Next week I will be starting a new adventure teaching an Integral Martial Arts class as the Ridley Sports Club in Ridley, PA. This is my first crack and teaching a truly Integral school. My friend Nathanael Chawkin and Sunstone Yoga gave me an idea for using wrist bands in addition to belts as a means of tracking student progress. Belts will be a traditional market for tracking progress within class while the wrist bands track progress OUTSIDE of class. This is a work in progress and will be evolving as things get clearer for me.
This is a draft of a sheet given to students about the OUTSIDE of Class work:
Integral Martial Arts – OUTSIDE The Classroom
Martial arts can be a powerful vehicle for self-development. This class uses the study of a number of different martial disciplines for personal transformation and growth. The class honors the traditional values of fitness, discipline, and self-defense while weaving in deeper insights from meditation, breathing, and other elements. Students will be taught techniques from a number of Eastern and Western styles and guided through their own construction of a life practice both inside and outside of class. Based on Integral Theory, a profound system for understanding the universe, students’ progress will be marked in class with a more traditional belt system. For marking progress outside of class, a wrist band system based on a color scheme for Ken Wilber’s Stages of Consciousness is used. Specifically, the wrist band system marks a student’s level of understanding of the practice of Martial Arts: what Martial Arts means to that student, and why they are practiced.
Stages of Understanding Martial Arts
Student practices martial arts because he or she idolizes a central figure in the class (living or not), and sees being a part of the group as necessary for growth. Student feels a connection with ancient forces that have practiced before, and wants to connect with them. Sees the group as a support structure for self-defense, a source of belonging.
Student practices martial arts for personal power. Perhaps the student was bullied and decided he or she needs to learn how to fight for self-defense purposes. In some way, the person either feels powerless or sees the martial arts as a way of gaining more power and ability for self-preservation.
Student sees his or her martial art as the one true way, either to enlightenment or to perfect self-defense. Student forms identity from being a part of the class and having relationships with other class members, in order to be accepted and to belong. Student upholds the principles of the class as the ultimate truth.
Student practices martial arts in order to personally achieve something. This could be belt ranks, trophies, recognition, becoming the ultimate fighter, or all of the above. Student is very interested in technically perfect execution of the martial art, and what the optimal technique for something is.
Student sees martial arts as a fun and convenient path for achieving harmony and enlightenment, especially along with other practitioners. Student does not think that any particular martial art is superior but believes that his or her current class most aptly expresses an open belief system that holds all martial arts as equal. Student uses this as a platform to learn as many different things as possible.
Student sees martial arts as a tool that can serve practitioners of all stages by addressing them where they exist. Student realizes that his or her own practice stage is simply one partial step along a greater path of unfolding that will change yet again, one day. Student understands that his or her own practice is addressed in different ways, spanning pre-Modern, Modern, and Post-Modern means.
Student sees martial arts as a means of addressing the growth of others in which ever stage they occupy. Through the growth of others, and service to others, the martial artist grows in turn. If the student is not inherently a teacher, he or she understands that practicing martial arts in this time and place along with his or her class perpetuates the growth of others automatically.
Wrist Bands and Practicing OUTSIDE of Class
Periodically, instructors will evaluate students on their progression and understanding to see if there has been a change. If a change has occurred, a new wrist band of the appropriate color will be given to the student. It is important to realize that “understanding martial arts” is a way to describe more than just a factual knowledge on the subject matter. Cognition is necessary but not sufficient by itself to advance to a new wrist band color. More is needed. To demonstrate true “understanding” at a certain Stage, the student must live the Stage in his or her whole psyche. This level of understanding is something very difficult to demonstrate falsely or with intellectual understanding alone. All new students will begin with a Purple wrist band, and many will likely advance up by one or two colors quickly until their wrist band color catches up with their actual level of understanding. At that point, the student may have the same wrist band color for quite some time before the next one is bestowed.
Working OUTSIDE of Class
Working on self-development outside of class is optional for all students, but highly recommended. Techniques within this school cover three different aspects or viewpoints:
• Personal – This viewpoint deals with anything “below the skin”. Your personal domain is made up of your Body, Emotions, Mind, and Spirit.
• Physical – This viewpoint deals with anything “outside the skin”. Your physical techniques and form, as well as the dojo are all physical.
• Social – This viewpoint deals with any interaction between you and someone else outside of you. It includes sparring, interactive exercises, and interpersonal relationships.
All work OUTSIDE of class is in the Personal domain. The intent for these exercises is to increase personal strength, control, calmness, and happiness, while decreasing negative emotions and thoughts. This work will be divided into “Modules” offered to the students, which they can modify to their own liking at will based on their personal beliefs and convictions. Modules fall into four categories:
• Body Modules – These deal with physical training as a means for dealing with emotional stress, fear, and pain, as well as increasing awareness of personal energy and aliveness.
• Mind Modules – These deal with both mental and emotional exercises. They can be used to uncover buried feelings, but also to increase personal knowledge of facts and figures.
• Spirit Modules – These deal with increasing personal consciousness and mindfulness of the present moment.
• Shadow Modules – These deal with addressing unacknowledged pieces of ourselves that hamper our efforts at being happy and fulfilled.
A number of modules from each category have been selected based on research regarding their effectiveness. These will be offered as options to students, but students are also encouraged to develop their own modules that suit them with guidance from the instructor.