No Class 2/17 — and some thoughts on the nature of our practice …

There will be no Systema class Monday 2/17. Best Martial Arts Institute will be closed for the holiday. As usual, I hope you use this opportunity to focus on developing the discipline of consistent, daily, self-driven practice. The training you do on your own the attention you give to this practice are just important (if not more important) as showing up for class.

Lately I’ve been reading Yoka Daishi’s 8th century verses on Realizing the Way with translation and commentary by Myokyo-ni — wonderful book! This morning I came across a passage in Myokyo-ni’s commentary that expresses something fundamental that I’m trying to teach through our Systema training:

There is a Japanese story of a great general, who was an ardent follower of Zen, and who used to take his Zen master with him on his campaigns. One day a magician visited the camp and asked, “What is the use of all this Zen Business? It’s nothing special. I can work real miracles, have got powers that could be useful to you. Look at that waterfall. I can go right through and not a drop of water will touch me!” And he did go through it, and came out bone dry. The general was impressed, and asked the Zen master to do this. The Zen master went through, and came out drenched. Accused of being a deceiver and of having no powers, the Zen master laughed and said, “So, he came out dry, but what is the use of that? You get wet from water and burnt by fire, and that is just how it is!” We may ask, “So why should I do a training like this? After all, I already know that I get wet from water and burnt by fire.” But the general was already well trained in Zen and took the lesson.

It is a question of clearing seeing what is, saying yes to it, and then either accepting it or finding a way around it that accords with the situation as far as possible. If a man comes rushing at you with a cudgel you try to duck out of the way, and do not stand still so that he can hit you over the head. This clear seeing and responding to the situation is what is at stake. That is what the real training is about, not fancy fireworks.

Thank you, Myokyo-ni, for these insightful words. I hope you’ll consider them, and I hope to see you next Monday 2/24, when our regular weekly class will resume.

Until then, peace and blessings to you all.


About Matthew Lowes

Matthew Lowes is a writer, a game designer, and a martial arts instructor. Visit to learn more about his work. View all posts by Matthew Lowes

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