From now on we would not only leave the jovialness to a certain time and place, we would be expected to take the training a helluva lot more seriously and do exactly as he says if we were wanting to get good at this stuff. So no being late, no stupid jokes, no slacking, just work. Do more and talk less, basically.
On top of that we were now to go by Asian rules, which meant that rank, determined by discipleship, came into place. In practice, this meant that you could not shower or eat before anyone who is higher ranked than you and in training you could not correct the other person if they were of a higher rank, even if you did find something you could help with. These were rules of respect and of knowing your place – of surrendering to your role and the environment. The things that keep you alive in a survival situation, the Master says.
At this stage I would like to clarify that our Master is not Asian, but Caucasian, which I feel is an advantage to him as a teacher and to us as students. Having spent decades working, training and living in the East and a disciple and Master of many lineages of East and Southeast Asian fighting styles, he knows the differences between the Eastern and Western cultures, and more importantly, the differences between the two mindsets. So when he told us we were going Asian, he knew that we were in need of the bitterness that he ate when he trained with Asian Masters. We knew that things were about to get serious.
I must also say that as students we’re lucky to have someone who has gone through the hours, days and years of struggle (hard training, cultural differences, language barriers) to get to the level of where you could say he ‘knows many secrets’ and here he is willingly passing some of them on to us, just as long as we show up and give respect where respect is due and put in the work. Fair enough.
So I surrendered. My blade became my complete focus, the expression of sacredness towards the training hall and respect to each other more prominent. The repetitions embedding the techniques into my cellular memory and the surrendering to the situation, the flow and the moment, was training my mind at the same time. I became an open book to receive learning. The blade became the focus point of this raw, martial meditation. It became the sharp edge between ego and oblivion.
I knew it would not be easy, but I also knew that it would be worth it. In the end, after each session, each day, each week, I always feel like I have accomplished something and contributed towards my ultimate goal of becoming a better person. The shifts within that require a certain degree of letting go will always take some time to process. That’s how we know it’s the good stuff. The sweetness we taste after the hard work we’ve put in. The way you ache and are exhausted, but feel amazing at the same time.
I hope I never have to use a blade against anyone, but I sure as hell enjoy playing with them. My Master joked that I am half Finnish, so that is why I like blades, and that I am half Filipino, which is also why I like blades. Jokes and fun aside, there is very much a serious side to working with sharp objects. The ‘discipline of the steel’ teaches you to move in certain ways, to keep your distance, to be aware of your surroundings and trains your mind in more ways than one. After all, the mind is the weapon we yield the most these days, but more about that at a later time, in another blog post.
For now I just wanted to share this recent experience to kick things off here at the Meditate on the Blade Blog. Inspired by the years of journeying with my travelling Yogini partner, this will be a space for my insights to the world of martial and healing arts as well as some good old adventure. Next month I’m heading to Borneo to find some tribal machetes (roadtrip!) before going back to another intensive few weeks in Penang with the Zhong Ding School of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts. Stay tuned and stay in the loop… Till next time!
[If you haven’t already, read Part I here.]