strength than you expect. Dealing with sleep deprivation is probably the first parental challenge. Being able to still get up, look after your child and do day to day stuff, go work after all night in a hospital room on about an hours sleep is just par for the course. True story.
Grossed out by vomit and other bodily excretions? You won’t be after about a month. Children are also very good at making you less attached to your possessions.

During my time fencing, I went up against a guy at a couple of competitions who was in his late 60’s and had Parkinson’s. He was without a doubt one of the best fencers I came up against and he turned up to the piste, with a limp and shaking violently. As soon as he came to en-guarde the shaking stopped and I scored not a single point against him. His movements were extremely small and I never even saw or felt where he hit me.
I’ve always held him in my mind as a perfect example of someone who didn’t let themselves be held back and didn’t make excuses for failure. A prime example of how to overcome challenges.

And if you want another example of someone who doesn’t make excuses…

Tell me again what your excuse is.

Tell me again what your excuse is.

Giving it all away and the path to being a Jedi. (The Purge Part 4)

Take this piece of musing any way you care to but I always been of the belief that no matter where a piece of information, or advice comes from it can still have meanings. It comes back to my belief in learning the truth for yourself. Regardless of the source, things can effect you fundamentally. I’ve always been struck on the part of Return of the Jedi, where Luke goes to see Yoda for the last time and during their conversation, Yoda tells him that his not a Jedi yet and must face Vader again. Only then will he be a Jedi. Why?

Luke’s path in Star Wars is pretty hard. The emotional impact of it is downplayed a lot, but if you sit back and explain it in simple terms, it’s pretty awful. He lives on a remote planet with his Uncle and Aunt, who probably aren’t, they are really his adoptive parents and he has never known his real parents. Then out of the blue, he finds a message that he thinks is for someone he knows, goes to see him and then officers of the oppressive police state in which he lives, murder his adoptive parents and burn his home to the ground. I don’t know about you, but I’d be a little pissed off about that and Luke seems to handle this pretty well.
Next he’s dragged into a civil war, see’s his mentor die, his childhood friend die, makes a few new ones, finds his long lost sister, trains in a weird jungle, gets his hand cut off by his own father and then has to go back, face his father again and the evil ruler of the galaxy probably to die. Phew, tough break dude.

So what does this really mean, and why is it that Luke is not a Jedi till he faces Vader again? It’s his last major piece of mental and emotional baggage that he has to shift in order to be at peace in his mind. It is also an act of sutimei. Giving himself up, completely and freely without fear to perform the perfect cut. That is why he freely walks into the Imperial camp and surrenders himself to them. He has to go face him to finally be free of everything. He’s lost all his material possessions and everyone that was there during his childhood so he has nothing left except the knowledge that maybe, he can save his father from the dark side and his sister. Why do you think he tells Leia that she is his sister? Because he has to do it to release the mental baggage. I also see it in a kind of old world feel like Luke has to become the head of the family and can no longer just follow. He has to lead and thus an actual power struggle between father and son has to take place.
He gives everything to do this and knows that he will either live or die but has accepted that. It is sutimei. The ultimate goal of the rebellion is to crush the empire. Luke’s primary goal is simple. He just wants to try and save his father because without doing this he will never be complete and will not be a Jedi.

I’ve tried to understand this in many ways, but I think it makes sense to everyone. Most of us have some issues with our family and all have those little pieces of baggage that we’d rather we were free of but we push them to one side in order to not have to deal with them and ignore them as just, oh it’s family. You don’t have to consider yourself the head of a family, but with the death of my own Father I feel like I have now taken on that responsibility. I’m the eldest living male of the Beaumont family and as such, have to set an example for my own son to look up to. I can’t do this without facing the internal family issues.

I always equate personal spiritual development to an onion. The outside is dry, cracked and brown. As you peal away the layers, more is revealed that is smoother and fresher than the last. You have to start with the dry, unpleasant layers before the good stuff is reached and you can only peel one layer at a time. The layer you have to peel away is the one that is at the forefront of you mind on a daily basis and as such this can be the burden that obstructs your sense of mushin and fudoshin. When we first started training, our Sensei would simply tell us to leave your worries and baggage at the door. When you are in the Dojo you think only of Kendo.
I think everyone should do this all the time. It’s a state of mind that you can take outside the Dojo and cultivate it there as well.
I know I still have many onion layers to peel before it no longer gets in the way and I feel like my physical development in kendo is much more like a giant wall of pigeon holes which some are already filled. As I learn more the holes are filled more and more, but I know this is an infinite area so concentrating on one a lot more will aid them to be filled better.

I’m not saying you have to become a Jedi, but the personal development messages contained therein are still messages that have a meaning for the real world. If you are a christian, do you look at bible stories and think, that was an amazing thing that really happened or do you look at them as a story with a message? A message that should be easy to understand and apply to your own life.

As part of The Purge, not only have I been trying reconcile all those emotional and mental blocks, i’m trying to sell off as much as possible so I can recoup some money and make space, I’ve also started to give some things away. It’s a really nice thing to just pass something on to someone who wants and will make use of something that has just sat around and done nothing.
Not only that but I am looking a little deeper and trying to purge those mental blocks, the things that cause a little bit of guilt, the unresolved issues that creep up on you at 2 in the morning when you can’t sleep.

Meeting up with one of my friends who I’ve not seen for some time really helped me get some perspective on a few things. I always used to feel that when I met up with people I hadn’t see for some time, I felt like they had been doing loads in the mean time and I was kind of standing still. This is typical for those of us that just have fairly secure 9-5 jobs with not much variation. You settle into your life, doing the day to day stuff. I realised that for me this is no longer the case and the funny thing is that as soon as we started talking, I was almost looking for a way to give him something of mine.

I feel like it’s all starting to come together now. Not only am I unburdening myself of material possessions, I’m purging those mental blocks and now I find my thoughts drifting more and more to my physical well being. Eating a bit healthier, not drinking alcohol and just being more aware of that aspect on things. Kendo is part of it but I feel like it’s all leading to that first part of the purpose.

To mold the mind and body.



Pink Floyd and Eureka moments.


Dark side of the moon is a superb album. About 3 years ago I could not have said that as I really didn’t have an opinion on it either way. I would hear people go on about how amazing it is and had no basis to go on. I’d heard it many times, just not taken it in and felt bad about this because being a guitarist, I thought I should like it. Then one evening, while at home by myself doing the ironing, Radio 1 played the whole album from start to finish. Then I was sold. Pink Floyd are great and Dark side of the moon is an amazing album.
I couldn’t quite understand how I’d missed out on this for so long but I quickly came to the conclusion that I had not been ready for it. I think this is the way certain fundamental things in life happen as well. Someone can ply you with advice on all sorts of things, but if you are not ready to understand or accept, it will pass you by. I realised tonight that kendo is exactly the same. You have to be ready to understand a certain aspect and until that time no matter how many times you hear it and try it, the true understanding of the concept will elude you.

During jigeko tonight, while in tsuba-zarei up in jodan, sensei just said “Hit kote from jodan.” I had to ask him to repeat but I got the message, and it suddenly made perfect sense. It was obvious. How could I have not seen this. This is where a good teacher shows their true skill by knowing what the student is ready for. Eureka moment.

We rotate and my next opponent seems to not be susceptible to that technique but I try it a few times anyway. I come close. Then another one hits me.
The concept of mushin crossed my mind and I remembered the words from a translated lecture I’d read on George McCall’s website called PURSUING THE SPIRIT AND MODERN KENDO. It’s in 5 parts and I think it’s a must for every kendoka to read.
He said about during a proper state of mushin you should become like a mirror and the intentions of your opponent will be reflected onto yourself. Suddenly debana made sense and also how to do it correctly. Being a former fencer, the concept of debana is familiar to me as a ‘stop hit’ but it had never really flashed as something I could effectively utilise. As I observed my opponent begin to move to attack me I saw him do it and simply did debana kote, one after the other. Now I think about it, this is employing elements of kata number 6 and number 7 of the Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho. That small debana and/or suriage kote suddenly made much more sense. Eureka moment number 2 for the evening.

I suspect that these eureka moments are a result of my eclectic mentality and methods of learning things. In a previous post I was lamenting the fact that I am a jack of all trades and master of none, but this is probably where my strength lies now. Because I am now focusing my attention towards a specific goal, all these things I have done in the past are starting to join together. I’ve been telling myself recently that I should meditate more to help me cultivate my mushin, but kendo does it too, so I shouldn’t worry so much about it. There is an old saying about meditation. When you get to a certain point, everything is meditation, therefore, everything can bring about or be approached with a state of mushin.

I used to worry about everything, all the time. I was nervous of social situations, didn’t know how to talk to people and constantly had this kind of internal dialogue with myself about what to say next and invariably just sat saying very little. Buddhist philosophy and meditation got me out of that and made me realise how easy life can be if you have this state of mind. It was a personal eureka moment that I had one Saturday afternoon out of nowhere that fundamentally changed my state of mind.

I’ve realised now that like with many things I’ve done over the years, I tend to not start at the beginning of things and try to rush in. I suspect I’ve been a bit like that with kendo too (you’d have to ask my sensei) but I think because I have done so many things that there are certain concepts that I already understand and thus when it comes time for me to understand the new concept in kendo, I already recognise it.
Whenever I want to really understand something I’ve always just read as much as I can, even if I don’t understand it at the time, but find later on down the line, connections are made between the various different bits of information. These are what makes a eureka moment. Most of the time I’m thinking “How did I not see that before?” The answer is simple.
I wasn’t ready to understand.