Chop wood, haul water …
It was the very simple movement of mopping the floor that taught me the circular motion and energy needed to do a mid-level block. Like the famous scene in the original Karate Kid movie, I discovered the actions and intention of this movement through a non-martial-art practice.
If my memory serves me correctly, he was painting a fence and the technique used to do it properly was almost identical to a block taught by his teacher.
I was an arena attendant in the old Jim Light Arena. My shift was always the evening one, and at the end of the night it was part of the job to mop the floors and the wooden bleachers.
Fortunately, I liked mopping floors and, during the many hours doing this, I discovered ways to make it effortless. My movements involved rotating the body from the centre as I swirled the mop in front of me.
At first my shoulders would be doing most of the work, but over time I learned to lower the focus of energy and relax into the movement. As I developed this, each movement became smoother and less strenuous.
I found that repeating the movements, over and over, and paying attention to the actions and technique needed to do it properly brought about a tremendous calm that would settle over me, allowing a sense of harmony and peace in a job many see as boring or distasteful.
At times, certain activities have revealed to me the deeper aspects of life.
Almost always, it is when I am doing a task that, although repetitive, allows me to relax mentally. One such occasion was about 10 years ago. I was in my workshop hand-planing a piece of wood.
My plane (woodworking tool), which was handcrafted in Spain, is about 10 inches long and is made of a very dense wood. The metal blade is of a high quality that is a joy to sharpen and holds an edge that makes cutting a joy.
It is one of my favourite tools to use.
It was late at night, the wood stove was going and I had only one light on over my bench. The wood was clamped in the vise and my goal was to find what the wood had to offer. A piece of furniture, maybe a sculpture, maybe nothing other than what ultimately happened in the course of my working with this wood and tool.
There was no sound other than the whisper of steel slicing shavings off of the wood. Each stroke became smoother and more fulfilling. The shavings from the wood became longer. I began to develop a rhythm that further relaxed me.
Finally, after one such stroke, I stopped. A moment had arrived in which profound peace and love prevailed. I could not alter or interfere with this profound feeling that had become who I am. Nor did I want to.
There have been other moments … sometimes from solitary meditation, sometimes being in a holy place such as the wilderness we love so much or with a community of people who are celebrating the wonders of life and thanksgiving.
It is these moments in life that give strength when times are tough. It is these moments that point the way to a deeper meaning.
Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts for over 38 years and has trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at [email protected]