There is a stilling of something inside, and a harmony that comes from moving in a place you know was not made to be comfortable for you.
This is Yee Han speaking. I am a city girl. I was born, and lived my entire life in a place entirely constructed by and for human beings. Any travel out of the city took place within a highly protected tourist bubble where the human being remained always in control.
And the simple experience of moving the same training that we have been doing for years, from a concrete walled room to some rocks by the sea, shook up this training more profoundly than I could have expected.
Training by the Baltic Sea
It was partly the uneven footing, yes; the awareness that if you took the wrong step you pitched headfirst into unforgiving rock with no safety harness, no backup chances. It takes you a little closer to mortality. Martial arts training by its very nature stretches this awareness out – it’s not just about you and those rocks, it’s you and the rocks and your partner, whom you are tasked to protect. It is their mortality too. And how about your other two friends partnered off next to you?
Martial arts training is partly about learning how to incapacitate or gently hurt someone, yes. But it’s more about protection. Protecting your training partners. Protecting your friends. (Your training partner is usually your friend too.) Protecting your loved ones… protecting yourself. Such training’s primary purpose is to teach one control – control over your partner or opponent, possible only when you have control over yourself.
Control, then, is what we are training – so please imagine how much deeper such training goes when one is in an environment that one has so little control over. By the sea, you don’t decide how smooth the ground is; you don’t decide what the waves do; and you don’t decide how strong the wind can be.
The wind was another huge factor, something one can’t perceive with the photos (especially not with Ingo’s hair, HAHA sorry I love you). It felt wild and elemental; it roared past our ears, interefered with our hearing, blew our balance about; and it was just a rather mild wind. We struggled to hear each other, to make sense of where we were with the rocks below our feet, the roar of the wind, the sound of the titanic battle between land and sea right next to us, and still keep up the training, keep ourselves safe, keep our partners safe, and learn. For that short while, we lived intensely.
At one point we took a quick break from the training to get an even deeper immersion into nature. One of the challenges we had already decided on before going for the training was to attempt to jump into the water. It was about 18 degrees Celsius of relatively peaceful Baltic sea. And we would be jumping into it from off of a rock some 4 metres high.
Perhaps you snort in derision, perhaps it sounds easy to you – but the prospect was TERRIFYING for me. I’d only ever swum in chlorinated pools, in a tropical climate of around 30 degrees Celsius average. The few dips I had had in tropical seas around Southeast Asia always happened at depths where I could still stand on the seafloor and have my head above the water. City Girl thought she would probably not be able to do it in the end.
But we did it!!!
The sea is a significant place to be in; specifically, where water meets land. Guro Mike Waite, another guest at the camp who hailed from Australia, told us that no matter where he went, he would make it a point to try to get in some ocean water, even if it was just to dip his toes.
Treading water amidst the wild and stormy waves (well, they were so to me; it was actually quite calm), the power of that energy was certainly indisputable. It lured me to a surprising degree; I even refused to leave the cold tempestuous water until my muscles threatened mutiny (as it was, City Girl was the last person out of the sea). There is a very definite influence over places where land and water meet. Some say that it heals. Some say it cleanses. Others, that it revitalizes. Perhaps all are true. Perhaps there is more, even.
Is it not strange to think that while billions of humans live apart from nature in environments of their own making, just the lightest feather-touch contact with nature again conveys such power to us? Generations upon generations growing away from the dirt, and some few moments with nature’s voice strum such deep vibrations within us. Disorienting us at first, with the power we are not accustomed to; then a stillness which comes of a harmonious vibration.
We are, once more, so grateful to Kali de Mano, Guro Claes Johansson and all our friends there for the experience. Living life has no equivalent currency of exchange. Thank you for this opportunity – to dance in uncertainty, to learn control and weight and balance amidst a largeness that cared not for you. To learn to be centered and oneself in the far formidable and greater power of nature, and yet also to be part of it.
I am a city bumpkin and a human child, creeping out from The Machine onto the surface, reaching out with tentative fingertips into our natural world with awe and wonder.
Nature is where we are meant to be.