It’s Mine! It’s Mine! It’s Mine!


Posted by admin | Posted in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, Mental, Spiritual | Posted on 29-10-2009

In my short “life” as a martial artist, working with weapons is one of the most frustrating and ironically most rewarding training experiences.  The 6-foot bo staff helps me identify and correct my physical balance weaknesses.  The wooden sword helps me identify and correct my weaknesses in discerning the optimal angles.  All weapons help me judge appropriate distances.

(Best that I can tell, Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu is not a school designed to teach weapons, but instead uses weapons as training tools.  Nathan Paris—one of my teachers—once said “weapons show you how bad your taijutsu is.”  However, like any tool, if we’re going to use weapons as training tools, we must learn how to use properly use them.  I could be very wrong here…)

Working with weapons, I have found that I become so focused on the weapon and what I am doing with it that whichever technique I am working on seldom works.  On a few occasions, I am such a loss as to what to do, I end up ignoring the weapon and reverting to the basic taijutsu I am comfortable with, never using the weapon; at least I know that works better for me.  It’s not that the weapon is ineffective; it is ineffective in my hands.  I feel that because it is in my hands, I must use it.

A man with a weapon is the one at a disadvantage

“The man who pulls a knife on you is at a disadvantage.  He will clearly lose the fight.  The reason is very simple.  Psychologically, he only has one weapon.  His thinking is therefore limited to the use of that single weapon.  You, on the other hand, are thinking about all your weapons:  your hands, elbows, knees, feet, head.  You’re thinking 360 degree around him.  Maybe you’re considering some form of escape, like running.  He’s only got a lousy knife.  Now he might throw it at you.  Let him.  You still have a chance to avoid it, block it, or he may miss you.  You’ve got all the advantages when you think about it.”

Bruce Lee, Jeet Kune Do, p. 23.  (ISBN-13: 978-0-8048-3132-1)

In training, when I wield a weapon, I become so attached to it, that I forget my best weapon.  Me!  Body, mind, and spirit.  I am still available.  By attaching myself to the weapon, I reduce my effectiveness.  I should still be aware of the weapon in my hands and its capabilities—through training learn to also discern when the use of the weapon enhances my effectiveness—but I should rely on the basics of taijutsu, which always apply.

Becoming attached reduces options.

It’s not just physical attachments.  One particular class, we were taught a simple and effective technique, which we practiced one-on-one.  We then progressed to doing the same technique three-on-one.  Even though I felt comfortable with the technique, when it was my turn, it was a disastrous failure.  Based on the multiple incoming threats, I “selected” which one to do this technique on first, with the idea that I’d move to the next threat when I was “done” with the first one.  Even though I still feel I “chose” correctly, as I was performing the technique on the first threat, I became aware that the other two threats were converging on me from either side.  Because I was so determined to get the technique to work, I tried to accelerate it, which only contributed to me overlooking the proper distance, angle, and timing of the technique, thinking I could compensate for them with speed.  Result:  I was simultaneously struck on each side, with my hands on a third fully-balanced person.  (You don’t have to be a martial artist to realize my predicament; I’m just glad it happened in class.)

I had become so attached to the technique prevented me from realizing the simple option of just letting go and taking a step back.

Attachments can keep us in places we know we don’t want to be.

Within the context of martial arts, I discovered how “attachments,” whether physical—body—or mental, constrain my options.  Limit my freedom.

Analyzing my epiphany, other questions arose.  Do attachments affect other aspects of my life?  Can there be “spiritual” attachments?  If so, do they have the same constraining effect?

A single glance at my dogs revealed the answers to me.  I love my dogs, but am I “attached” to them?  Anytime I have to travel, I now certainly become aware of the physical attachment.  I am not “free” to make travel plans without ensuring for their proper care.  When I start to miss them during an extended separation, my emotional—or spiritual—attachment comes to light.  Yes.  I am attached to my dogs.

Could you detach yourself?
Could you detach yourself?

If attachments—and their effects—consistently apply to both martial arts and canine companions, what else do they apply to?  Relationships?  Religion?  Jobs?  Income?  Where we choose to live?  Social status?  Shoes?  What attachments do we have that we can identify?  How do they affect us?  Which ones are created by our egos?

I’m not advocating eliminating our attachments.  I’m certainly very okay with my attachment to my dogs; the benefits they provide me far outweigh the “loss of freedom” they incur.

I am advocating becoming aware of them and analyzing their benefits.  What happens after that is up to you.

(To triangulate my opinion on attachments, you should also read my redheaded friend’s rant about the round holes.)

  • Erika Napoletano

    Thanks for the pingback, Rich – glad you enjoyed the “Square Man, Round Hole” piece!