Many believe that learning martial arts is all about the physical. Training your body, learning the moves, and sparring, while important, can only grant you the maximum amount of benefits if you also train your mind to go along with them. This is where meditation comes in.
Contrary to what some may think, meditation is not a waste of time. Through meditation and other forms of mental grounding, you can learn to better control yourself both in the mental as well as physical realm. Let's talk about why this is and how it can help you improve in martial arts.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation can be utilized by all kinds of people, not just martial artists. Studies have shown that meditation helps to engage parts of a person's brain normally shut off during times of stress, helpful in day to day life but nearly crucial in the midst of battle.
As Sun Tzu's The Art of War states, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles." Meditation is one way to know yourself, giving you time to relax and reflect inward on your goals, self, and the world around you. Through meditation, you can strive to become a more well-rounded and complete person, rather than just a physically powerful one.
Some people may be interested in and try to meditate at times, but find themselves unable to follow through with it. There could be many reasons for this, such as insecurity, confusion, or impatience. Here are a few strategies you can try to mitigate and overcome the issues that might stop you from meditating.
When starting meditation, it can be important to find a suitable space to meditate in. Environments of naturally high stress to you or that are loud and cluttered can interrupt your concentration or severely disrupt your results. While it's not necessary to meditate in the same place every time, it might also be helpful to find a place that you're comfortable with and meditate there continuously when first beginning to help improve your focus.
Adding elements like soothing music, audio guides, or aromatherapy can help, too, as they relax both the body and mind and allow you to more easily begin the process. Most importantly, you must have patience. You may not see results immediately, but as a martial artist, you already know that good things take time and hard work to happen.
There are basically two ways to meditate: purposed meditation, and grounding meditation. In purposed meditation, you are consciously guiding your mind through a particular task. In the case of purposed meditation, we usually say you are meditating “on” something. For example, Grandmaster West will frequently use a particular guided meditation technique to relax each part of the body and focus the mind.
Grounding meditation is almost the opposite, where the only purpose is to approach a total state of mindlessness. This is more difficult than it sounds! Most kinds of zen meditation fall into this category. In order to accomplish this, you must quiet your mind and hyperfocus on something that requires no conscious thought - such as breathing or a simple chant. This process empties the mind and prepares it to re-engage with normal cognitive processes without all of the “junk” that gets build up in the course of living life. Personally I prefer the combat breathing technique, used to soothe the stress response of soldiers in battle. Combat breathing usually follows the following format: inhale 4 counts, hold 4 counts, exhale 4 counts, hold 4 counts. Rinse, lather, repeat.
Either way, creating a relaxed environment is key to the success of a meditation session. Eliminate as many distractions as possible. Strive for near-total sensory deprivation. Close your eyes, or even use a blindfold and earplugs. Fresh air is ideal, perhaps augmented with incense or doTERRA oils.
Meditation can be just as important at meeting your fitness goals and becoming strong as physical training. Conquering both the physical as well as mental plain provides numerous benefits to you as a martial artist and as a person. If you haven't already, try meditation for yourself and see what happens.