October 23, 2007

A Martial Art Metaphor for Relationships

Posted in martial arts, psychology at 11:05 am by Jerry

Listen to how Roberto Sharpe describes “the soft, slow, wise way” of “Push Hands”, a martial art exercise that I think is a good metaphor for life.

Everyday we could be training with those around us, testing not just each other’s physical balance but also our mental, emotional, and spiritual balance with probing questions, confessions of how the other makes us feel, and an acknowledgment of conflicting values. Through this exercise in our relationships we can discover what may only be discovered together – knowledge of ourselves.

Extreme leanings of ours may be unveiled. And, we may also find that our individual ‘center’, the hub of all that we personally believe, is not how we are currently posturing ourselves – our acting methods askew (or is it our individual ‘center’ that’s askew?).

Being personally off-centered is easily done in a world of myriad distractions competing for priority. But like what was communicated in the video above, attempting to control situations by competing with others instead of competing with ourselves for self-control, doesn’t teach us how skillful we could be – it just teaches us how skillful we currently are in this single transaction.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not holding to any relational anti-competition stance. We should get to know our present skills in limited situations. (Of course, without any permanent damage as a result.) The quick, subversive, and timely act of wit is entertaining, except (quite possibly) for the one it is used on. And the over-powering authoritative/traditional strategies we use to trump any competitive situation can also build our self-esteem because we’re all insecure at least some of the time, easily slipping into a defensive mindset to over-come our fears with an exhilarating victory.

It’s just that when I try to bully someone through stealthy tricks or blatant muscling because I don’t feel safe to have my weaknesses revealed in front of my training partner, it means an opportunity to learn was missed. In the end, I reflect and subsequently regret the loss of relating with the other by an exchange for relating against the other.