Self AWARENESS… A Work In Progress

As I’m sitting here in my empty training hall, I, by chance, came across a story that a friend of mine posted in one of the Facebook groups about a horrific home invasion that happened over the weekend. As I read the story, I realized to myself how deeply unaware we are as individuals passing through our daily lives, oblivious to all the evil that surrounds us. We don’t have to look to bygone days for lawlessness, evil and people that commit such heinous crimes as murder, rape and theft. These criminals and evil people surround us daily; we’re just not aware of it. Unfortunately, this evil abounds and surrounds us continually. It’s running rampant in our modern day society.

The awareness that we carry with us on a daily basis is something that we all need to focus on. We get lulled into a false sense of security going through our daily lives in our daily routine. We are oblivious to the fact that these individuals and crimes exist all around us and are happening all the time. We desensitize ourselves and make ourselves unaware, basically falling asleep. We need to concentrate on our own awareness of our surroundings, the people around us and how we perceive and see things. I’m not saying that you need to become paranoid, but at the same time you have to wake up and understand the world is not a beautiful place that is populated by rainbows and unicorns. Rather, it’s a stark landscape mostly populated by individuals that don’t have your best intention at heart. In truth, human beings are just animals, and without some form of civilized social code cannot coexist with one another. Unfortunately, in the convenience of our modern society, our edge has become dulled by everything that is around us. I’m not saying that we should do away with the convenient modern society that we have, only to be aware that there are people out there who have been pushed to a societal level where committing heinous crimes seems plausible and reasonable, turning human beings into less than animals, but really monsters. We see bad things happening every day but yet turn a blind eye and think, well it’s happening somewhere else to someone else, out of sight out of mind. We all need to heighten our sensitivity to protect ourselves and our families and make sure, to the best of our ability, that something like this doesn’t happen to us.

This, first and foremost, can start with training in the martial arts to make ourselves aware primarily of ourselves and our surroundings. The understanding and awareness of the self is paramount to one’s own self-preservation and protection. 
Martial art training is a mirror of how you live your life. If you train in the martial arts and follow the codes and ethics that we adhere to, this should have a profoundly positive impact on your life and the people within your life. The martial art training that we receive should help to heighten our personal awareness as well as the awareness of our surroundings, the people around us and the energy in the area that we’re in. This should all serve to help us understand and feel what’s up. I’m not saying that it’s going to stop everything horrible from happening, but it should raise the level of your understanding of what’s going on around you, rather than just going with the flow as most people do. I see many people just taking things in stride; another sunny, beautiful day in the neighborhood. It may be, but you can’t fall asleep on the A train, watching your Netflix, playing your Candy Crush, and browsing through Instagram. I’m not preaching gloom-and-doom; I’m just saying all of us need to wake up and make sure that we know how to spot something that may be going on.

Awareness is an intangible understanding that one must develop on their own in order for them to understand themselves better. Awareness can be looked upon as both internal and external awareness. These two dual aspects of awareness are what we should strive to derive from our daily training. Many people pick up training in Kung Fu or the martial arts and just simply go through the actions without thinking and feeling from within and without. That is to say, they just go through the martial calisthenics without trying to tap into a deeper understanding of what’s going on around them as well as within them at the same time, what energies are being used and moved and required. One must understand the intention, the attitude and the spatial awareness in order to apply and utilize these movements. All these aspects must be taken into account, and form a special type of awareness that everyday people don’t have. The race car driver understands the confines of his surroundings. As he goes around the track at high speeds, he feels and is aware of the machine that he is within and becomes one with it. He’s aware of the road, the tires, and the pressure within the engine. All these things are the same for Kung Fu.

As one goes through their training regimen in Kung Fu and slowly begins to reawaken themselves through the stretching, breathing, stances, punches, kicks, matching up with their partners, going through their weapon and empty hand sets, one cannot help but build a better respect for oneself, their own mind and body and personal awareness of space and time. Slowly, you also begin to read other individuals. Become a student of human nature and watch people’s reactions, body language, gestures and start picking up on the energy so to speak. As we had stated in the previous blog, learn to discern what is evil or bad energy as opposed to good energy, and put yourself in the proper position to be able to eradicate and deal with such.

I spent some time the other day striking on the sandbag as we normally do, and was striving to become more aware of every fiber of my body being used to make that one strike with one action, one breath, one thought, honing a higher level of awareness. In order to attain this awareness, everything has to slow down. Most people, when they come in, they just want to jump right into it and begin training and ascend to a god-like status in the martial arts. Everyone does this, but it’s a misconception. Hopefully, as you start training, you will see that it requires you to actually slow everything down that you do, including your thought process, in order to become more aware of every little facet of every little motion and action that you’re doing. Coming back to the sandbag, I straightened the sandbag, watching my own stance, the way I initiated the power of the energy, the breath, trying to focus and make everything synchronized and work together, and I took a step back to realize that this is also the training for awareness that can be seen in a larger grander scheme or in a small minute detail.

The awareness developed through training is a heightened sense. In one way, it can be summarized as a sixth sense, giving you understanding of what is around you at that moment in time. Awareness not only gives us understanding of the physical aspects of space, time and speed, but also that of different types of energies. It allows you to know where to put yourself and how to situate yourself. This is an active pursuit that you have to be actively striving towards, to attain that next level of awareness. You’re not going to get it just because you participate in class; you have to be actively seeking the awareness. That comes back down to the individual’s approach. As I was watching my class last night, I could see who was actively thinking, feeling and striving to understand, as opposed to those that were purely doing the exercise aspect and not clicking with themselves.

As I’m looking for images for this blog, I’m searching the Internet and I come upon an image that is eerily what I was telling my class last night. You have to be the captain of your own mind. Many of us don’t understand this, or, at worst case, our captain is asleep at the wheel. Everything must be guided from your own mind. Therefore, your mind must be clear, clean and pristine to the point of almost being empty. The self-awareness that everyone should strive for will first come when we do, as we said, a spring cleaning, a spring cleaning of the mind in order to be able to understand better ourselves and the surroundings that we are in. You have to be ready, willing and able to partake of all aspects of your training in order to gain that awareness. This is where most students fail themselves because they are incapable of understanding that aspect of it. There is no magic that is going to happen unless you fully engage. If you don’t do that you’re missing the point. Training every day raises our level of awareness of ourselves which ultimately raises our awareness of everything that goes on around us, keeping us safer and more secure and allowing us to understand ourselves better.

-Sifu Paul Koh 高寶羅