The Tree Concept in Martial Arts

The defining lines between these concepts blending to a single point at the time of use. The central insight of a system is the lynch pin of the movement and welfare of the students studying the art. We, as students of the arts, are integral to the success of a system and responsible for its ultimate contribution to a collective consciousness. Each of the great martial artists who developed these arts have shared these insights with us to the ultimate betterment of ourselves. So every now and then step back and see the wood for the trees. Relax, breathe and appreciate the beauty of your art or arts and how you contribute to the expansion of the greater whole in a positive and fruitful fashion. . The tree in front of me is an incredibly complex organism that has developed through patience and an innate desire to survive. It gently sways in the wind. Its structure changes subtly to accommodate the wind but it does not substantially change the tree’s existence. Martial arts can be viewed in a similar way. If you look at a tree from very close-up it is (excuse the pun) literally ‘hard to see the wood for the trees’.

A network of branches and leaves in seemingly random order moving in different directions with apparently differing intentions. But if you step back it becomes evident that the elaborateness of the structure has a central theme and in fact the orchestration is not so much complex as sophisticated. The tree has sufficiently evolved to naturally compete and at the same time contribute to the welfare of the greater whole.

Martial arts evolve in a similar manner. Usually they are the seed or brainchild of an exceptional fighter who has been struck by some great insight as to a method of viewing the complexities of movement as it relates to the human condition during combat. This individual has then been able to codify that method into a set of basics, techniques, (possibly) forms and underlying rules and principles. This is the external structure of the ‘tree’, but its internal framework is insight.

Understanding the central insight of a system is essential to understanding the purpose of the system. Most people are attracted to the arts as a method of self-defence. ‘What do I do if I am attacked?’ But learning a martial art as a self-defence system is not the only purpose of a martial art. Self-defence is a by-product of the purpose or central insight of an art. When a student goes to a school they are generally given the leaves and branches of a martial way, the peripheral appendages that are exposed to the sun. Being subjected to a fight or an attack is the point where the student is exposed to the sun. The level at which work is converted into useful energy. This is enough for many students and octets a security which they may not have previously had. Obviously the more realistic and spontaneous the training the more likely the student’s chance of achieving success in a real situation. But much like a tree’s leaves and branches if you look at the techniques and work backwards tracing the concept behind the movement and desired effect then you will discover that they probably trace back to a central theme or insight. Purely from a movement point of view this is the external form of the central insight of the system. The central insight of the system can only be found one way, by applying that movement concept in genuine combat.

When a system is stripped down to the trunk it usually boils down to a conceptual esoteric that is represented physically. The moment between the esoteric and the application broken down further and further as the esoteric becomes part of the individual’s consciousness through spontaneous application. The more and diverse the systems that a student studies the better his or her understanding of the central insights of the system’s developer. In many cases I would imagine the central insights of most useful systems are remarkably similar. The individual who developed the art has applied the concept to a specific type of environment or instinctual ability.

Something that they where naturally drawn to or confronted with the most, for example Grappling, Boxing,

Weapons fighting and so on. So what are these central themes and insights? Relax, breathe, feel, expand your consciousness through facing the inevitable, develop an ultimate respect for life (for you and your opponents), discover a balance that encompasses your training and your life.

Am sure the list goes on.

The martial art within you is more than a set of techniques or moves. It is a complete construct of reactions, actions, decisions, psyche, energy and philosophy.

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