April 14, 2007

Off the Strip

“Those practices [yoga poses] are intended to help draw together (think of the word “yoke” – it’s from the same root as “yoga”) one horse – the body – to another horse –the mind –that otherwise tend to go their separate ways, leaving us pretty disconnected, distracted, and stressed.

“In yoga practice, think about whether and how your yoga practice has affected your life off the mat. Maybe not at all? Maybe a little?” – greenfrog asked in inlimine.blogspot.com

I think I have approach yoga from two different standpoints – 1) that looks like it could be good, I think I’ll try it and 2) look at me, I’m a good little person, I’m doing yoga. However, I have not maintained any ongoing form of the practice. It never really grabbed my attention the way other physical practices have. That now makes me think about those physical practices which have impacted my life, which I have fallen in love with, for lack of a better term.

The first was fencing (yes, with a sword). I fenced for five years, even taught at one point. I still miss it terribly, but have no time for it any longer. Fencing did make me more aware of my body, but I believe any form of physical activity would have done likewise I was so unfamiliar with athletics. However, fencing does not attempt to ‘yoke’ the mind to the body, but it does enhance the ability to concentrate on the present moment.

Fencing uses a main set of movements and repetition to build muscle memory. Eventually, these movements become so ingrained that no thinking is required for their execution. It becomes a trained response, like Pavlov’s dog. When he strikes to four, I parry four and riposte. Automatic, the mind is not involved. "Don't anticipate," I always told myself, "React!" The mind is busy trying to find patterns, watch for openings, analyze movements, and define weaknesses. “Physical chess” it has been called. It is wonderful. When you’re on the strip, the breath is fast and deep, your thighs ache, the moves come so fast even you can’t follow your own hand, and your mind is squirreling around madly trying to create victory out of sweat and will – this is fencing.

It’s a sport now, also an art, but at one time it was combat, violence. At one time it was life or death. At one time there was blood involved. This is not the only combat sport I have pursued. I took a semester each of karate and judo and enjoyed both. I also love the flowing eloquent movements of Tai Chi, which is the closest I have ever come to a true connection of mind and body. I was just starting to learn Tai Chi’s sword form when I had to give it up.

In fact, the only non-combative physical practice I have pursued with any diligence is pilates. I like it because it’s hard, so hard. It makes me hurt - in that good way that tells me I’ve accomplished something worthwhile.

So the question is: do I like combat sports because I have a violent nature (even a very small one) OR do combat sports make one violent OR is it just a natural affinity to mentally and physically challenging activity? Hmmmm....

Did I earn that nickname, “Vicious,” or was it purely facetious?

1 comment:

Monica said...

Oh, I just reread that and I completely did not mean to imply that yoga was not mentally challenging. Gomenasai! Please no one be offended. I would like to explain what I meant, but I'm not sure that I can, so just please don't read too much into it.