I’ve been meaning to do this post for a few days, but needed the right “trigger” I guess. This September it’s 20 years since I walked into the Dojo of Bushido Karateklubb in Oslo. My yoga experience amounts to maybe the last year, but what are overlapping benefits, and what are opposites?
When I first started Karate it was with kind of awe. Being included in a mystique world with ancient deadly secrets. The reality is a bit different, and as someone pulls the carpet aside and shows the Wizard of Oz in his true nature, the truth is revealed. Karate has given me much to be grateful for. Especially my patients. I’m so much more calm and relaxed in everyday situations that would have left me all wound up earlier in life. I have made friends around the world in what I found to be a less mystique and more including community. For some years Katja and I have been training different kinds of arts alongside karate. Most prominently Kali Sikaran, a Philippino based system. Here I went in with less belief of secrecy, but found more of the deadly stuff actually. A great art and style with another worldwide community. New friends has presented themselves, several that will be visited on this trip. So what about yoga?
Les Leventhal had his last session here today before leaving for the US for his book signing tour. He’s given a lot of himself these days and some of his “words of wisdom” are quite good. One that regularly comes up are:” It feels different because you’re older now!” This might be on account of doing something on left side, then immediately on your right. But there is wisdoms in these words. Whatever I venture into would feel different today, because I’m older. I’m 20 years older going into another community than I was entering the dojo in 1994. The years with martial arts have change me profoundly over these years and are the foundation onto which I build my yoga experience.
In karate we enter seiza and bow to a picture on the wall to honor grandmaster, to our Sensei (teacher) and to our fellow students. To all we express our wish for giving and receiving old energy and focus during training.
In kali we (mostly) use a short version of a salutation before starting class. Used correctly this should set your focus to the training, and leave the rest of the world outside for the duration of training, in addition to show your respect and gratitude to the teacher.
In yoga I have found that there are as many openings as there are styles and teachers. Most of the ones I have practiced with starts the class in sitting position with eyes closed an with deep breaths. Focusing on your goals with being right here, right now. Focusing on breathing to synchronize your movement to your breath. From there on we can do “Om” (one note long “singing” a to call and respond I have written about in the Ganesha post. All to make focus on the training and your presence.
Different in form, but quite similar in intention. The wider my horizon, the more pragmatic I get. “Your house, your rules.”
From my earlier training I bring a given focus into yoga. Whenever you do pair work in martial arts you have a responsibility for not injuring your partner, or yourself. Being present when you give or receive a punch or kick might be the element that decides whether you deflect, stop it or just plainly take it in the face. Transferred to yoga I find that being focused in to each pose gives a lot more value. Both in terms of doing a transition that does not injure anything, or maybe actually works as a part of the training – to being able to stand in a pose with the feeling of a heavy stretch in a muscle or group. To be able to focus the breathing into it, to be able to quench the pain by breath, maybe even go deeper for every exhale. I don’t think I could’ve done this without all the previous pain given to me by friends in the martial arts community. To think I reap benefits today from a stick lock by Chief at arms Heikki a few years back. Who knew?
But as I’m writing this I recon there are no way to really go into any art or sport without focus – if you want something out of it. Michael Phelbs, Marit Bjørgen and Christiano Ronaldo all have an incredible focus toward their training and are masters of their own sports. Not that I compare myself to any of them. Except maybe for a total weight equally to the three of them.
As I train katas or anyos/forms of any kind I try to focus on the complete movement from on “position” to another. Being aware of the meaning of the complete body’s movement into/during a technique has given me more meaning in performing these. It has given me new ways to look at the performance and looking at different meanings of the moves. When I started practicing karate we only got corrected for how we stood when the instructor walked around. “This hand here, feet wider, lower stands…” All well and good, but why did I end up where I did? What made me punch an inch out of line? Focusing on these elements has been an important part of my training and teaching for the last years. Moving this over to yoga (at least the one where you practice by yourself) you can find similar elements. Here the poses are important as you spend a lot of time in them. Still there are transitions to be found where your focus on correct movement are essential to be able to perform the next move. As I’m more of a watcher than practitioner for these moves it’s easy to see who understand the movements. The need for placing a foot in a center point of balance to be able to raise on one leg, the placement of the hands for going to head or hand stands, are just a few examples. Being able to see the whole movement as one gives the practice more value and brings you faster towards your goal.
Closing this post I’m moving from my thoughts to more daily life stuff. Katja is happy that we live so close to the training facilities that we can pop back here to go in to the pool between classes. I took a couple of shots of her there today.
And I have several times written about Katja’s training regarding head and hand stands. Today I filmed a video as Katja moves up into head stand. The most important task today was NOT jumping, but lifting up the legs to make a smooth entry and exit. It’s starting to look good.
Finally – A picture that pretty much sums up this blog for the last couple of weeks… (you might need to have done a yoga class to actually get this one. 🙂 )