Thursday, July 31, 2014

Integral Martial Arts: Making sense of States

General Integral Theory acknowledges any number of States, but particularly focuses on the ones that everyone has access to when it gives examples: waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep, witnessing, and non-dual consciousness. Being able to put yourself into these States is not so much a matter of what Stage you are at, but more a matter of how practiced you are at getting into these (and other) States. On the other hand, the way you perceive each of these States and which State your central identity clings to changes very much depending on your Stage. How does this work in Martial Arts?

Thankfully, we do not need to reinvent any wheels here. We just need to organize what's already been found through over a thousand years of Martial Arts exploration and assign some language to it. So let me focus on trying to do that.

First, it is important to note that these States can be thought of as mindsets in Martial Arts terms, and that they correspond to 1st Quadrant (Personal) selves. Wilber's concept also holds true: every self has a body. So waking corresponds to gross physical stuff. Dreaming corresponds to the subtle body. Dreamless sleep and witnessing correspond to the causal self, and finally the non-dual corresponds with Oneness. I put forth that all of these items are discussed in a Martial Arts context in detail already by many sources and here's an attempt to lay it out:

Mu-shin: No-mind

Starting from the top, No-mind seems to be a correlation to dreamless sleep and/or witnessing. In particular, No-mind requires focus on no particular thing, especially not focus on focusing! It is the ultimate letting go, and it is non-directional. During the State of No-mind, things arise as they need to. From a Martial Arts perspective, this is basically the arising of victory. Musashi and Takuan speak of winning battles through No-mind, where there is no separation between you and your opponent. Here's a great quote from Sun Tzu about that:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

The way I read this, if you are in No-mind, i.e. causal consciousness, there is no separation between you and other things. You are "Not Two". So, really the idea of any conflict at all is silly, or at best beautiful because it is a perfect expression of something rising out of itself, as itself. What is a winner in that case? There is only One, so it's not really relevant in this State who (or what) wins or loses. On the other hand, the farther you are away from No-mind, the better your chances of losing will be, especially since losing actually exists on that level of separation.

Mind of Water

This is a term used a lot by the Martial Arts practitioners that taught me, and their teachers, and so on. I did not see it used anywhere else until I read Takuan, Musashi, and Sun Tzu. At this point, I'm suggesting (but still exploring the possibility) that Mind of Water corresponds to subtle consciousness, i.e. dreaming. The ancients describe this state as never letting the mind stop at something, because whatever the mind stops at will cause it to be cut down. (I'm paraphrasing Takuan here.) Meaning that the mind should flow around and not focus attention on any particular thing, but when it needs to then it can. At rest in the Mind of Water State, the mind is like water flowing past a riverbank. Thoughts come and then flow onward down the river without stopping by for a visit. Then the next thoughts come down the waterway and move onward just like the last. This feels like a basic relaxed mindset and being at ease but alert.

Satori: Mind of Mirror and Mind of Moon

The best example of Satori comes from a book I read by Dan Millman where his teacher held up a knife and told him he was going to throw the knife at Dan's face and Dan had to catch it. The teacher wasn't serious, thankfully, but was merely proving a point and showing Dan what Satori felt like. Satori is total pinpoint concentration devoted to a single thing. In my training this has been called Mind of Mirror. When you punch through a board or a ribcage, your focus is ultimately devoted to a single point just before the impact. It zooms in at the last split second.

Mind of Moon is the opposite: open awareness. The ancients touch upon this concept when they discuss where the eyes go during a confrontation. Many argue for having the eyes focused on no particular thing, but instead seeing everything all at once and zooming in with Mind of Mirror when the final action is called for in a strike. The eyes will train the mind to go where it needs to, and how to switch between Mind of Moon and Mind of Mirror accordingly. Daniel Goleman in his new book, Focus, alludes to "top down" and "bottom up" attention. Top down attention is basically Mind of Mirror. It is conscious focus and thought directed at a single problem or object. Bottom Up attention is open awareness which allows the unconscious brain to make connections between things it sees but may not have put together consciously.

Both of these States, I think are gross States, because they deal with physical attention, but at the same time they can be portals to other States. For example, Mind of Moon and Mind of Mirror are both the first steps to two different kinds of meditation. Hold one of those States long enough, and you will begin to rise up through Mind of Water and eventually to No-Mind. So I think one thing that Martial Arts points out is the fluidity of States and how they can (and do) flow into one another. It seems to me that you don't just achieve a State and stay there for any length of time, just as you don't stay awake for 24 hours per day routinely.

As always, this is a work in progress so other thoughts or speculation on how States might be dealt with in a Martial Arts context are welcome.

The other thing that makes this a giant mess is how States are perceived differently at different Stages. This post is just a basis, colored by whatever my own Stage is. In future posts, I plan to sort out how other Stages might interpret these same States.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Martial Arts for Personal & Spiritual Development

Vacation is a wonderful time to kick back and contemplate. I just returned from a rather enjoyable session this past week. Activities included hanging out in Miami enjoying the sun and sand, trying to clarify my thoughts of what I'm trying to convey about "Integralizing" Martial Arts, and how those thoughts could be made more useful to those involved with teaching and studying their respective "Ways". The focus of these meditations was a simple question: What evidence is there that people have used (or are using) Martial Arts for spiritual development, and how far back does it go?

History was never my best subject, but I did find some pretty definitive evidence going back centuries. One of the most famous examples was from a series of letters written by a Japanese monk named Takuan Soho to a samurai friend of his where they discussed the spiritual aspects of swordsmanship. Beyond technique, Takuan talked about mindset, and even in his own way he talked about Spirit and Oneness after the Buddhist fashion of the time. That got me thinking a little more about samurai, so I checked out Miyamoto Mushashi's book on his personal Martial Art. As one of the greatest swordsman who ever lived, Musashi believed that his Way was not only about fighting, although fighting was a significant part of it if not the very core manifestation. Musashi's Way was one of getting to know the Self, and using the art and other arts to further the depth of knowledge a person has of his or her own interiority and the outside world together as One.

Having two good examples from the 1600's, I wondered more about modern times and if anyone published thoughts on Martial Arts and spiritual development. There is a fair amount written on that subject. Gichin Funakoshi's book comes to mind, where he tells about his Way and the history behind it. Funakoshi believed that karate was a method for living a lifestyle and improving the self, and not just a way to improve fighting skill. Another book I read last week was by Joe Hyams, who studied with Ed Park and Bruce Lee and had many anecdotes about how karate improved and even saved his life outside of class in normal every day life. This book resonated with me because it was the first one I found that had applicable modern lessons that I myself remember learning in the dojo and applying outside.

With all this material, however, something is missing for me. There's something left to do yet. The basis for using Martial Arts for personal and spiritual development is definitely there! It has a rich history. However, it is not Integral. In order to be Integral, something has to honor or take into account AQAL. Interestingly, Martial Arts does take into account a good bit of AQAL already. Books on spiritual and personal development in the martial arts cover the 1st Quadrant (UL) pretty well. Books on fighting and technique cover the UR Quadrant. Some of Musashi's writings even talk about how one relates to an opponent, which is very much a LL Quadrant phenomenon. There are even books on the business of martial arts and how to distribute them to students more effectively, which covers the LR Quadrant. All these perspectives are represented, and there are many "Lines" you can pursue in the Martial Arts which are all covered by books: grappling, breaking, chi development, kata, etc. What's missing is clarification on States and Stages and organization.

Honestly the literature is a mishmosh. It is like the literature on Psychology and Evolutionary Biology before Ken Wilber organized and made sense of it. There is also little to no talk of Stages and how Martial Arts look differently depending on vantage point. Additionally, there is almost no talk of how States, i.e. meditation, work into the equation and how they change with Stage, e.g. the Wilber-Combs Matrix. I feel this is what is needed here. Even in religious institutions, there is little accounting for Stages. Ken Wilber is writing a book called The Fourth Turning, which talks about how Buddhism which traditionally acknowledges its own evolution is expected to leap again to a format where Stages, States, and other discoveries are more properly incorporated. As with Buddhism, I do not feel this has been done yet with Martial Arts.

So there we have it. I see a clearer mission now of what has to be explained. There are also two other perspectives to deal with: teacher and student. Conveying this to teachers so they can distribute it to their own students is a different task than developing a program for individual students to work through. I am in the process of doing both through my own class in Ridley, PA (for students) and through my writing (for teachers).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Integral Perspective

In the course of my career, I have been a researcher trying to publish new ideas to the scientific community. At this point I probably have a little over 30 publications in various scientific journals, conference proceedings, book chapters, and non-peer reviewed articles in trade magazines, and that does not count thoughts I have blogged or white papers I have written. Through all of this writing I have learned that new ideas are difficult to come by. Even if you apply a seemingly new idea to your area of research, you often find that the idea is not new. Whether you figured it out or not on your own, someone probably did it already!

So goes my expectations for the way I am trying to portray martial arts on this blog. I have not yet found it explained this way, but I'm ready for it to turn up. What have I found so far?

This is going to sound a little comical, but I have found a lot of talk of fighting. Go figure. In certain cases, I have found discussion about classes being offered that take both the "spiritual" and self-defense aspects of martial arts into account. Getting warmer. However even in these cases, I find certain things missing that would classify the teachings by that school or person as "Integral" according to the theory of the class honoring AQAL.

I guess the biggest difference between what I am talking about and what is out there right now on the web is that I am trying to use martial arts as an all-inclusive tool to understanding Life, if one should choose to use it that way. Life includes a lot of things. After all, it's Life! So while I am advocating that people are learning to fight, the understanding of fighting itself differs at each Stage of Consciousness. So does the purpose of fighting, as does it's symbology. However, fighting only covers the "martial" part of "martial art". There is also the "art"part where there are many opportunities to figure things out. To say that I teach martial arts for "spiritual" purposes is also true. However, again, it is partial. My class still includes things that many people don't think of as spiritual. I happen to see all actions as part of the necessary and perfect expression of All That There Is, which therefore makes them automatically spiritual, but when I start talking about driving to work and making dinner afterward as spiritual, people tend to get lost because they usually only associate fancy meditation techniques with the term.

Let me reiterate: the intention of my class is to make the student a better fighter, but also a better meditator. Moreover, it will also make the student a better driver, a better cook, a better parent, and a better coworker among other things. Students in my class probably won't be better fighters than if they had gone to a Gracie dojo to learn, and they won't be better meditators than if they had gone to a Buddhist Temple, but if they wish to specialize in one or the other, I can help them find that somewhere else. Instead, what they get is a rounded awareness of all aspects of life in the 21st century suburban and urban setting, and since all of my students happen to LIVE in a 21st century suburban or urban setting,this is very useful to them.

The beauty of Integral Theory is that you can drop it onto an existing path to self-realization and bring that path into clearer focus. My idea (which I have not seen duplicated in the same way yet, but am giving it time) is to drop Integral Theory onto an existing martial arts class and make that class a path to self-realization and broadening of Consciousness.

It's lonely though, waiting for other classes to come out of the woodwork and start exchanging. If you feel like you would like to, please contact me.