At the age of ten, my parents enrolled me in the martial arts, studying Tae Kwon Do. I had a marvelous first mentor. His name was Billy Bramer and he took me under his wing and served as a wonderful motivating and liberating figure in my life.
I loved being active in Karate and competed on the national stage, fighting as a black belt in the adult arena at the age of 14.
The martial arts, or military arts, was my first entry into a formalized style of art training.
Art is art is art. It all stems from the same place and different types of artists, simply have different tools to express themselves, but we artists are all the same type of animal and create from the same place.
One can learn a great deal about his or her own medium of artistry by watching or participating in another. For example: I have learned tons and tons about theatre by listening to and observing a friend who is a classical violinist. I have learned still more by watching dance.
The ten years I passionately participated in the martial arts, taught me a lot about what it is to be an artist.
One lesson that sticks with me to this day is this: If you hesitate, you lose.
Sparring can be quite a quite a blood rushing experience (in more ways than one).
Sparring is willful and purposeful fighting for sport—ideally void of anger or negative emotion.
Getting hit hurts. Few of us like to get hit. In the process of sparring, it is easy to find yourself in a holding pattern, reluctant to actively hit (or take an opportunity), for fear of getting hit.
It is understandable that one would not want to get hit. While sparring, I have had numerous teeth knocked out at once. I have been knocked unconscious on numerous occasions and I have been kicked so squarely in the crotch, that I have been lifted several feet off the ground.
If we let fear of getting hit control our actions and we hesitate, we are sure to, sooner or later, get hit…and possibly hard.
We have to stay in the field of action. We have to keep our energies moving forward. This is where technique proves very effective.
There was a time in my training, when I was in such an amazing form of shape and had mastered my technique (through thousands of hours of practice) that I did not have to consciously think about how to spar. My body would perceive a gap and would move accordingly. Simultaneously, my mind was able to perceive threats (like speeding fists and feet). These threats were moving at such a speed and power, that my conscious mind could not possibly register the danger. Rather, some other part of my mind (from the non conscious realm) kicked in. In this heightened state of ability, my body would see a fist coming and would move to block and then follow with a response (a blow directed at a perceived opening). All of this would be executed without a conscious thought occurring and was executed all in the blink of an eye. My conscious mind would “turn off” and my body would lead.
The Japanese call this phenomenon “Mushin”. It means to create from unconscious thought.
Joseph Campbell describes the mind as a secondary organ. He says that we think we are the ones in control, but we need to learn to, at times, turn the mind off and let the body lead.
When we get out of the way of ourselves, ceasing to attempt to control every aspect of the outcome, when we cease to be afraid of receiving a few hard knocks in our process, we increase our chances of winning the match.
Don’t hesitate or you lose.
Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique, The International Theatre Academy Norway. www.titanteaterakademi.no