Sunday, August 19, 2012

Not Zen 19: Reflexes

A young man studied Daoism and martial arts with the same instructor. At his martial arts lesson, he stopped in the middle of his drill.

"How is this natural?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" his instructor replied. "This is not a time for you to relax. This is a time for discipline."

"But you said earlier today that I should behave naturally."

"That was in meditation class. And anyway you will find this physical discipline to be natural, in time. Self defense will become part of your being."

"This is learning," the student insisted. "All learning goes against our nature. That's what you said."

"I said we must learn to forget our learning. That is different. Anyway, monks have studied both disciplines together for centuries. In time, you will learn enough martial arts to forget your learning of it."

"Why bother to learn it at all, then?"

"Let's not misunderstand nature," said the instructor. He dropped his stance and walked over to the student. "Dying is natural. Those monks centuries ago could have died in their travels. But they strove to fight bandits, to defend themselves, to live. All things strive to live. That is natural, too. In studying defense, we commit ourselves to life."

The instructor aimed a long, over-handed blow at his student's head. The student blocked it without thinking.

"You see? Defense is in your true nature. But of course your true nature has been shaped by your parents, by the environment of your childhood, and by your spiritual essence."

He struck again, from the side. The student blocked him again.

"It can be shaped by others. We are demonstrating that now."

He bowed. The student bowed in response.

"You see? Your nature has been, and can always be, shaped by you. The next step is to use that to your advantage."

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