Random Meditations on a Life of Martial Arts – Teja VanWicklen

I often think about the vulnerability of having to protect yourself and your little ones with no margin for error.

I think about what it means, not only to make quick, pressured, complex decisions about how badly to hurt someone, but to make a very simple decision to risk death or kill someone because anything short of everything you’ve got might not be enough and the space between the right and wrong decision is as minute and critical as the distance between molecules – a distance that, if you survive the leap, will be measured by everyone, including those with the power to determine what you can or can’t do with the rest of your life.

I reach for a formula, even just the shape of an answer to the urgent question of how to carefully select information and pass it to the neglected populations of the world. And then how to teach them to pass the information on to their children. Truthfully I would rather renovate houses and furniture, make art and read books in peace looking out over the Andes mountains. Who knows why we are driven to do what we do.

I think about Aikido, “the way of loving energy”, and how as a kid I believed in the ultimate martial super power of being able to subdue a dangerous person with a feather light redirect or a gentle hold.

I think about hard styles like Kyokushin and Taekwondo, as different as they are similar and built to create an impervious body and mind.

I think about Taichi and Bagua and the absolute magic, the strengthless power that comes from cultivating internal arts.

I wonder at the many hard and soft forms of Arnis, Kali and Silat and how they seek to specifically address issues many other styles don’t; issues of size differentials and weaponry.

I think of Krav Maga and how it mixes and modernizes military hand to hand combat for normal people.

Thirty years on I’ve learned that Aikido and the internal arts really begin to take shape after fifteen to twenty years of study, that Kyokushin and other hard styles break the body down as much as they build it up and in the end you have skills it hurts to practice and pains that never go away. You end up being an enemy to yourself and causing damage you were seeking to avoid. I found out the hard way that even the most open and inclusive hive mindsets ultimately shun new questions in favor of already ensconced answers.

After thirty years of training, mental and physical, I wonder what I’ve really learned. I know I’m safer from certain things, certain people, but I wonder just how much. I am physically stronger in muscular ways, broken and weaker at my joints and nerves. I am mentally tougher in important ways but also aware of what real fear and physical pain are and how it is possible for those things to utterly overwhelm the mind’s ability to cope. I am more aware than ever of the ticking of the clock and the balance between seeking to protect while at the same time being present in life.

I suppose having more questions supplies me with more answers.

I know not to choose violence unless I am willing to put a period at the end of the sentence. I know not to give up my element of surprise by announcing my intention to survive at all costs. If I did he would only laugh at me and take it as a challenge. And seek to kill me faster. I think I know where to put my mind in an emergency and how to block out unconstructive mental chatter.

I am pretty sure that to be female is be physically and culturally vulnerable in the world. It’s possible that to be male is to be emotionally vulnerable and that we are stronger when we help one another by filling in those gaps.

I don’t know that answers exist. But I am positive that I will continue searching for questions.


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