It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Whether you adhere to the belief structure that makes Christmas a special time or not, most people reading this will be looking forward to spending Christmas with family, friends and the special people in their lives. Not to mention the food, fun, prezzies, beach trips (depending on your local climate), camping, barbecues and other forms of holiday cheer. It’s a time to recalibrate, recharge and consider the year that has passed in perspective. For many people it’s a time to relive their childhood perhaps through the eyes of their own children. For some, it’s a time to redefine the things that are most important to them.

Granted, it’s a ludicrously commercialised monstrosity, but underneath all the tinsel, wrapping paper and custard sauce, there is still some virtue to be found.

So what does Christmas have to do with martial arts?

Nothing.

Nothing at all.

If you see martial arts as some form of isolated practice that slots into your life somewhere between activity A and activity B. If your life and your martial arts are one and the same, you might see things differently.

What can we learn from Christmas?

There was a time when I was overly harsh on myself. I was very Yang. I believed that martial arts and combat training was only relevant if it was hard. The harder the better. I pushed myself physically and mentally in my training and still to this day manage a number of long-term injuries from the stupid training methods and attitude that I employed. I was hard not only in my training, but also in my personal life. I did not allow myself to enjoy the softer things in life. I even slept on floors and wooden boards to condition myself. I have to admit that I spent most of my Christmas days in the past engaged in hard forms of physical training. I thought that, since Christmas was soft, it was weak and unnecessary and not of any benefit for martial arts training.

I was so wrong.

Eventually, I started to realise the truth about balance. There must be balance in order for anything to be optimally effective. If you’re too hard, you become brittle, slow and rigid in your movement. If you’re too soft, you become weak, light and docile in your movement. It’s about the old concept of Yin and Yang. So often spoken about by martial artists and sported on their logos, but so seldom demonstrated in application and way-of-life.

When we combine hard and soft in our combat response, we become like a finely-made sword. Both hard and soft steels are cunningly combined in a good blade to ensure that the sword is hard and sharp but also flexible. If the sword was all hard, it would shatter under impact. If it was all soft, it would not cut effectively and would bend out of shape.

Learn the lesson from the sword because this is the secret to becoming an effective martial artist.

So when you relax, relax truly.

Enjoy yourself.

Have yourself a Merry little Christmas.

Spend time with the special people in your life. Kiss your children. Shed a tear or two thinking about friends who are gone. Be thankful for the people who are with you now. Eat yourself a big helping of Christmas roast. Tear off the wrapping paper like you’re 12 years old again. And when you get back to training, train like you mean it. Combine the hard and the soft. Stay balanced. Embrace the Yin and the Yang in your life.

Blessings on you and yours.

Written by SiXiong Lester, head of the Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre Australia