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The pen is mightier than the sword, we have all heard. Going deeper into that saying, we find that the pen is an expression of the mind and so the mind is mightier than the sword. But I would like to take it one step further and say that the mind is the sword, the blade – the weapon we yield the most in this day and age.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a blog dedicated to my love of blades and all things related, so over time you will find blade-related reviews and rants as I share my adventures and love for martial arts here. But as it’s my first blog post (like, ever!) I would like to set the scene a little bit with #meditateontheblade and explain where the name and intention comes from.

So the mind is the weapon. That is what I find is being sharpened over and over again as I spend hours training with blades in the sweltering humidity enveloping this small fisherman’s village in the northwest corner Malaysia. My body is on autopilot, working on strikes with a rusty Brazilian machete, practicing the motion of coiling, part of Chinese broadsword work. I ignore my mind’s calls for a break or to take it easy until they fade away and nothing remains, except the process.

The mood of the training hall is quiet, hearing only the creaking of the floorboards as we shift between the front and backlegs, the scraping of the blades as they go over our backs one way, then the other, the occasional pause and crackle of plastic waterbottles breaking the rhythm. We’re told to do a 1000 of these, so we knew it would be a minimum of an hours work ahead of us, but time doesn’t matter when you’re training six hours a day and five days a week. Time to shut it and put in the work. Again.

Up to 200 is easy. 300-700 are tough, the last 300 gets easier again. I knew this from the previous 1000s we did, learning different techniques for using the Malaysian Parang machete, part of the Malay martial art of Silat. So I get on with it and keep counting. My focus is straight ahead and to the periphery of the blade’s trajectory and it’s sharp edge at the same time to avoid hitting anything or anyone. I keep reminding myself that the mind gets tired more quick than the body as I try to keep a rhythm that serves both the increasing aching of my joints and the pace of my fellow sufferers, without compromising on the accuracy of the technique. I also don’t want it to look like I’m slacking when the Master walks back in to check on us.

It wasn’t long ago that the mood in the training centre was very different. Jokes, stories and laughter were more frequent, but yesterday everything changed. The trigger was yours truly, as I was late for our second morning session – not late by long (30secs, a minute?), but that was irrelevant. It was enough of a catalyst for our Master to scold us all for our attitudes and behaviour and express his disappointment and disbelief that we could get to anywhere close to his level. So he flipped the switch – Big time!


[Continued in Part II]