Gaining Control

Hmmm...A female friend of mine was recently attacked by a crazed crackhead half block from her house.  He was big and he kicked her in the ribs.

She thought her ribs were broken, she feared for her life, and she thought about the lives of her two new born infants who were thankfully not with her at the time.  Then she "went crazy on him," and he ran off.

In telling me about the incident she said she wished she had studied martial arts because she wanted to make sure he didn't hurt anyone else.  That, I think was the rational explanation, the more spontaneous explanation, I'm guessing, would be that she wanted to kick his ass.

A few days later while we were sitting at an outdoor table at a local bakery/cafe, she asked me how much martial arts training would have helped her.  I dodged the question and talked to her a bit about self-defense and what kind of training we do.  Then a 300 pound guy sat down next two her on a large green wooden box which had a sign saying please do not sit here.  The purpose of the box was to guide the flow of foot traffic around the tables and chairs, and thus, not for sitting.   It promptly toppled over onto her--bruising her arm.

The guy was naturally embarrassed and apologetic.  But that prompted her to ask me if studying martial arts would have prevented her from getting hit by the box.

So I was cornered.  Would martial arts training help with a surprise attack or a surprise accident?  Yes, probably, maybe, I'm not sure, I don't know,... how could I know?

10 TreadingHexagram 10 of the Yijing (I Ching) is about just such a situation.  The title reads Treading (Lu):

Treading on a tiger's tail: one is not bitten.  Auspicious.

The image is of an innocent, perhaps a 10 year old child, stepping on the tail of a tiger and not getting bitten.  Why?  We don't really know.  Perhaps it is because the tiger isn't hungry and 'though surprised, it doesn't feel threatened.

10 TreadingChinese Internal Martial Arts cultivated with a Daoist perspective achieve quite the opposite results of what most people think.  These arts are not about gaining control.  They are not about preparing for some monstrous future attack.  They are not about trying to control or predict the future.

To the contrary, they are about giving up the effort to control.  The basic  assumption or experiment of internal martial arts is that other options will present themselves effortlessly when we give up trying to control.  Does this really happen?  Yes, probably...maybe...How could I know?  I don't know, I simply have the experience that being less aggressive reveals other options.  I certainly don't know in advance what those options will be.  I keep repeating and simplifying the experiments because having options sometimes seems akin to freedom.

Ancient Character Treading (LU)In Buddhism they have the expression, "Skillful Means," to describe brilliant techniques on the road to enlightenment.  But it's also kind of a Buddhist joke because the end result requires no skill at all.

In my opinion, this friend of mine who got attacked, did everything right.  She did get some bruises on her ribs, but frankly a couple of weeks training in martial arts could easily produce the same injuries.  After she chased him away by whatever crazy moving, screaming and raging she did, she even had the peace of mind to record all the details about his clothing and appearance for the police.

Wide Eyed InnocenceHer innocent response was good enough.

And that is the point of this post.  Not only are we cultivating weakness, we are cultivating innocence.  The skills we develop in all the Internal Martial Arts involve discarding our learned responses, discarding our preconceptions about what our body is and how it works, discarding our ideas about how events begin and how they come to a resolution.

Discarding pretense, embracing innocence.