Sunday, September 23, 2018

Wisdom from Joe Hyams' "Zen in the Martial Arts"

Joe Hyams first learned the martial arts at a time in his life when, in his own words, "I had no clear awareness of who I was or where I was going." He later became a prominent writer chronicling the lives and times of Hollywood celebrities but he also became increasingly fascinated with the martial arts. Eventually, Hyams wrote a brief book titled Zen in the Martial Arts, explaining how his studies over the years had helped him acquire greater mental discipline. Here are six key insights from Hyams' book:

1) Prior to the first time that karate master Ed Parker worked with Hyams, Parker delivered this powerful message about the teacher/student relationship: "I am not going to show you my art. I am going to share it with you. If I show it to you it becomes an exhibition, and in time it will be pushed so far into the back of your mind it will be lost. But by sharing it with you, you will not only retain it forever but I, too, will improve."

2) The difference between being "patient" and "giving oneself time," as explained to Hyams by Master Bong Soo Han: "To be patient is to have the capacity of calm endurance. To give yourself time is to actively work toward a goal without setting a limit on how long you will work."

3) Master Han once told Hyams, "You must learn to live in the present, not in the future or the past. Zen teaches that life must be seized at the moment. By living in the present you are in full contact with yourself and your environment, your energy is not dissipated and is always available. In the present there are no regrets as there are in the past. By thinking of the future, you dilute the present. The time to live is now."

4) Whenever Hyams became discouraged about his ability level relative to the ability levels of other practitioners, he reminded himself "that even masters have masters, and that we are all learners."

5) Jim Lau imparted this bit of valuable wisdom: "When you unleash your aggression or hostility on another person, it inspires aggression and hostility in return. The result then is conflict, which all true martial artists try to avoid. Anger doesn't demand action. When you act in anger, you lose self-control."

6) Hyams studied under the legendary Bruce Lee, who described a martial artist's ideal mindset: "A good martial artist puts his mind on one thing at a time. He takes each thing as it comes, finishes with it, and passes on to the next. Like a Zen master, he is not concerned with the past or the future, only with what he is doing at that moment. Because his mind is tight, he is calm and able to maintain strength in reserve. And then there will be room for only one thought, which will fill his entire being as water fills a pitcher."

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