MEDITATION TO STRENGTHEN BODY AND MIND
A first Dan essay written by Bas de Hoogen, March 2023
The ancient Romans are famous for many things, some good, some bad. But there is one famous saying by the Roman poet Juvenal which goes as followed “Mens sana in corpore sano”. Translated into English this means “A healthy mind in a healthy body”. This saying really speaks to me and I find it to be a universal truth of life. I believe Haedong Kumdo to strengthen both the mind and the body. The strengthening of the body is accomplished by the physical part of our training regimen. But how does one strengthen one’s mind? Just like our bodies the mind needs exercising, a form such exercises can take is meditation. To look further into this topic two central themes will be used as guidelines:
1.) What is meditation, why do we need it and how do we do it?
2.) The relationship between Mind and Body when practising Martial Arts and how to integrate this in your daily life.
Firstly I would like to start with explaining what meditation is. The word meditation finds it origin in the Latin word “meditatum” which means “to ponder”, but this translation still leaves a lot to be desired, so we look further. The Oxford dictionary defines meditating as follows: “Focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation”. This definition hits a few important key points of what meditation is.
Meditation is about focusing the mind and redirecting thoughts. But aside from the mind, the body plays an important role as well. One needs to be in control of one’s body to be able to focus the mind. An important way of attaining this control is a focus on breathing. Deep slow breathes help to calm body and mind. Furthermore, feeling the flow of air through one’s body also makes one able to feel the flow of energy through their body. As the two are closely related.
Besides as a focusing technique of the mind, the Oxford dictionary describes meditation as a method of relaxation. Although meditating is certainly a relaxing experience, this is more of a beneficial side-effect than a goal in itself, at least for our purposes in Haedong Kumdo. Despite this there are indeed plenty of people in the world for whom relaxing is the main motive for meditation.
This brings us to the second point: why do we need meditation in Haedong Kumdo? Meditation helps cultivate a sense of calmness, clarity and mental stillness. It helps to develop mindfulness and awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions and sensations. Meditation helps to cultivate a clear and focused mind, which helps us to better execute techniques, react more quickly to opponents and maintain our composure during sparring, competition or exams. I believe that the combination of meditation and Haedong Kumdo leads to a greater sense of discipline, focus and inner peace. It is a powerful tool for personal growth and self-improvement. Which makes it an integral part of Haedong Kumdo.
Having discussed what meditation is and why I find it to be an important aspect of Haedong Kumdo, the following topic I would like to share my thoughts on, is the way we perform meditation during Haedong Kumdo. Each class starts with a greeting ceremony, meditation is part of this ceremony, “muk nyum” (which translated into English means meditation). This helps to focus on the coming class and leave everything that is not relevant at the moment outside of the dojang. Each class ends with a similar ceremony, but here the meditation serves more to reflect on the things learned and to refocus the body after having spent a lot of energy during class. Now that we know what muk nyum is for, we will talk about how it is executed. Muk nyum is performed standing in place with the eyes closed. One focusses on their breathing and mind.
However, muk nyum is not the only way we perform meditation during training. There is also ki bon ki mu. This is a form of moving meditation. But ki mu is more than just a moving form of meditation, additionally it is a set of movements to harness inner energy. There is a basic sets of ki mu movements which gets taught to each student. As they go up in belt degree they learn more of the sets.
Next I want to discuss the relationship between body and mind. It is a complex and multifaceted connection which has been studied by humans for a long time, from different perspectives. As mentioned in the introduction of this essay, even the ancient Romans paid attention to this connection and I believe they were thinking in the right direction. This connection can be viewed from a really scientific point of view, think psychology, neuroscience or biology. These fields of study do point out that there is indeed a deep connection between the body and the mind. But this is not a scientific paper so we wont go deeper into these points of view.
As mentioned earlier in this essay, a focussed mind helps us perform our martial art better. A sharp mind helps steer the body better, which increases our performance while practising Haedong Kumdo. Our body and mind are the star couple which helps us get into the flow of our swords.
In addition, I want to touch on the subject of mind and body in our daily lives. A good health is a necessity to leading a good and happy life. A good connection between body and mind is therefore beneficial to our overall well-being. Some ways to strengthen this connection are to practice mindfulness and to exercise your body regularly. Mindfulness can be practiced through meditation, breathing exercises and focusing your thoughts on the here and now, paying attention to the present without judgement. Exercising the body can be done in a lot of ways in your daily life, my personal preference is through Kumdo (and if you are reading this there is a great change you feel the same way). However, the possibilities are endless.
In conclusion, a good connection between body and mind is a necessity for Haedong Kumdo and meditation is a good way to strengthen the mind in this connection. Meditation is already a key part of our training regimen and I am a strong advocate for keeping it that way. With this essay I hope to have clearly shared my thoughts on the subjects and I want to invite others to share their points of view on the matter. To tie off this essay I would like to say one last thing: keep your mind sharp and let it lead you to a good and healthy life.