Growing up, I never understood martial arts or martial artists - so how the hell did I become a martial artist?
For me personally, I was a skater-punk, and that was enough. I had nothing to prove, albeit to myself and the concrete or handrail beneath me.
I simply didn't get the whole need or desire to punch and kick things or other people. And I certainly didn't get the competitive nature of martial arts competitions. I preferred the raw ferocity of me and my skateboard competing against the streets in which I skated.
How many stairs can I launch myself off, How high can I ollie, how long can I rail side, can I get up off the ground after twisting yet another ankle etc.
Always competing against my last attempt. I loved that there was never any competition between myself and my skaters mates. Yeah, for sure they pushed you harder when they pulled off a wicked trick, but it was never a direct competition. Just good mates encouraging each other by doing the best we could for ourselves.
Now, I was a skater-punk who read anything from environmentalist David Suzuki to Quantum Physics and from Buddhist philosophy to new age spirituality books and Zen meditation.
Yup, probably pretty weird for a kid who had pink hair and wore ripped t-shirts and tartan skate pants. Oh, and that skater-boy attitude.
As I got into my late teens, I had always thought of doing Yoga or Tai Chi. And was probably leaning toward Yoga, because Tai Chi was slow and only for old people. And being 18 years old, I loved the speed of skating and the meditative flow and internal focus it took riding up to attempt a trick.
Then I met a guy, Leigh, who had come from Wales in the UK to study Tai Chi, or as he called it Taijiquan, with an Aussie Taijiquan Master, Erle Montaigue.
He explained to me that Tai Chi WAS for old people or those who wanted an easy and light exercise practice. And that Tai Chi was a Westernized version of Taijiquan that had been watered down to make it easier to teach the masses.
But that Taijiquan was an art of combat and healing - and required dedication, discipline and deep personal integrity.
He explained to me that Taijiquan taught you how to harness the animal mind and explosive whole-body movement. He demonstrated it had the ferocity and power of a wild animal. And how it was exactly like the explosiveness and wild aggressiveness that was required to launch myself and my skateboard down a flight of 15 stairs.
He showed me how this explosiveness needed to be taught as a slow movement at first. At least until the body could comprehend the entirety of the movement and perform it in one blast of whole-body power. And how this internally generated whole-body movement reconnected us to the ancient and primal aspects of our animal mind.
He then explained, by punching me a few times, what this movement did to the body and how the incoming force of these types of strikes were different from regular "punches". How the impact entered the body as opposed to pushing threw it. And how this affected the human body both physically and energetically in a way that disrupted and shocked the attacker's mind and energy system as much as it did the physical body. And how this could be used to learn about our own energy system as much as it taught us to defend ourselves.
He then turned all of this talk about martial arts, fighting, self-defence and violence around on its head.
He went on to explain how this way of using the mind and body, how this fighting system, how this way of striking left the impact inside the body.
And best of all, how this way of generating power was actually a doorway to teaching us about energetic healing.
How is learning to punch someone teaching me about healing?
At least that was my initial reaction - as is likely yours.
He went on to explain how once we had learned the slow movements, turned them into explosive striking methods, and then merged the explosive and violent movements back with the slow movements how we could use our integrated whole-body slow movements with the power of the explosive strikes, to heal others.
I don't think I realized at first...but 25 years later certainly do, that...BOOM...I was hooked right then and there!
I realized that Taijiquan was actually an integrated system of combat and healing.
The martial teaching us about healing. The healing aspect teaching us about the martial context and responsibility of being a true warrior.
Taijiquan and internal martial arts teach us so many things, to many to list here, and all apply to my everyday life and relate back to personal and spiritual growth in one way or another.
But what I love the most is how it teaches us about integrating our primal animal mind.
How love and hate are two sides of the same coin.
And how a physical practice actually helps me to discover how to harness these innate gifts.
And that it is how we direct the intent of our primal energy which is often the difference between conflict/violence and healing.
How a physical practice of martial arts is, in fact, a spiritual journey. Similar perhaps to that of a yogi, but instead of Yoga, we learn to fight. And the best part of that is that fighting empowers us. Harnessing and developing our natural healing gifts while allowing our warrior nature to stand firm and protect ourselves and those less fortunate and stand up for what is right and honest with deep personal integrity. Even in the face of adversity.
How a true warriors magic is in their ability to control and harness their Inner Animal.
To empower us to project health, goodness and love out into the world amidst the conflict and turmoil of life.
How to manage conflict appropriately and responsibly...even if, god forbid, it comes to physical altercation!
About how a true warrior learns to heal.
And how a large part of achieving this, especially for those of us with a strong warrior archetype, allows us to master our animalist impulses. After all, in the street, I am not afraid of the trained martial artist. I am scared of the person who has no control over their animal instincts -they're the dangerous ones!
Taijiquan teaches us to master our Inner Animal.
And mastering our internal instincts allows us to really begin to harness and use those energies to heal ourselves and others.
Through this internal education, I have come to understand that whilst we all deeply desire peace, love and kindness, that in order to get to those higher levels of being, that often many of us we need to master the lower levels of our animal instincts.
We need to master our inner animal before we can transcend those impulses.
So, with so much talk in the "modern consciousness movement", I personally feel that instead of trying to ascend to love instantly, many of us first need to delve deeper into mastering our survival instincts. We need first to discover how those very primal, animal, survival instincts actually empower us to use that exact same intent, that exact same energy to heal our world.
The era of the modern warrior is upon us.
And without first conquering our own instinctual desires, without conquering our own personal relationship with violence, we will never find the path toward higher levels of consciousness, love, peace and compassion.
This is why I love Taijiquan.
It teaches me about a Warriors Magic.
The magic of combat and healing.
So Taijiquan for me is a lot like my skateboarding, except now, those raw emotions and assertive grit I used to access to skate, now teach me about healing.
...and I still only ever compete against myself.