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Martial Arts is the Best Meditation

a martial artist practising martial arts during sunset

We live on a planet hurtling through space at 67,000 miles per hour to make it around our sun every 365 days, not to mention our solar system (earth and all) whirls around the center of our galaxy at some 220 kilometers per second, or 490,000 miles per hour.

This alone is a very, very good reason to meditate! But that’s a lot to take in, so let’s slow this way down and begin with the basics. We can jump into the cosmos once we’ve taken some deep, grounded breaths.

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Meditation, like martial arts, dates back to 5,000 years before the “common era.” This places the roots of both disciplines in ancient China and India. In fact, some archeologists have linked early forms of meditation to our early hominid ancestors telling stories around the fire. Meditation contributed to the peak fitness found in our ancestral hunter and gatherers.

Both martial arts and meditation require discipline, dedication, practice, willingness, and humility. These character assets are refined through many, many hours of repetition.They may have emerged from different causes and for different reasons but now, hundreds of thousands of years later, the two practices cross paths and unite more than ever before. Today, we can say the practice of martial arts is the best form of meditation.

Let’s look at this diaspora of both disciplines and where the crossing points may have emerged.

Why did early humans meditate? What was the purpose and what was the practice? How did our ancient ancestors know to sit quietly to “clear the mind?” The concept of “survival of the fittest” may be applied here. Just as Confucius developed stances and strikes in martial arts practice to heal. - Confucious internal organs, early humans used brain training and mindfulness meditation to help heal the sick and improve memory. This is one of the beautiful aspects of evolution: what may have been developed early on for a particular purpose (meditation for memory, martial arts for defending, both for healing the sick) has changed over time to a practice of general well-being.

According to fossil records and modern-day brain research, meditation strengthens parts of the brain involved in memory. Today’s neurological studies show increased thickness in the brain around memory centers of those who meditate vs. those who do not. (Not to be confused with new studies showing the thickness in the brain due to the 5G iPhone!)

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Anatomy on-the-goWe often forget that the brain is an organ. This means it has glands, like the pituitary for example, and nerves, that regulate hormones and keep us alive. The heart is a muscle and an organ and supplies a giant electrical field throughout the circulatory system. The biceps and glutes are muscles. They are nice to have and help us walk and pick things up and are guided by the brain and central nervous system, which happens so fast that we can’t see it real time. Go ahead and pick up a pen. Did you tell your hand to pick it up? Are you aware of the subtle nano second nerve response from thought to action?

Given this quick anatomy refresher, let’s now look at the practice of martial arts, or what I like to call moving meditation. We do not practice today to defend our kingdom (although if we look at the fighters now supporting Ukraine we can see instances where their martial arts practice helped). And how many of us sit down and say, “Ok, I want to train my brain to enhance its memory centers so I will meditate?” I think it is more common that we meditate to “calm the mind”, to “relieve stress” and to help take the nervous system out of its fight or flight sympathetic mode, into a calmer parasympathetic state- right?

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