The Partner Within

The Partner Within
As Martial Artists, we know what it is to practice with SELF. Even in a group setting, we know that we are ultimately practicing with the partner within us. Who and what is that partner? In my experience, sometimes the partner shows up as an angry young child, sometimes as a graceful, wise woman, and sometimes as just organs and spinal column. The partner within is all aspects of us moving towards a state of essence, which I believe the practice of martial arts enhances and helps to achieve efficiently and effectively: the very practice of martial arts provides an effective framework to fill in any developmental holes we may have been carrying since birth. So does the practice of “reaching” which is another article altogether.

What is a hole? The Elements of the Real in Man's author writes an entire section on The Theory of Holes. It's a good read; A hole is described as a deficiency or an absence of a particular part of ourselves. This lost part could be a loss of love or strength, will or pleasure, value or feeling. A portion of being human tasks us with these losses and a desire to return to self, or to essence. Essence is that abundance of space within where one can rest and relate to the rest of the world without losing oneself. It's like doing a form while others watch, but they can never enter your space because your essence surrounds you. It surrounds you because it comes from within. Essence is the frequency of love or living within one's values. Essence is like a grounded neutral stance. Essence is peaceful and strong. It is a state of being where we live within the nervous system continuum, moving gracefully between sympathetic, parasympathetic, and ventral. Essence is as substantial as our blood. It is not a reaction. Emotions, on the other hand, are responses to the nervous system. If we are in an emotion, we are in a reaction. As martial artists, we are trained to be as neutral and, in essence, as much as possible. Here is the caveat: if we are experiencing a hole (jealousy, anger, fear, comparing ourselves and our value to something outside of ourselves), we must stay with the felt sense of the emotion in order to move into essence. If we go the other way and try to avoid it, we increase the hole. We are human, which means we have emotions. The task is to go into the felt sense of the emotion, not the thought-form, and allow for its spaciousness. Then, we have a better chance of coming back to essence. This is hard and not fair. First, we were born into our essence. Then, society happens which is for the most part against essence. So we leave ourselves and look to fill our holes from the outside. Every aspect of our society shows us we need to be more thin, more smart, more enough, etc , etc.

And so the journey of life begins: to discover our lost selves and come back to essence. We can do this the long way or we can speed up the process and get support through the practice of martial arts. Either way, no one gets a free pass. To be human is to enter this journey.

We know that the practice of forms, katas, and hyungs requires the presence of our essence to move gracefully and adequately: have you ever tried practicing when angry? It does not work out very well.

What is it about the practice that requires you to move with grace and accuracy and takes whatever emotion you may be feeling and transforms it into a state of presence and calm?

If you can identify this, you will have forever welcomed the partner within.


(sculpture from Burning Man showing two adults in distress with their inner children wanting to connect )

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