Article as it appeared in Action Martial Arts Magazine - Nov. - Dec. 2000 - Jan. 2001
THE ART OF BONSAIQUIET CROSS-TRAINING FOR ANY MARTIAL ARTIST
| Cross-training is the latest buzzword in
martial arts circle. Basically,
cross-training refers to someone doing an activity which they don’t
normally participate in to aid and
complement the activities usually done in order to keep a fresh mind and
avoid getting into a “rut.” Other
sport enthusiasts have cross-trained for a long time.
It seems that martial artists are now, more than ever before,
realizing hat cross-training will make them better at
their art of choice.
The quest to find new cross-training methods seems to be ongoing.
An unexpected, “quiet” form of supplemental training, though ancient in nature, can be new to you –
The Art of Bonsai.
photo by Jim Pavlik Photography
Pronounced Bone-sai, the art is one referring to the cultivation of plants and trees in small containers to foster growth which can actually last for one hundred years or more. Literally translated, bon means shallow tray or container, and sai means a “plant” or “planting”. Bonsai can be traced to China where it was first spelled pentsai during the Chin Dynasty (265-420A.D.) By the time of the Ch’ing Dynasty (911-1644 A.D.), the art became very popular as an artistic endeavor creating beautiful small potted landscapes, with skilled masters creating living masterpieces. The art reached Japan during the T’ang Dynasty (318-907 A.D.) Where the spelling was changed from pentsai to bonsai. The first reported works and displays outside of Japan and China were seen in London, England around 1900. Americans were first exposed to bonsai on a large scale when U.S. troops occupied Japan during the Second World War. These same troops came home from the war with an appreciation for the bonsai art, after which it flourished in America. The unique look of bonsai would make the observer think the potted tree looks exactly like a real tree in nature, as if viewed from afar.
Many martial artists have found aspects of bonsai quite similar to the views and foundations of the Budo arts. Every tree is an individual and should be respected as such, just as a practitioner of an art should know that everyone is different and deserving of respect.
photo by Jim Pavlik Photography
The pot, or the place the tree will dwell and flourish, should be chosen with care as to shape, size, depth, color and texture just as the martial artist can flourish only and grow if in the art and with the school and teacher that are best for that individual. The plant must be watered enough, but not too much. Fertilizer is used to foster growth, but too much can burn the roots and destroy the tree. This is like the martial artist, who must train hard, but just enough, otherwise, “over training” and fatigue will break down the muscle fiber and bring negative results. The human “fertilizer” or foods and nutrients must be taken into the body with care just as fats, preservatives and calories must be monitored. The tree must be repotted and the roots examined for overgrowth every couple of years just as the Budoka should reexamine his training periodically and check the “roots” of his system and keep him on the right track. Thus, the “fresh mind” or beginners attitude can be regained and reexamined in even seasoned martial artist, to be sure that progress is not hampered.
Although the technique and philosophy behind the art of bonsai is very similar to the martial arts, practicing bonsai can actually make a person a better martial artist. This art of the “little trees” is a quiet art that anyone can do. Not much space is needed and it can be done anytime, day or night. Mr. Miyagi, in the “Karate Kid” movies series, used bonsai as part of his life and training and had his students learn it as well. The biggest technique he used was “visualization”. One must envision how the “picture” of the finished tree will look and then try to make the living creation look like your mental picture. This “picture” would be of an old, possibly weathered, tree in the wild that one would use as the model for their potted version. The more a bonsai creation can look like an aged, mighty tree that you are seeing from a distance, the better your visualization talents are. Visualization practice is very important to martial artists. World champions speak of visualizing the perfect form or flawless fight before competing. To learn how to use this visualization concept not only will it make the art better, but it can permit one to practice even when sick in bed because it can feel like one is in practice by just imaging the form of practice as if you are in full motion, even though you haven’t moved at all.