Updated: Jun 23, 2019
By Mark Sentoshi Russo
Recently I have had a number of students ask me how we apply our martial art outside the dojo to everyday life. Well, that is a huge question that could be answered by way of a book. This is, in fact, a life art. The training, given time and proper guidance, will work its way in to every aspect of a students’ life. The training changes people. That is the goal of the training. In a nutshell, we want students to become more personally powerful; more in control of how they influence and create their own personal reality, or life experience. One of the major pieces of that is skillful communication.
We can very instructively and effectively apply our five elements model to this subject. This will be the first in a short series of writings on this topic. Let’s begin with the earth element.
Just to review, the earth element is associated with words and concepts such as confidence, groundedness, control, stability, vision (as in having a broad picture vision). We can change these to more descriptive adjectives; confident, grounded, in control, stable, etc. We sometimes refer to the earth energy as “king” or “commander” energy.
Often I realize that students misinterpret the earth element as immobile, locked in, and inflexible. This is, as I said, a misinterpretation. Grounded and stable does not mean rigid. Rigidity is a weakness (which we often exploit in our art).
Communicating effectively in the earth element would then present as someone who:
knows what they are talking about, has their facts straight, speaks from experience. exhibits body language that is calm and relaxed, yet confident, as opposed to tensely defensive, or aggressively overpowering.
speaks in a tone of voice that also reflects calm control, again as opposed to yelling, screaming, or intentionally overwhelming.
speaks slowly and deliberately (a secret is to speak more slowly than you think is appropriate, this communicates an immediate sense of control).
One of the key principles here is to avoid saying things that will move the other party’s ego into a defensive mode. Once that happens the person no longer hears you because their mind is in overdrive figuring out how to defend their position. This will cause them to auger in and be completely unreceptive.
The most important and fundamental principle is to constantly have in mind the reality, the result that you are intending to create through your communication. Do your best to not let your ego get sucked in and side track your intentions. We can all remember times when this has happened; a discussion or debate degenerated into personal attacks and both parties are so busy defending their egos that the initial issue was completely lost. This dynamic is bad juju and leads to nothing positive, and sometimes irreparable damage. Certainly not the reality that was intended, we would assume.
So, communicating from the earth energy element:
Make sure you have your facts straight.
Speak slowly and deliberately.
Avoid allowing emotions to cause you to speed up and raise the volume of your voice or tone.
Assume body language that is grounded and stable but not rigid.
Constantly bring your mind back to your goal – the reality you intend to create.
Buy time to stay calm and carefully craft your speech by using pauses.
This is a cursory pass at this subject; an outline to give you principles to experiment with. Just as is the case with our physical self-defense art, a lot of “dirt time” or practice is required. Plan to not get it right every time – nobody does.
Join me next month to continue this exploration of verbal taijutsu!
Toshindo students enjoying themselves at our martial arts school in Tampa, Florida