Lately I have had a lot of time to hunker down and do some research on Martial Arts. I am not even done yet, and I have found a lot of things that have both clarified and muddied the waters of fitting an Integral Framework onto the Martial Arts.

I will give you a good one to think about. How are skill levels and Stages related?

On the one hand, skill level represents progress and development along a Line. In the Martial Arts someone’s proficiency in their art closely resembles the kinesthetic Line, if you think of skill level as being how good a person’s form, conditioning, poise, and accuracy is. Being a Line, it must go through Stages. Look at someone who just started doing Martial Arts today, and compare them to someone who has been practicing for 5 hours per day for 20 years. There will be a big difference. The person doing it longer for more hours will be obviously practicing at a higher Stage along that kinesthetic Line.

On the other hand, it is also entirely possible that this person who practiced for 20+ years believes that his Martial Art is the “One True Way” and must be passed down exactly as he learned it from his teacher, who was blessed or prophetic in some way and had the True Way revealed to him long ago. Meanwhile, the new practitioner who started yesterday can barely take a stance, but believes in the necessity for all the different kinds of martial artists to exist as a system that brings Martial Arts and the Consciousness of the people that practice it to a higher and broader level, and he does this by trying to take his horribly conditioned body through a kata while paying attention to all four pieces of his 1st Quadrant Being.

See the problem?

As I see it, the “Martial Arts” actually encompasses many different Lines. It explains why someone can have amazingly powerful technique, and be an asshole at the same time. It also explains how these Kung Fu and Okinawan Masters alike have amazing form, power, strength, and conditioning, and yet when you read the history of their organizations you can clearly see them migrating from an Amber “Old Way” to an Orange “Corporatized” sporting system. Their bodies and maybe even their State practice are rock solid, but their behavior and center of gravity is still 1st Tier.

Let’s go back to the flip side, and here’s why I think spreading this idea of Integral Martial Arts will be problematic to current 1st Tier practitioners. You can have a 2nd Tier practitioner who’s only mediocre at the kinesthetic portions of the art, i.e. at a lower Stage along the kinesthetic Line than some of these Amber and Orange Masters, and yet this Integral person’s ideas are directly applicable for growing Martial Arts as a whole and taking it to a new level as a Life Practice. What are the chances that some of these entrenched Masters are going to give the Integral folks a second look unless they are at least close as far as kinesthetic development goes? Not much.

It’s really a good argument for regular solid practice. Although regular practice of Martial Arts at an Integral Stage may not impress too many of these guys unless it’s done their way. For example, when an Okinawan Goju-Ryu Master thinks of practice, he thinks of a couple hours a day of Sanchin kata and stepping in the Sanchin stance, with some arm and body conditioning thrown in. There are gifts in that, namely the notion that your physical body is part of your Being and must be paid attention to and kept healthy and strong so it can support your Subtle and Causal elements. However, when I think about how to go about that, I don’t think about three hours of Sanchin. I think about the latest forms of fitness and conditioning as set down by modern day personal trainers and physical therapy experts, and then I adapt those things to Martial Arts. Cardio kickboxing anyone? 🙂 Maybe not exactly, but you get the idea.

I’ve been reading a lot of books and watching a lot of videos, and I’ve seen a lot of martial artists that have better form and stronger bodies than I do. Nevertheless, I have not found many of these Masters that push for Martial Arts beyond a great way of staying in shape, defending yourself, and maybe learning to navigate the politics in your office a little more skillfully. There’s so much more to it than that.