Lessons in Mindfulness 2.8

Energy is neither

positive nor

negative; it is the

mind that colors it

according to our





Responding to Attacks

Energy surrounds us. Whether we’re aware of it or not, all

of life is energy, from the moment of birth until the moment

of death. This is a fundamental principle, acknowledged by

science and religion alike. One of the great aims of martial

arts lies in training ourselves to interact with the energy we

face continually, every day.

First, let’s look at how martial arts handles energy on a basic

level of self-defense. Punches, kicks, pushes, slashes with

knives, attacks with bats and bottles, virtually any physical

attack you can imagine is simply energy coming at you. This

physical, kinetic energy may come from clean, crisp attacks

or wild, flailing attempts; it may come from one direction or

from multiple angles. The direction or quality doesn’t really

matter; it is still energy coming at you.

Of course, before any attack is physically initiated, emotional

energy must build up as well. Any attack begins first with

emotional frustration and anger. Something internally or

externally sets the attacker off. He is out of control, and

wants to strike out, expelling energy until he can regain

control. If you find yourself on the receiving end of this kind

of energy, you must know how to defend yourself and your

loved ones.

While there are plenty of people in our society that allow

emotional issues to escalate into physical confrontations,

most of us, fortunately, are not physically attacked on

a regular basis. But we all recognize states of extreme

frustration and anger. We have all have been provoked by

someone else, a situation, or by our own thoughts. And all

of us are attacked verbally, mentally and emotionally, almost

daily! These assaults are not being perpetrated by strangers

lurking in dark alleys; they come from our friends and family

members, our co workers and neighbors. So many people we

know are stressed out by their everyday lives; emotionally,

they’re on the edge and ready to lash out at the slightest

provocation. While these encounters may not lead to the

emergency room of our local hospitals, many, many people

do find themselves seeing a therapist, or filling prescriptions

for mood controlling drugs, or at least questioning their own



Several Options in Dealing with an Attack

It’s important to remember that attacks from our loved

ones, in the form of words, attitudes and behaviors, are also

just energy. The bottom line is, when you’re confronted by

physical or verbal attacks, there are only four things you can


Option one is that you can get hit. Obviously, this is not

a good plan. Real confrontations are not like what we

see in the movies or on TV. On screen, we’re accustomed

to elaborately choreographed fight scenes, with partners

trading great looking punches and kicks, using knives and

bats and broken chairs, back and forth. Actual confrontations

in the real world don’t happen that way. A couple of strikes,

maybe a few seconds, and most fights are over.

Similarly, getting hit with verbal or emotional negative

energy means that you’ve allowed yourself to internalize

the attack and take it personally. The result is a blow to your

self-esteem and then an immediate defensive posture. So

you strike back with hurtful words and actions of your own,


The components

of speed are


that you are

being attacked,

recognizing what

you are being

attacked with ,

and then taking the

action necessary

to neutralize or

defend against it.


or you internally crumble and shut down. In either scenario,

getting hit with energy is the least desirable option.

A second option when attacked is to block it. This means

stopping the force head on — power against power. There

are several ways to block energy physically — inside blocks,

outside blocks, cross blocks etc. Blocking a strike is certainly

better than getting hit, but to block effectively you must

have a strong stance. Some arts call it being rooted, or

having a good base, or a strong foundation. Everyone agrees

that you must have a strong stance to block well.

To block mental and emotional energy, you must also adopt

a strong stance. You must have a firm position that is well

thought out; one that you are committed to. You cannot

successfully defend your ideas and beliefs if you are willing

to change them at a whim. A hard block might mean just

sticking up for your beliefs and ideals. Emotionally, a good

block involves listening to the other point of view without

taking it too personally, regardless of how aggressive the

attack is. Stay rooted and centered in your beliefs.

A third option is to get out of the way of energy. We have

a saying, “The best block is don’t be there.” Physically, this

consists of side stepping, pivoting, slipping, ducking, jumping

or other evasive movements. This is a great option when it is

done correctly. It allows you to re-position yourself, creating

both a more difficult target to strike, while at the same time

creating multiple openings from which you can counter.

This is very valuable emotionally as well. Using this principle,

you might continuously ask questions of the other person,

probing their motivation and rationale. This gives you the

opportunity to uncover their whole agenda, before revealing

your own. We all use this technique when we change the


In blocking be hard

and rooted. When

moving be quick

and light, and when

harmonizing, blend

with the attack.


subject to avoid embarrassment or confrontation. We use it

to avoid a conversation until a more opportune time.

Harmonizing with Energy

The fourth option that you have when attacked — you can

merge, harmonize or blend with it. This is a very difficult

and advanced technique which takes great sensitivity

and awareness. It’s based on the concept that, in any

confrontation — physical, verbal or emotional — there are

three energies; your energy, their energy and the energy that

you create together. The way these energies interact make

up the shape of the encounter. The way these energies ebb

and flow creates the atmosphere around us, every day, in

every interaction, confrontational or otherwise.

By merging or blending, you take control of this interplay

of energy. Some people say that this is using their energy

against them, but that’s not quite correct. Their energy is

really only one facet of the three energies at work. If your

goal is to use their energy against them, then your focus

remains on only that facet, and your motivation remains one

of victory and defeat. You need far too much relaxation,

awareness and sensitivity to harmonize with energy, to be

concerned with victory and defeat.

When you can successfully control the energy, when you

can successfully control a situation, you take responsibility

for yourself and for the other person. At this level of

practice, you are responsible for taking them under control

without hurting them, or without getting hurt yourself.

The technique relies on circular rotation and re-direction.

In a physical confrontation the strike is thrown and, as an

extension of that energy, the attacker is thrown, locked or

controlled. Understand, when you are skilled at harmonizing

with and re-directing energy, your safety and your partner’s


The difference

between a fighter

and a martial

artist is that the

martial artist

sees his art being

implemented on

and off the mats.


The way you

respond to an

attack should be

based on your

reason, will,

the severity of

the attack and

your skill level in

comparison to the



safety become interrelated. The degree to which you know

that the incoming negative energy cannot damage you,

is exactly the degree of responsibility you have to ensure

that the energy not damage your partner. In other words,

it’s precisely when you’re fully aware of your capability

to destroy an attacker, that you have the responsibility to

refrain from doing so.

In your day to day life, this harmonizing technique manifests

as being able to see the other person’s point of view, being

empathetic and having the skills to recognize the moment

of tension and redirect it to an outcome that is positive and

constructive for everyone. It means dealing with the egos

of co-workers or clients in ways that advance the project or

the sale without creating stress. It means taking those same

old family arguments and finding creative ways to re-direct

the negative energy so that you can focus on constructive

relationships. In this way, you’re seeing problems as the

problem, rather than seeing people as the problem.


Many Tools in Your Arsenal

Throughout our lives, at one time or another, we all practice

these four methods of dealing with energy. Everyone has

been hit (had our feelings hurt, became defensive and

upset). We all have blocked (were successful in taking a

stand and defending it through hell or high water). We

have all avoided conversations and issues by putting them

off for another day or letting them pass altogether. And

everyone has taken control of a situation, by looking for the

most constructive outcome, or dealing with a problem and

remaining in control.

The truth is, we all need more than one defense in our

arsenal. It is important to develop all four methods. Getting

hit, in practice and in life, strengthens you and helps you

to realize how much you can withstand. Blocking helps you

internalize and understand what you truly believe. Getting

out of the way teaches us that there are some things better

left unsaid, and some paths better left untraveled. And

redirecting energy develops our awareness and sensitivity to

others in a variety of situations.

Energy is everywhere, in all things and in all situations.

It comes at us at all times, sometimes directly, sometimes

unexpectedly. You can take charge of how you deal with

this energy by remaining aware of what defense you are

choosing. In this way, you can truly be a master of your

actions and not a prisoner of your reactions.


The essence

of philosophy

is that a man

should so

live that his

happiness shall

depend as little

as possible on

external things.


In Asia, centuries ago, there was a great

martial artist with thousands of students.

He was known far and wide to be one of

the greatest teachers of all time. One day a visitor asked the

master, “Who is your best student?”

The master immediately thought of four students. They were

Lee, Kichiro, Kim and Jiro. The master decided to put them to

a test. He choose a fifth student, Truong, and put him just on

the other side of a doorway. Truong was completely hidden

from sight and was armed with a big, thick stick. He was told

to strike the students as soon as they passed through the


The master first called to Lee. Truong struck Lee without


All of the art of

living lies on a

fine mingling of

letting go and

holding on.


hesitation and Lee was knocked unconscious.

After several minutes had passed, the master called out to

Kichiro. Passing through the doorway, Kichiro noticed rapid

movement coming from his left side. Turning to face the

attack, and just before the strike landed, he was able to block

and land a reverse punch squarely in Truong’s abdomen.

After several minutes, the master called for Kim. When Kim

passed through the door, Truong swung hard at his head,

as he had done with the other students. This time, Truong

was thrown effortlessly across the room. This scene left both

Truong and the visitor in awe, and ready to name Kim as the

best student. The master just nodded and said, “Very good.

Keep practicing.”

With a wave of his hand he dismissed Kim. Several

minutes later the final student to be tested was called in.

Approaching the doorway, Jiro stopped abruptly and said

in a firm voice, “Whoever is hiding there behind the door

better come out!” A moment later a surprised Truong

appeared with his weapon.




Statement of Purpose – Primary Aim

Our life is the sum total of how we spend our energy. Many

people drift through life throwing energy (time, money,

resources, emotions) in one direction and then another. It

is often erratic and illogical. Months turn into years and

years into decades. Looking back over a lifetime, too many

people find that they have been a jack of all trades and

haven’t mastered or even dedicated very much of their lives

to anything. Some people, always believing that there will be

more time, will procrastinate to the very end. These people

are the embodiment of the saying, “If you wait too long to

discover what it is that you want to do, you will find that you

have done it.”

This month the activity is to develop a purpose statement or

primary aim for your life. It will consist of a sentence or two

that describes your deepest desires and your core values. It

is the essence of what you want your life to be dedicated

to and what you are most passionate about. Money, status,

power, winning and possessions are not the essence of this

primary aim. Don’t focus on the expectations of others, or

even on objectives that you want to accomplish. It is deeper

than that. It truly must reflect exactly what satisfies you on

the deepest level.

Be careful not to make it too spiritual; e.g. “My primary

aim is to be one with God,” or, “My life is dedicated to my

children.” Having a strong spiritual life and a wonderful

family is great. Having as much professional and financial

success as you like is fine, but this is not a primary aim.


A man is not

idle because

he is absorbed

in thought.

There is a

visible labor

and there is an

invisible labor.

First learn the

meaning of what

you say, and then



Measure your

mind’s height

by the shade it



A primary aim serves as a personal and practical tool that

assists you on a day to day basis. When making decisions

you can measure if a choice is in line with your primary aim

or not. There is not a right or a wrong primary aim. There

is only what is true for you. Make sure that it is heartfelt.

When you feel energy, enthusiasm, commitment, and a sense

of “YES!” then you will know that you have found your real

primary aim. Rarely if ever will your first draft be your final

statement. Keep working on it until you are completely


This is a very powerful technique that will help you give your

life direction and meaning. It will aid in keeping you inspired

and on track during confusing and difficult times.


After every

encounter take a

moment to analyze

your thoughts and

actions to see if

they were in line

with who you want

to be, and the

principles that you

want to live by.




The 7 Ways to Becoming a Great Martial Artist

On the never-ending path of martial arts, it is important to

remember the seven ways of becoming great in the martial

arts. They never change, regardless of the style that you

practice, your geographic location, or your time and place

in history. It could be 1000 years ago somewhere in Asia,

or 1000 years into the future in the United States, but the

principles of how to become great in the martial arts remain

the same.

  1. You must find a good teacher. In martial arts there

is nothing more important than the student-teacher

relationship. Once the teacher is found, the student must

listen. How can you call someone your teacher and then

refuse to learn from them?

  1. Patience is the next step. We have all started things full

of excitement and wonder just to forsake them because

of a slow beginning. Patience is not just one of the seven

ways; it is something that we develop in ourselves through

the practice.

  1. Perseverance is the ability to stay the course through the

rough times. It is consistency over time that truly teaches

the student discipline.

  1. Practicing hard is the backbone of martial arts. Without

practice being hard physically, mentally and emotionally

at times, it doesn’t deserve the name martial arts. In fact,

it is insulting to the generations of masters before, to not

give everything that you’ve got in every class.


You cannot plan

for a fire as your

house is burning;

similarly it is too

late to have your

first thought of self

defense as you are

being attacked.


All attacks

are mental

and emotional;


few of them

progress to



  1. Practice exactly what you want to perform is what

transforms a practitioner to be a student. A student

questions their technique, the application as well as the

execution. Extending this principle into everyday life, the

student is forced to ask the question, “Am I living the way

that I want to live?”

  1. Meditation is the foundation of the practice. To teach

a student to take control over the mind is one the most

valuable skills they will ever learn. Learning to be mindful

is carrying practice into every aspect of life. Life itself

takes on a new dimension.

  1. Passion teaches us that if we are not completely

immersed and committed to something it may not reveal

its deepest and most significant virtues. Being passionate

means to fall in love with the art. It is no longer a

discipline that is forced but a philosophy that is embraced.

It is the never-ending path that allows you to reach your

truest potential. There will be bumps in the road and dry

periods in your practice, but a martial artist does whatever

it takes to rekindle the excitement and enthusiasm, never

risking the loss of the practice.



Recommended Reading

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Aron Ralston

Long Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela


Books are true

levelers. They give

to all, who will

faithfully use them.