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Martial Arts and the Holidays

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on December 10, 2013 | Comments (0)

Many years ago I briefly studied Kung Fu with one of the great masters of the art who, at the time, was teaching in the San Fernando Valley of California. One of the things he stated was that the hardest opponent to face would be a big, powerful, untrained bully because he had no fighting pattern to counter. Another thing I learned was never get into a fight when you are angry.

If you get into a fight when you are angry, the anger will take over your mind. Rather than fighting instinctively based on your training, your actions will come from your rage. A lot of people think that it’s good to get into a rage in order to prepare for a fight as it will increase your endorphins resulting in greater speed and power. But if you stay in that rage, you’ll be unable to control that speed and power. It is speed, power, training, and intuition combined with a sense of calm and balance that it most likely to win a battle against an equal or perhaps even a stronger or faster opponent. As they used to say on the “G.I. Joe” cartoon show,

Knowing is half the battle.

This understanding, that a calm approach is more likely to bring success in stressful or even dangerous situations, sometimes gives this mistaken opinion that people from cultures with this philosophy are “inscrutable” and “emotionless.” Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Understanding when we are in a state of anger and rage allows us to exit those uncontrollable emotions and use the energy that comes from them in positive ways. We all have those emotions. Expressing them in dumb ways or through doing dumb things is just, well, dumb!

I’m not trying to present a holier-than-thou attitude. I’ve done such dumb things on many occasions. I remember one time when I was in a situation where I was feeling a great deal of emotional hurt, rage, and anger over a situation I could not change. So I went to the garage of the house where I was living and hung a pillow by a rope from the rafters, letting the pillow hang in the air at the level of my chest, right in front of a wall stud. I then took a martial arts stance (“side horse” for those who are interested) and beat the stuffing out of that pillow. I was trying to get rid of my mental emotions with physical action.

I was very lucky. My right hand swelled to the size of a large boxing glove. I had to keep it on ice for the next couple of days. I ruined the pillow, too. All in all, this was a dumb thing to do. And I still felt angry.

Even though our bodies and minds are closely connected, feelings are of the mind, and may require mental techniques as well as physical ones to effectively resolve them.

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If you’re interested in Asian healing and spiritual techniques, try these books:

Chi Gung by L. V. Carnie.
Chinese Healing Exercises by Steven Cardoza
Taoist Yoga and Sexual Energy by Eric Yudelove

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 Joy to the World.
Now Go Away!

During this holiday season we often find ourselves back with our families. In fact, it would seem like all of the popular films, novels, and TV movies extoll the virtues of spending time with your parents and grandparents, siblings and cousins. It is very often at this time that we find out why we moved away from them in the first place! Sure, we love them, but that doesn’t always mean we like them. Inevitably there are fights over who was a favored child, politics, religion/spirituality, or even which sports team to support. There’s anger over our differences and even greater anger because we can’t really express our anger; it’s the holidays!

And don’t forget shopping! The stores are often consumer insane asylums with people actually fighting over things. Finding a parking place, choosing where to eat, driving on busy streets, worrying that you didn’t get a good deal, are just a few of the things that may make any person’s blood boil in rage.

Being with family when you don’t want to be, going to shopping when you’d rather not, are forms of conflict, although often that conflict is within ourselves. And as with any form of conflict, the winner tends to be the one who is the calmest.

Anger or rage that is unexpressed or, more importantly, not discharged or released, leads to stress. We all need some stress in our lives, but excess stress negatively affects us mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As I wrote in Modern Magick, excess stress can cause:

…lack of focus and the inability to make decisions. It can decrease your ability to tolerate things other people do and prevent you from getting needed rest. Virtually any health problem you have might be amplified by stress, and it can be the direct cause of pain, heart disease, digestive problems, depression, obesity, skin conditions such as eczema, and many other physiological issues.

When occultists realize they are “stressed out,” they may go with a nap or a cup of calming tea. Sometimes they will use the technique known as Progressive (Muscle) Relaxation. This can cause deep mental and physical relaxation, but the practice of this exercise takes so long it can also result in a sense of wasting time and total boredom (which may cause more stress). You begin at the feet or top of the head and slowly relax that area, perhaps sending a ball of warm energy there to let it all relax. You continue this slowly, going up or down (depending upon where you start) through the rest of your body.

When performed well, progressive relaxation can be very, well, relaxing. And time consuming. But there is an alternative.

When you find yourself stressed out, wanting to scream and yell, or wanting to hit someone, try this (again, from Modern Magick) first:

THE INSTANT RELAXATION RITUAL

This can be done standing, sitting or lying down.

       STEP ONE. Start by tensing all of the muscles in your feet and ankles.

      STEP TWO. Without relaxing the tension in your feet, tense the muscles of your calves.

      STEP THREE. In a similar manner, tense the muscles of your thighs, hips, stomach, chest, back, arms, hands, neck and head. In other words, tense every muscle in your body, starting at the feet and ending with the head. Hold your body in this totally tensed condition for five to ten seconds.

      STEP FOUR. Take a deep breath and hold it for a brief moment. Then, suddenly, as you let all of your breath flow easily and effortlessly out of your lungs, simultaneously relax all of your muscles at the same time. Permit your body to go as limp as the position you are in will allow. Just let go. Completely. Just let go.

      STEP FIVE. With your mind, “look” through your body for any tension. Be especially aware of the neck, forehead, shoulders, stomach and lower back. If there is any tension, immediately send a “golden glow” of relaxation to that area and allow the tension to fade. Enjoy this very relaxed and stress-free condition.

      Caution: Unlike the progressive muscle relaxation method, this technique is physiological as well as mental. The extreme change in muscle tension and its sudden release may, in a very few people, cause a muscle spasm commonly known as a “charlie horse.” If this occurs, stop immediately and deeply massage the area until the spasm ends. If you are a person who gets a charlie horse, do not shy away from using this technique. Once your body becomes used to the sudden change in muscle tension and stress diminution, the spasms should cease and you will have a wonderful and fast system of relaxation and stress reduction. Also, I have found that such a spasm is more likely to occur when sitting or lying, so if you are one of the few to whom this happens, you might practice this several times while standing to acclimatize the body to the sudden physiological change. After several positive experiences with this ritual while standing, change back to a sitting or reclined position.

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