Monday, November 14, 2011

Blank Canvas

Blank canvas can be awfully hard to fill.

Friday I tested our group on what they have learned in this cycle.  We filmed their work on sinawali 2-6 with double sticks, sinawali 2-6 entry and application in kadena de mano, and sinawali 2-6 applications in panantukan.

Overall the test was good, and I can see strong foundations in their basics for all three areas.

For kadena de mano, I had them begin with each entry 2-6 and then find their own solutions and follow ups to create several examples of flow.  This proved a bit more challenging than just repeating the techniques they learned from rote memory. 
Now, given a blank canvas, you must CREATE.

This is at once the most difficult yet most important aspect of FMA in general, and of Kali Majapahit in particular.  I have referenced this point in numerous other posts, but I feel I have to again go back again to how central this is to the process of learning Filipino Martial Arts the way we teach it.

This is the reason Kali Majapahit has empassioned me since the first day I saw it.
This is the reason I will do FMA for the rest of my life.

To really do FMA, we must express ourselves fully in the moment through our techniques.  It has to do with everything from which specific blocks/hits/locks/takedowns we use, to where we position our bodies, to even our mental attitude and focus.  We express it all, unified in each moment.  It is and must be the feeling of being truly alive and alert with every sense of our being.

Not only is this hardly taught at all in any other systems, and when it is taught it is usually for 5th dan black belts and above, it is the essence of everything we want to achieve as FMA practitioners.  It is so important that students start learning it even in the basic curriculum. Without it, we are just going through the motions and following the katas.  Without expression and flow, FMA becomes hollow, shallow, empty.

We grow, we learn, we change.  Our flow must grow, learn, change over time.  We become different people as we evolve and our expression must also change, grow, adapt, mature --- evolve.  This process is so beautiful that to ignore it is to lose all sense of the spiritual nature of our practice.  Sadly, without this we are just doing glorified aerobics.  Without this, we fail to reire our brains and to use the arts as a way of evolving ourselves as people.  This is the self-actualization, the peak of A.H. Maslow's heirarchical pyramid of human needs. 

At the same time, this is the most difficult part of the training.  We need to learn to let go of the intellectual understanding of our techniques, since we cannot intellectualize fast enough to respond fully in the moment.  We have to become empty ("mushin" in Japanese) and let our bodies FLOW and express our spirit through our motion.  We have to allow ourselves to be limitless --- beyond inside, outside, high line, low line, center line, palusot, punch, kick.  All of this must become automatic and instinctive.  This is why FMA training is harder than anything else.  There can be no compromise in developing your own unique flow and expression.  In a nutshell, FMA can be nothing more, but cannot be anything less.  Flow and expression.

In training, we are forced to find solutions despite any limitation placed on us.  This helps to get the expression to go beyond standard thinking and rote memory.  The more we explore, the more we find, the more we grow.  This cycle is a centerpiece of the training.

As a teacher, it is the greatest challenge not only to get students to understand how vital the ideas of Flow and Expression are in FMA, but to find the best way of guiding the students to developing their own flows and expressions.  I struggle with this and am always searching for new drills to help them break through their own barriers and limitations.

To My Students:  This is ALL ABOUT YOU.
My goal for you all is to find your own flow and your own beautiful expression in Kali Majapahit.  I want each of you to be the best martial artist you can be, fully "martial" and fully "artist", and to make the canvas of your lives your own personal masterpiece.  The dojo is where we practice it, and daily life is where we live it and reap its reward.

Let's never stop training together.  

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