2016 Jan 12
Meditation. The horror! Sitting or standing in silence? That is not what I would expect when I go to a martial arts class. I have those mad skills to hone! ...said every martial arts student when forced to meditate for the first time. For some of us, those thoughts happen every time thereafter as well. Unfortunately for those students, in tang soo do we practice meditation not once, but twice in class. Two whole times! Good grief.
So, what is the deal with meditation? Is it just another exercise cruel instructors like to force on their students? I'd love to say yes, because how else would teaching be fun, but in reality the meditative part of class is just as important as every other part, and as well, can (and should) be part of your personal practice.
I'd like to begin by talking about the process of muk yum, or meditation, specifically for martial arts class. In our TSD classes we bow at the beginning, and sit, and are guided to join in muk yum as a group for at least a few minutes as part of our formal opening class process. For the few minutes of muk yum we sit quietly, focus our eyes softly on a point on the floor, relax our shoulders, hands, jaw, and faces, and breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth, with each breath relaxing more. I like to breath in a ki gong fashion through my meditation - breathe in slowly, hold, and then expel the breath slowly. At this time often you might be instructed to clear your head of what happens outside the dojang to prepare for moving forward with a mind ready for martial arts.
So what does clearing the mind mean? One of the ways I like to think of the mind is as a pool of water. Sometimes (more often than not, probably) we have turbulence. Our thoughts are always moving as we multitask our way through the day. Huge waves sloshing around. In muk yum the water stills. Thoughts are still there, our mind is still full of the stuff we know, but we are calming our thoughts, and leaving them be for awhile. In this way we can allow what we are working on in class take control of the surface more easily.
This reset is necessary to get the most out of class. When we carry all of those stressors from outside the dojang doors into class we can't focus on what we are doing nearly as well.
For the end of class, we clear the mind of our martial arts focus and get ready to go into the wide world again. This doesn't mean we leave what we learn in the dojang behind. We are again calming the surface, so our day to day focus can again take charge.
Grandmaster Shin wrote and spoke often about the importance of meditation. In order for us to reach a place where our mind, body, and spirit unite, we need to not only do the physical practice of our martial art and build our ki energy through the practice of ki gong, but as well accumulate ki energy through meditation. He recommended at least 20 minutes a day to clear our minds and get us ready for our daily stresses. The practice of meditation, in martial arts and out of class as well, will hopefully put us in a place of "perfect readiness" for the things we need to do.
Next time you sit or stand in muk yum, give it your all, and see what happens. Attitude requirement #3 for TSD after all is "all out effort" and this should count for every part of class! Then add a few minutes or meditation a day to your home practice, and I think you will be happy you did.