“Shapeshifting” can be a very valuable dynamic in martial arts practice. I don’t mean actual, physical shapeshifting (although, to be honest, there have been more than a few people that have suspected that I may be an actual shapeshifter….lol). What I mean here is an energetic shapeshifting- an internal and subconscious response. As martial artists, particularly how I practice them, everything we do is rooted in the subconscious- this drives the internal cycles of balance and energy. I always tell my students to ‘flow like water (strike like iron’)- this constant flowing of circular energy comes into play as we shift our perception to intercept incoming energies. In practical application, this translates as moving and changing our own energy/focus in the most efficient way possible. Truly ‘flowing with the attack’- perceiving the intent and redirecting it as needed. So, on a deeply internal level, we must be ‘shapeshifters’ to flow organically like this- to perceive the moment and shift accordingly. It also means shifting our perception and energy to efficiently operate even if we are physically compromised….
This is a dynamic I have been applying lately. Though I am steadily improving, I still have some way to go. Journeying closer to 100%, to be sure, but not there yet. So, I have shifted how I apply techniques operationally to still be quite effective. So, I have ‘shapeshifted’- in this case, I am using alot of Snake-derived techniques to compensate for my lack of full motion. The intention is the same, my focus is the same- I am using the same energy and focus, but applying it differently. Snake techniques serve me quite well at present, because they offer an economy of motion.
A good example of this is a simple strike interception. Typically we use what is called a tiger sweep to intercept and redirect (or capture) a strike. With Snake, I can do the same thing, but with a much smaller circle. Rather than a full circular sweep, I condense that circle- not moving my elbow outside of this circle- still a circle, and I still use the attack to my advantage as a resource. This allows me a quick counterstrike to an available and vulnerable target (throat, eyes, etc.) I shift myself into a smaller circle of perception. Sometimes you are the Tiger, sometimes you are the Snake. Sometimes you are the Dragon, sometimes you are the Bear. It is all about PERCEPTION…
I have taken this beyond the abstract, and applying it with a tool/defensive asset that we have been working with. As I talked about in a previous blog, I have been showing my students how to apply what they already know into quarter-staff/ ‘walking stick’ techniques. As I have done some cross-training in Irish Bataireacht (staves fighting; part of shilleleigh fighting!)- I have integrated this Snake wisdom with my Bataireacht techniques. The Snake and the Irish Stave. This is very ironic if you are familiar with the history of St. Patrick (please look it up if you aren’t!). Doubly ironic considering that I am a practicing Celtic Druid…….
I am calling this integration ‘Snake Wraps the Oak’. SE Asian jungle meets the Irish forest!
So, perception ‘shapeshifting’ is a valuable skill in martial arts practice and understanding. It also can serve you in everyday life. When you meet challenges, you can ‘shift’ your perception to more efficiently deal with that challenge. You can ‘shift’ your perception to see the dynamics of that challenge from a completely different set of internal eyes- perceiving a new way to handle it that you may not have seen otherwise. Allow yourself to ‘shapeshift’ your energy to flow with this dynamic. This is how you redirect it into a positive, and ultimately ‘own the challenge’, just as we do in the martial arts.
When life gives you lemons……………. make lemon-based weapons!!!!!