It was Aldous Huxley who once said “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” A quote often referred to when talking about music but really it is talking about something else. It is the idea of the silent and inexpressible. As Mr. Huxley cannot describe just what that indescribable thing is, he like the rest of us, can only imply that it is by sort of talking around it. What is most intriguing however is that despite being inexpressible he seems to be inferring that it is also a deeply important thing.
The mystery of just what the experience Mr Huxley described as inexpressible is bares heavy thought. It is a reflection that one has to know through direct experience as no other means is possible. In almost every tradition, ritual and spiritual indoctrination there is an element of this direct individual experience that words cannot adequately describe. In both martial arts and Zen this attainment, at it's highest levels, is called enlightenment. It is at the root of all the exercises of traditional martial arts as they are a method to attain complete self realization and illumination. This is also known as achieving a connection with the Void. This describes a meaningful personal connecting to the quintessential creative energy of the world. A warrior properly attuned to the Void can sense their surroundings and respond without thinking.
So what martial arts can do for those who practice them is to have an exercise in which they can continuously, and in an ever deepening way, know the experience of personally touching the void. The ultimate aim of this is being able to perfectly balance the idea of being (non action) and the act of doing so that one comes into harmony not only an attacker but with ones total environment itself. Whether it is called enlightenment, supreme realization of perception, illumination, ascension, or anything else is all represents the same idea. It is only in martial arts however that this achievement is done while directly dealing with aggressive and even malicious attacks.
Karate, Tai Chi Chuan, Aikijujutsu and other martial arts provide a powerful way to achieve this goal through the core element of Kata or Forms.
Kata or Forms are specific patterns of movement somewhat similar to the ritual dances of the indigenous peoples throughout the world. This is because they convey information far beyond the actual movements themselves. What these movements do is instill in a person the dynamics and principles that all energies in the universe work with. Shinto Priests have been quoted as saying that their religion is the act of dancing with the universe. Kata or Forms then become that dance. Arts that come from Japan usually call their patterns Kata, while in Chinese Arts the movements are often called Forms.
So with use of these patterns and through the act of numerous repetitions the movements become as natural breathing. This allows the mind to develop a deep sense of peace while simultaneously performing the dynamic, precise, and critical movements required to defend yourself in a life and death situation.This is the power of paradox that is utilized by these great arts. If one can have peace of mind while being attacked in a serious way then nothing else can reasonably happen outside that situation which could have the slightest chance of unbalancing the practitioner, either physically or mentally.
It is here though that the actual martial techniques must be impeccable. Without solid and unarguably effective techniques all the inner philosophical concepts would lose their merit. To attain peace of mind and respond perfectly without conscious thought to life threatening situations requires precise movements and timing. You can only know that your response will be appropriate if you know your techniques are going to work. A profound balance between body alignment, dynamic movement and inner mindfulness must be cultivated.
The physical exercise of these arts strengthens the body to its highest potentials. Regular practice allows the flexing, stretching, and rotation of all muscles in the body, while developing high levels of core strength. Entwined with deep diagram breathing and skeletal alignment one truly becomes strong inside and out.
The benefits of a strong limber body, the ability to channel mental energies with a laser like precision, the self confidence of knowing with certainty that one can defend themselves in any situation, and critically, the inner peace and strength necessary to take part in the world passionately and without fear. All these things are developed by training.
So Martial Arts are a way in which life itself can be brought into it’s highest potential. By literally exercising it’s value daily. From the gritty absolute truth of life and death struggles to the knowing of the void and inner peace, Martial Arts can bring out the highest potentials to the entire spectrum of life.