All animals have a sense of purpose about them – humans are no exception. We are more alive – more true to our natures – when we are ‘fully engaged’. I believe that this is one of the reasons why people become ‘healthily’ addicted to the martial arts – and Taekwondo in particular. When we are engaged in sparring with our opponent, there is no doubt that we become more ‘fully engaged’ in what we are doing, than we are in the larger part of our daily life. There is no ‘engagement’ quite like, the engagement that results from a fight for your life.
Although we are not really fighting for our lives when we hit the mat for practice – we are nonetheless, fully focused in a similar kind of way. When we are sparring, thinking about tomorrow and remembering yesterday rarely come into play. We remain (largely) in the moment … but how much so? Now, one of the traits of the truly good fighter, is that he or she becomes more fully and completely ‘engaged’ in the moment than others. Here’s an example: A beginner is engaged in the problem of not getting hit, it is likely that this beginner is ‘looking ahead’ to where he or she wants to be – and is perhaps not as fully ‘in the now’ as the more experienced fighter. The more experienced fighter is not so much concerned with what may or may not happen ten seconds from now, he or she is concerned with what is actually happening right NOW – in this very moment. The same thing can be said of ‘thinking about the past’. The beginner is likely to have thoughts like ‘how did that happen’, or ‘oh, I just got hit – on no – how bad is that!’ – whereas the more experienced fighter, as they are being hit is thinking more ‘in the moment’ and is reacting appropriately and establishing his or her own recovery. Thinking about the past, or thinking about the future is a result of having the extra hardware our brain has developed over the past millennia – this extra hardware has a name – the pre-frontal cortex. This is great as a survival mechanism when used to live, learn and survive in the world we live in – but not great for moment-by-moment calculation during the heat of action. Animals tend do better in those situations – lacking the marvelous abilities the pre-frontal cortex affords we humans.
An animal doesn’t whine and complain about you hitting it – it just goes at you with all it has – and it’s teeth. Humans on the other hand, tend to complain and go through internal dialogue that says stuff like – you shouldn’t be able to hit me – why did I make that mistake – oh, no, it looks like he will score on me ….. instead of just allowing us to react with those resources we have left to us. Being ‘in the moment’ is a much more primal way of thinking – and it is a way of ‘being’ that that keeps us focused on the task and problems of the moment; a useful mode to be in when we are in a state of ‘action’. Think of how much more you can accomplish in life if you could program yourself to always be in the moment.
See you in class