By Harry Wenban, Coordinator Therapeutic Martial Arts
During times of difficulty like the current COVID-19 pandemic, it’s natural to have feelings of unpreparedness, uncertainty and stress. By staying home, we are collectively fighting COVID-19 and embodying a strength of character and of mind that we at CDI often refer to in our Therapeutic Martial Arts programming as ‘Bushido’.
Bushido, the way of the warrior, is the practice of intentionally using our bravery and courage in our day-to-day lives to notice, allow and respond to the challenges that we are facing so that we can make our lives, and those of the people around us, better.
- Notice: What is present for you right now? What is happening around you? What are your thoughts (self-talk, ideas, beliefs, wishes and memories), emotions (sad, angry, worried, thrilled, scared), body sensations (hot, chills, numb, queasy, tight), and desired actions (stop it, do it, change it, yell at it, complain about it, celebrate it)?
- Allow: Can you make some space within yourself to feel your internal experience at this moment? Feeling it with some openness, patience and acceptance – not needing to change or do something about it right away.
- Respond: Once we have noticed and allowed for our experience – named, acknowledged and felt it – we can choose how to intentionally and skillfully approach our situation, using our strengths, skills and allies as best we can to make things a little bit better.
Bringing this philosophy to life
There are many ways to practice these skills of noticing, allowing, and responding. Here are a few simple skills from our Therapeutic Martial Arts curriculum that you can try right now.
Anchor your breathing:
Our breath is an incredible tool that can be used to help us notice, allow for, and even respond in the face of challenging experiences. By learning to engage the breath intentionally, it can be our anchor in the storm.
- Breathe in and out through the nose with slow and natural breaths, focusing your attention on each inhale and exhale. This can be done while lying down, sitting, standing or performing a simple task or activity like walking.
- Notice whatever thoughts, sensations, sounds or other experiences arise as you focus on your breath. It is OK, they can be there.
- Return your attention to your breath, in and out, and continue this practice for between 30 seconds and 2 minutes.
Opening and softening:
Our bodies hold on to our experiences through our muscle and tissue. Over the course of a trying day, our chests grow tight, our shoulders creep up and our eyebrows furrow. In order to cope with change and stress, we need to be open and soft so that we can allow for new experiences and have the space to respond skillfully.
- With your hands open, palms up, inhale through the nose and squeeze your hands into fists, holding them tight as you hold your breath for a few seconds.
- Exhale through the nose, releasing the hands and all of the tension through your out-breath, until the hands are open and soft.
- Repeat this process, adding different parts of the body, until you can just breathe in and notice your existing tension, and breathe out letting that tension soften more and more each time.
Our bodies need to move – it’s how they stay attuned and responsive to the world, as well as to our internal experiences. We know from our programs that martial arts, yoga and other fitness is an essential component to our regulation, self-mastery and health, so we need to continue those practices now more than ever.
- Bring yoga and stretching into your daily routine.
- Home workouts – push-ups, planks, squats or something more intense.
- Just move! Jump up, fall down (safely) and shake yourself around.
These are just three skills that we teach and practice in our training to help us notice, allow, and respond to our moment-to-moment experiences. Each of us is different, and certain skills will work differently at different times. We invite you to practice these skills, and check out our resources page as you do your best during these unpresented and challenging times. Remember, your best is good enough.
To learn more about our two Therapeutic Martial Arts programs, Young Warriors (ages 9-12) and Mindfulness Martial Arts (ages 12-18), click here.