Wax on, Wax off: Cleaning as a Martial Arts Metaphor, Part 1

April 9th, 2009By Category: Culture

brush-and-spongeSo after moving into my new apartment recently, I had to spent a few days cleaning it, and while doing so, I pondered why it is that traditional martial arts masters always make their students spend a lot of time cleaning. Coming from an American cultural background, where we are taught to not only question authority, but to guard against it’s exploitation, I used to think that the teacher was just milking their students for a free service.

Granted, we’ve all seen the Karate Kid and know the virtues of car-waxing techniques in self-defense situations, but in my own situation back in the day, (and up until this point) I saw no particular parallels between raking the leaves outside our school and learning to properly execute a spinning hook kick.

Perhaps it was simply a function of my inhaling too many cleaning solutions, but as I broke out the rubber gloves and went about the process of searching out and purging my apartment from it’s grime, I couldn’t help but take note of the fact that a similar mental cleansing process is a necessary part of growth for the martial artist. In the same way that one has to move the furniture around in order to see just how dirty or clean a room really is, so it also is with our mental framework: we cannot access what we do not question.

In the same way that we must constantly take stock of our possessions to access whether they are worth the amount of space they are taking up, so must we do with our pre-conceived notions, and/or negative thoughts. Much like in the case of our material belongings, if they serve no purpose, they should be disgarded. As the old saying goes, less is always more. The less you have, the more freedom you have.

And lastly, in the same way that one cannot clean their house once and expect it to stay this way, so it must also be with our minds- the process of cleansing requires a continual commitment in order for it to be effective. Ultimately, perfection must always be strived for, and it is this process of moving towards it that both allows us to continue improving, but (as we never actually get it) keeps us humble and modest at the same time. I get it. And I’m sure my teachers of old would be proud. Now all I need are some of my own students to set on this amazing journey of spiritual growth by tackling my kitchen, and I’ll be all set. www.chuck-n-action.com

Author of this article

Chuck Johnson

Chuck Johnson is a Martial Arts Instructor/ Action Film Actor based in Tokyo, Japan, and Michigan, USA. He has been teaching for 16 years, holds ranks in Taekwondo, Judo, Capoeira, and Karate, and is an experienced bodyguard. He is also a member of the Screen Action Stunt Association, and Society of American Fight Directors. Additionally, he has 10 years of ELT experience, and is the developer of Phat English, a system that uses specialized hip-hop music to teach the subtle nuances of GAm English pronunciation. For more information, visit www.chuck-n-action.com or follow Chuck on twitter at chuck_n_action

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