self defense

Verbal T'ai Chi

Thanks to Debbie Gustowski and the women from the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church’s annual Women’s retreat for inviting me to present on both T’ai Chi and The Soft Answer Verbal T’ai Chi for them this past weekend.
It was lovely and to work with such engaged, forthright, thoughtful and dynamic women—fabulous questions, ladies!
We discussed: What if I’m the bully? (Well, that’s a great awareness to start working with!) Do people get frustrated when you use these techniques? (Sometimes, but we’re always sincere and patient.) What if the person you’re dealing with really is a troubled person? (This happens; we can’t change others, but sometimes they can—and will—change themselves. Compassionate detachment!)
It was also restorative to see the beautiful PriestField Pastoral retreat center in Kearneysville, WV once again, and the lovely West Virginia countryside.

Mind Like Water

There is a saying in the martial arts that we are to cultivate a “mind like water.”

Water behaves proportionally, and seeks the path of least resistance. In part, the “mind like water” philosophy includes these ideas.

While doing some research on this concept for the upcoming Soft Answer Verbal T’ai Chi course, I came across
a short film called Mind Like Water, which shows how a self-defense practice can be of great help in a situation where you’re being accosted by a mugger.

Another expression of this philosophy can be found in
Terry Dobson’s classic article, “A Soft Answer,” which inspired the name for our upcoming course.

Here’s an excerpt from the Soft Answer Verbal T’ai Chi course lesson called “Low Drama,” which encourages cultivating a “mind like water”:

High Drama situations are hazardous—avoid getting wound up & sucked in. Low Drama means staying emotionally neutral, not adding fuel to the fire.
Low Drama also means that your responses should be proportional to the impetus. When a small pebble drops into a still pool, it does not make a huge splash. Water always behaves in measure, and it always seeks the path of least resistance. And when the pebble has fallen beneath the surface of a pool, the surface smooths out agin and returns to stillness. This is why, in martial arts, we cultivate having a “mind like water.” And, anytime we overreact or under-react to the actions of another, we give that person control over us; we no longer have a mind like water.
People will say extravagant, outrageous things in order to succeed at pulling you in to their psycho-emotional state. Stay centered and neutral. Avoid adding emotional content and stay tepid. Don’t be played. You cannot appear hurt, insulted, miffed, offended, upset or befuddled. Recognize that getting emotional in any way will give your instigator an edge. Deny them this, but do it cordially.