BY URVIL JAMES VILLARUEL
Nov. 3, 2015, Toronto, ON - Discipline the body and the mind will eventually follow.
I have been formally training in the martial arts now for the culmination of 7 years. Initially stoking my curiosity in adolescence, I would fixate on the various superheroes and anime characters that embodied what I believed to be truest exemplars of the best in humankind. From childhood, I can vaguely recall taking part in classes, begrudgingly leaving some 2-odd years later out of what can only be described as laziness on my part. Though, the feeling still remained.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I would return to the same school I had once attended - this time, far more intent on learning what it was that was calling out to me with no name.
Since the beginner-rank of orange, I have been instructing alongside who I consider to be my martial brother. Together, we would assist in classes and eventually learn to lead, right into and beyond achieving our black belts in little under 3 years. Devotion, dedication and self mastery were the names of the game and we were all-in. Training and teaching, day and night, relentless in our tutelage to master the art of self discipline and to discover what it was that we held within.
So, what was it that I had learned most during my time as (and still) a martial artist? Well, I had learned a lot about control, both of the body and of the mind. I also learned a lot about who I was. I constantly found myself pushing far beyond my own perceived limitations, managing to surpass the narratives put forth before me. Specifically, I learned that leading classes was my biggest obstacle. Forms and physical feats always came with relative ease, but the mind persisted to be my biggest adversary. Endeavouring continuously to move past the mind’s stranglehold and gain freedom; this, like for many other martial artists, was my true test.
You see, most people see the physicality of the martial arts and think that to be the biggest obstacle in attaining one's black belt. But in reality, it’s the mind. No matter how many thousands of pushups, or numerous hours of work we were made to endure, it was always the mind that stood in our way. It was the mind that held most, if not all, of the power. Because the mind influenced choice. The choice to move or to stay put; the choice to keep going or to quit. As martial artists, we are constantly battling a war of choice - using our self discipline and conviction to choose wisely.
When you ask anyone who has practiced the martial arts, they will always tell you: "I never thought that I could do that." Again, the mind is the one thing holding us back beyond what we believe to be and what we know we are. We are infinite beings of potential, waiting to be realized and awoken.
We are not limited to what we have, but what we think. The perspectives and narratives that we play out in our heads are what direct the mind, binding us to what we think and not freeing us to who we are. The true martial artist is a peaceful person. Peace in mind, peace in action and peace in heart. Never overlook the mind, because the mind can usher in or take away that peace.
In every martial artist’s journey, there is always that moment of realization. The realization that the lessons learned within the classroom can be taken out into the real world, far beyond the confines of the mat. For those who see it, the mat is both everywhere and it is nowhere. We often look at ourselves as masqueraders, never quite sure of who the self truly is. Am I the person that I play in the academy? Am I the person that I play when I am at home? Am I the person that I play when I am with my friends, or am I the person that I play when I am in a sea of strangers? The truth is, we are all of these things and we are none of these things.
The true, authentic self, is a self-less being. A void to be filled with whatever we choose for it; transcending what we think and moving into what we know. We are all of these things, so be all of these things. On and off of the mat. The only time is now to exercise your true, authentic self - whatsoever that self may be.
No clowns, no masks, no facades, just the real, authentic you. The one watching behind the eyes of the watcher. The true, authentic self.