THE SELF PRESERVATION REFLEX
Self preservation is the first law of nature. Deep within every living being there is the self preservation reflex. It is a neurological reaction to a deadly situation that gives us great strength, speed and timing when our lives depend on it. When studying martial arts the goal of any practitioner is to achieve the self preservation reflex. Learning to achieve this is the difficult part! Can anyone learn it? Yes, if they have the perseverance to undergo rigorous training, learning, believing, and finally the ability to let go! What does the self preservation reflex do for you? Well, it allows you to in a way perform magic! It allows you to perform complex movement without thought!
That is the key, without thought! Imagine you are attacked and you have to think what you need to do to defend yourself. That thought process will invariably slow you down, so slow that you are at a distinct disadvantage. Imagine the attacker, who has already thought out his attack strategy. You are at a disadvantage because they act first and have a preplanned attack strategy. Now the situation is compounded because you have to think through your defensive strategy and pick an appropriate tactic (palm heel strike, etc.) to counter their tactics. This is slow, not impossible, but slower than if one is in the self preservation reflex. If you slip into the self preservation reflex then you bring your training, understanding, faith, morals etc. together without thought to defend yourself. In other words you defend yourself without thought! Amazing yes, but impossible to develop, absolutely not! Slipping into the instinctive response is the key. Once you achieve this, your skills have certainly developed to a new and incredibly effective level. In this state, everything slows down, at least to you. Things happen like lightning as your body moves, opponents seem completely vulnerable and unable to stop your counter attacks. More importantly as you protect yourself, all of this is over in the blink of an eye and your technique, training, knowledge, morals and spirit are brought to bear to defend yourself or your loved ones. Entering into the self preservation reflex is the true method of bringing together the physical, mental and spiritual side of the martial arts. Best of all, if you are willing to train, understand, have faith and let go then you can achieve this too! It is available for everyone and anyone! Even people who have not undergone training can achieve this state too, however they enter into it more out of luck than anything else. I for one, do not wish to leave this to chance and therefore I have trained
almost my entire life to be able to bring the physical, mental and spiritual side of the martial arts together when needed.
How to achieve this? First, let us start off with the training aspect. It is vitally important to train and when I say this I mean train. Train with passion, train with importance, train correctly, train with a quality instructor, but first and foremost train. Even if you are away from your instructor for a period of time or cannot attend class because of work, etc. TRAIN! Train in class at the training hall, train out of class at home, but make no mistake that the importance of training your body cannot be taken for granted. Our bodies can be like well oiled machines that can perform miraculous feats when needed to, but if we lie around and let them get stagnant, well, they may not perform for us when we need them most. So in the end, we must take the approach that our body is our temple and we will treat it right! Part of training is eating right and nourishing our body appropriately. Then exercising our bodies and achieving our peak athletic potential. If you throw yourself into your training regimen learning martial arts then you will have the potential to enter into the self preservation reflex!
Next one must learn and understand the knowledge of what is being taught. Learn the martial arts techniques, strategies, tactics, ethics, morals etc. and delve into them and understand them. When I say understand, I mean truly make them a part of you. Not solely by rote or by memory but make them part of your being, your spirit, your essence. Understanding comes from learning martial arts in class, applying it in class, then working on it out of class by yourself. Solo training makes for the most improvement when done correctly. When I say correctly, that means that you cannot solo train poorly or in direct contradiction to your training in the training hall and expect to achieve good results. One must solo train with an eye for perfection of the technique that one has been taught!
Faith, this five letter word has been used for a long, long time by our human race. What does it mean? Well, one must believe in what one is doing, learning, etc. You simply must have belief in your training, your knowledge, your spirit! Faith in martial arts truly separates the unique martial artist from the non unique. Those people who train, understand and have faith are truly fearsome when confronted.
Believe in what you are doing, believe in your teachers guidance, believe in your own innate abilities and your understanding of the martial arts that you study. Most importantly you have to believe! This is what separates some martial artists. There are many martial artists who lack faith in their training or teaching. One only needs to look at some Internet forums and you will see many who really do not have faith in their training, knowledge and spirit. They also generally do not have faith in their teachers! This faith is essenctial, find a system or art of martial art that you can believe in!
Finally, you must let go! Yes, that is it! You have to let go of everything and just connect with your unique spirit. When you let go, you bring your training, knowledge and faith together. This allows the self preservation reflex to come out. When this happens, if you are being attacked, you will have a very good chance of defending yourself and your loved ones effectively. Everything seems to slow down when you are in the self preservation reflex! Everything and anything are possible in this state! Average humans have accomplished amazing feats by going into the self preservation reflex, but to get there you have to Let Go! This is sometimes the most difficult aspect but really, if you take care of the first three principles i.e. Training, Knowledge and Faith, letting go is easy!!! Once you have accomplished this it is easy to do it again, and again and again. It is like learning how to walk once you have it, you have it! Just Let Go!
The self preservation reflex is really what all martial arts are striving for. Some systems and arts may not even talk about it, but it is there. Some systems and arts may talk about it using different words such as the void, mushin (mind – no mind) or other various phrases. It is found in all endeavors, from athletics to academics. It is just that people around the world have found different ways of explaining it. Some people call it the void, mushin, the zone, the flow, etc. Regardless, it is a part of our species and anyone and everyone can achieve it if they are willing to Train, Learn, have Faith and finally Let Go! Good luck on your martial quest and may all of the martial artists before you bless your path.