“Perform every act of your life as if it’s your last,” the chief instructor said with flashing eyes and dramatic presence. “In martial arts training, give up your ‘self’.
“Look at this bamboo branch,” he continued. “See how it bends lower and lower under the weight of the snow? There is a point when the snow will fall from the branch, and the bowed branch will spring back into place. When you practice your martial arts form, move like the falling snow … naturally. And like the bamboo plant, allow yourself to respond spontaneously. If you do this, your movements will not be weighted down by the effort of will power – the effort that says, ‘I will be stronger, more powerful, faster!”
The students were standing in the snow on a bright early winter day, the sun warm on their skins, the air windless. Majestically, the snow surrounded them as they listened intently to their teacher.
“If you try to do this, you will fail. If you have thoughts of winning, you will surely lose. But there is something you can do. Give your total self to every act, as if it is your last!”
A Great Stillness
An assistant instructor lined the students up in a plowed practice area. Over and over they repeated their basic moves, keeping the cold of the morning at bay by the intensity of the exercises. Then they began the well-worn forms, a combination of techniques that they had practiced many times before. As they continued their movements, they became aware of a new sensation.
“Faster, harder, more. Give of yourself,” the assistants were shouting, encouraging their students. “Let each movement be the first and final one!
“Now stop,” they commanded. “Prepare yourself for one set of techniques that you can give yourself to, utterly and completely. Are you ready?”
“Yes, sir!” they shouted back in unison.
The instructor counted out the cadence of moves, encouraging each student to an even greater commitment.
The sensation they were feeling became more intense. It was as if they had fallen through a hole in time. In fact, it felt like there was no time – only a great stillness, even though they were moving. After they had completed their forms, they realized that time had stopped. They had been practicing for more than an hour even though it seemed Eke only a few minutes! They had forgotten about the world and everything around them during that intense time they were concentrating on their forms. They had felt as if they were part of the snow, the earth, trees, mountains and the lake. Each movement did not feel as if it were leading to another, but rather that it was unique and complete unto itself, yet part of everything else. They went beyond themselves, letting go without effort, without wanting or intending to do so. They were flying free.