khanji for do  One of the things I love about my co-sensei, Sensei Frank Smith, at the Integral Martial Arts class is his understanding that here in this group we do a martial ART for the purpose improving not only our bodies, but also our minds and spirits.  In Integral terms, I’m talking about first quadrant parts of the self: the gross, causal, subtle, and non-dual.  The great thing about having that attitude is it makes you willing to see the martial applications in all things and teaches you ways to use normal activities to improve your martial ones and vice versa.  In this case, we had a class on Japanese calligraphy, or Shodo last Thursday.

Shodo involves moving a specialized calligraphy brush to create khanji or written characters that represent words on special paper.  The movement of the brush directly correlates with many sword applications, such as learning to drop your weight and apply pressure with intent and control.  There is a tremendous amount of stuff in there just from the gross upper left (UL) quadrant perspective, meaning the perspective where you view the world through your own body’s relation to it.  The same goes for the upper right (UR) quadrant perspective where you are concerned about physical technique and proper execution and form.  Since we had been doing sword work all this month, it was directly applicable.

Aside from my own ineptitude at Shodo, there was a lot going on and I learned a lot.  I’m always looking at other people and trying to gauge their Stage along certain Lines of development for things, which is a tricky and often hazardous thing to do, but as a teacher in a martial arts class it is sometimes appropriate and helpful.  So there I was listening to Sensei Smith explaining how this was a meditative practice.  In the background there were several students, however, who could not quiet down and cease talking.  It was exactly as if their own existences depended on making noise.  On the surface this did not bother me, because I was trying to look at it from their perspective and wondering what they needed to learn to even get to the point where they could sit quietly and do this.  I have some ideas for some of them.

However, there’s another side to it too.  My own reaction to their activities is not exempt from the Stages of growth.  It is important that I also look at myself and my own thoughts and beliefs about what they are doing.  Was I annoyed?  Did I believe they should sit quietly?  Did I feel frustration at their lack of seriousness?  Did I believe they should have been serious?  Yes to all of these!  Here’s the rub:  none of this is their fault.  All of these things are the teacher’s (my) issues, and only by resolving those myself can I become a better teacher.  They don’t have to do anything, but I owe it to them to do something for myself, so they can benefit down the road.

So it goes round and round.