Calm Aggression: A Paradoxical Reality of the Martial Arts

I was working with a young girl who I knew struggled with being aggressive in her sparring.  It was just her and me for that particular class so I could slow things down and explain some concepts that she had not intuited yet in her training.  I mean, she’s pretty young, so this concept wouldn’t have occurred to her anyway.  Whenever she sparred with the other students she would get overwhelmed, particularly if one young boy was her partner and freeze in response. We talked about what it means to be aggressive, she gave me a list of definitions that were most centered on being physically aggressive, I added really going after something and a couple of other ideas to the list.  Then we talked about remaining calm while sparring and what that looked like.  I told her that she could be both calm, and aggressive, at the same time.  She was skeptical of that idea. Through a series of exercises I proved that it was possible, and apparently that was a game changer for her according to her dad.

At this point in my training, certain things have become instinctual so I barely think about them until I’m faced with a higher level of danger or commitment.  Being calm, but aggressive is one of those things. It dawned on me after class that being calm AND aggressive at the same time in the face of danger is a bit of a paradox.  The terms seem mutually exclusive and opposites.  How can one remain calm, yet be also aggressive during a fight, or sparring, or during testing?  

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The Greatest Irony of Martial Arts (and Life): Failure, pain and loss as accurate measures of success.

This week in the dojo, both nights were what I call hard training.  I was thrown harder than normal (for me) to the mats, my limbs were twisted into painful pretzels, I acquired a few bruises, bumps, went through a round of sparring with five separate attacks I had to avoid or fend off.  I got hit in the face.  I was put in chokehold.  Another person had my face and body smashed into the mats.  By Thursday morning I was pretty sore and tired (My chiropractor had a field day with all of the loud CRACKS! my body was making).

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