Training is a constant search for effectiveness and results, it doesn’t matter whether we are a bodybuilder, a martial artist, a violinist or the purveyor of any other skill. When we train or practice, we are searching for some type of improvement and aiming for our method to be as efficient as possible.
To maximise the effectiveness of our practice we must be aware of its effects. We could measure our progress via external means with our results in competition, our ability to defeat a training partner or our earning of grades or awards. But a far more effective and personal method of analysing is to turn our attention inwards an develop our introspection.
For some people, truly turning the attention inwards as we do things is a foreign concept. The majority of our time is spent observing and interacting with the external world and this is the most comfortable and common viewpoint. We frame our various tasks within the context of the things around us, of external goals and objectives and of external results. But rarely do we truly turn our attention to our internal world, be that the internal structures of the body itself or the perceptions and movements of our minds.
The first thing we need to do, if we are to make introspection a useful part of our practice, is to become familiar with this internal world. It is a long and painstaking process to be able to be fully aware of our inner world and for some, can take a great deal of training. The noise of the external world can seem deafening once we try to dumb it down and tune our attention internally.
This familiarity is achieved with the smallest of steps. Things like simply standing still becoming aware of various parts of our bodies, our feet, our hands or our face for instance can already require some attention. Attention will be found and lost in the early stages in a constant battle of inputs. Once some measure of awareness is achieved we can move to simple movement, we then train to maintain this attention and over time we will become much better at resting our attention on our body, even if just on the major body parts.
This initial and basic level of awareness then grows into an ability to precisely feel the every part of the body. As we move, we will feel exactly which muscles are firing, what the angles of the joint are, and how the body movement impacts our weight distribution, balance and equilibrium. We steady become better able to feel what is really going on in the body.
This process of going deeper into the body will be an exploration without end and some traditions will place the most importance on the practitioner’s ability to dive into their internal states. Indeed, as we begin to train to manifest the MartialBody we must, with every cycle of training the 6 attributes, move deeper in our awareness of how simple movements impact the body state.
One of the great purposes of looking inside is the clarity it brings to our practice and method. Once we form a habit to practice, sometimes the habit can breed familiarity and can stagnate the training. We train every day, but little by little we become less and less focused on what is really happening. Our minds become comfortable with what we are training, and this causes us to loose precision or insight.
At this point, when forcing ourselves to turn our attention inside, we cant help but notice the effects of the practices. We will feel the internal changes and results of what we do with clarity and be able to simply observe or act on them. With methods like those found in MartialBody it is not enough to simply move around with no thought. Indeed, to do that would be a waste of your time. We need to put ‘content’ into the movements and methods, content that enforces and backs up the goals of the training. If we are aiming to be heavy for instance we need to check our methods and recognise whether they are leading us towards that goal.
Other results of Introspection
Outside of the clarity and precision that Introspection can create, there are a number of other results that will arise from correct introspection during training. One of these is the natural familiarity with the body state. This can be very useful in exchanges with a partner or opponent where we will begin to naturally perceive what effects the other persons efforts have on our body. Then, with training, the body will naturally handle these efforts through the expression of the 6 attributes. It is the internal awareness from introspective training focus, married to robust body methods that will produce this natural ability.
A further supplementary benefit of this work is in its benefits for the mind. Consistent introspection during practice is a facet of several martial arts, often called ‘internal’ arts, and these systems often have a reputation for being ‘moving meditation’. That is not a term I particularly like, but it does point us at the effect on the mind that this internal focus can produce. I like to say that this work ‘gives the mind a job’ and that clarity of purpose for a period of time can be quietening and calming of other intrusive thoughts.
Introspection and this deep attention to our internal state will provide us with depth. It gives us the opportunity to recognise and adjust any methods that are not working. Those who have attained good skill in this area will maintain complete internal familiarity when walking, talking, in a meeting or sat on the bus. It becomes a new part of our senses. So next time you are training and looking for something to alter those methods you know so well, turn your mind inwards and clearly observe the effects of the methods you practice, this can open up a whole new world of discovery.