I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. -Bruce Lee
Depending on whom you ask, meditation can have many definitions. Many will say that movement can’t be meditation, or that there is only one way to meditate. However, if we get down to the essence of it, meditation is any action (or inaction) that leads to a silent mind and total awareness. This is often accomplished through breathing exercises, thought problems (koans), mantras, and movements. This form of self-improvement is often associated with Eastern movement and meditative arts. In the West, Yoga is one of the better known of these arts. I’m sure many of you have tried a Yoga class. The usage of Asanas (yoga postures) is often the primary method of mindfulness in Yogic practice. It is an effective form of moving meditation; a point for us to focus on and move our way to clarity.
Often the Eastern movement arts (e.g. Gung Fu, Karate, Yoga, Taiji, Qi Gung, etc.) fall into the category of 'spiritual' or 'meditative', even when martial in origin, while the Western movement arts (e.g. Boxing, Wrestling, Gymnastics, etc.) are just 'fighting' or 'sports'. I would argue that any movement, when done with mindfulness, becomes meditation and a tool for personal betterment. Any movement practice can become a tool for physical, mental, and spiritual progress. In the Zen practices, they will often speak about how an action as simple as washing the bowl you eat from, if done with absolute mindfulness, is meditation. Any action can be meditation. Anything can be yoga.
I would argue that any movement, when done with mindfulness, becomes meditation and a tool for personal betterment. Any movement practice can become a tool for physical, mental, and spiritual progress Click To Tweet
When practicing a movement, and working to transform it to a mental or spiritual practice, concentration is key. In the learning phase, there is often a lot of concentration on ingraining the correct movements into muscle memory. After this, people usually become bored because they no-longer require such concentration to perform the movements. They want the next new move. The next big thing! An expert is a master of the basics. Once you establish this functional movement base, the challenge is perfecting your art. Perfecting the movements and then expressing them in everything you do; maintaining the same concentration and one-mindedness, even when washing your dinner plate.
Any art, sport, or movement style can be used this way. In fact, bodybuilding circles often talk about the importance of the mind-body connection. Bodybuilders are often seen ‘willing’ a muscle to grow, with absolute intention, as they train. The same opportunity is seen in the strength sports. Years ago when I competed in powerlifting, I saw this perfect singularity of mind and body in competition; these moments of pure clarity, when there was nothing but the movement and I.
Now, I find my peace through the study of boxing. Boxing is my yoga: meditation through movement; an empty mind through concentration.
Boxing is all about the perfection of movement, and the training of unity between mind and body. When the pressure is on, you seek refuge in your form. You don't get sloppy. You don't get wild. You get focused. When you're under the pump, you tighten up your game, because you know mindfulness and maintaining composure are what will get you through. Hands up. Chin down.
By consistent drilling of the foundations and the minutiae (footwork, stance, fist position, weight transfer, and so on) the movements become part of your nature. Just like working to perfect an Asana, this is a never ending process of self-realisation. When you can be fully aware, and mindful, within the movements then the practice becomes meditation.
What movement is your meditation?
If you enjoyed this post, I’m sure your friends will too!
Coach Josh Wood, BHSc, is a fitness coach and outdoorsman who brings together fitness training and the real world. Working as a Wilderness Guide in Tasmania, he strives to help people find their passion for activity, and loves introducing folks to the art of backpacking.