There must be hundreds of blog articles and books out there talking about technique. The largest focus in that literature is about the nuts and bolts of how techniques are executed. Do you hold your hand this way or that way? Does your foot do this and that? What about your balance? Some of the literature goes so far as to suggest which techniques are better and for what reasons, and where those techniques may be used. Countless videos on YouTube show bunkai, or application, of one technique or another.

That’s great. A lifetime can be spent studying techniques and building a personal shoe box of techniques for yourself. “Hey man! You got the Five-Fingered Exploding Heart Technique! Cool!” Hell, maybe you know someone who does a Four-Fingered Exploding Heart Technique. Nifty. However, when I think about technique from an Integral perspective, the actual technique itself doesn’t really matter. The point is that an Integral framework can be overlaid on top of most techniques, so I want to talk about that without getting into the debates over specific ones.

In Integral Theory, you can look at something from multiple perspectives. That is really one of the most powerful aspects of the framework, in that you are not stuck with looking at something only one way. By broadening your view and seeing something from different angles, you can get a more complete, or less partial, view of what it really is. In particular, there are four major perspectives that Integral Theory talks about, i.e. The Four Quadrants. Ken Wilber and his colleagues never say that there are ONLY Four Quadrants. There certainly can conceivably be something other than a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person perspective. However, those four perspectives are the dominant ones that have the most influence over what we do all the time.

My proposal is that no matter what technique you are talking about, from whatever style, you look at it from each of the Four Quadrants. Moreover, you study it from each of the Four Quadrants as part of your Martial Arts practice. Now, for the most part, having Four Quadrants can be cumbersome, so one thing that is often done, which makes a lot of sense to do here is to combine the Upper Right and Lower Right Quadrants into one. Essentially, we are taking all physical external stuff, both your individual external stuff and collective external stuff and combining it into just “External Stuff”. Philosophers do this when they talk about “The Good”, “The Beautiful”, and “The True”. I’m going to rename these for the purpose of studying Martial Arts into “The Personal”, “The Social”, and “The Physical”. Those more aptly describe what we need to discuss.

A good way to get this across is just with an example. Let’s look at a straight punch from each of the three perspectives.

The Personal

When you throw the punch, how do you feel? Are you angry when you throw it? Are you calm? Are you scared? These things will influence your power. What sorts of stuff are you thinking about when you throw the punch? Are you wondering what you will have for dinner tonight? Are you seething with hatred for your piece of oak board? Do you believe in chi? If you do, are you thinking about where it flows as you punch? These things and more cannot be answered or trained in just one punch. They are something to study, and they are personal. No one can cut you open and see the answers to these within you.

The Social

Who or what are you punching? Are you in harmony with it? Are you anticipating its next move? Maybe there is no enemy there, but you are punching in front of your sensei or coach. What is going on in the relationship you have with your teacher right now? Is your instructor angry with you? Happy with you? Are you doing this to show off to him or her? Perhaps you are doing this as part of a demo in front of a lot of people and they are watching your every move. What understanding is passing between you and that crowd as you throw the punch? What effects will that demonstration have on your school? Will it gain them more members? The outcome of your punch will influence all of these things, and naturally the whole mood and setup of your punch will vary with the environment you are in when you throw it. There’s a big difference between throwing a punch in a demo versus throwing one on the street.

The Physical

Here is where the nuts and bolts of your punch go. How do you hold your fist? Do you use a vertical fist? Do you keep one finger uncurled like the Kosho folks do? Do you even make a fist? Are you about to break a bone?

So, the understanding here is that it doesn’t matter what technique we are talking about. You can keep your own techniques, honest. The only difference is in how you view them, with new eyes and an Integral Framework. I believe this can potentially open up the study of Martial Arts to a different Stage.