Saturday, 25 November 2017

Goku's New Power- What does it teach us as martial artists?

While a lot of the people I know are on about what is happening in some show called Game of Thrones or Riverdale or the like my series that I follow without fail is this-

Dragonball Super

Since the first appearance of Dragonball in a Japanese weekly magazine we have first gotten to know the main character Goku as the fearless young boy with amazing strength, a magical fighting staff, a cloud on which to ride and of course- martial arts skills.

Dragonball Z showed us the adult Goku- married and well on his way to achieve a transformation that existed only in the legends of his native people, the Saiyans.

Dragonball GT is not going to be mentioned in this post.

Dragonball and Dragonball Z saw Goku surviving one physical ordeal after the other. Being beaten up, having to train on a planet with 10 times the Earth's gravity and many more challenges. These challenges were all overcome and as they got overcome Goku emerged with some new power level which had greatly enhanced his fighting ability.

The first was the Kaio-ken, a technique taught to him by King Kai- an overseer of a part of the universe who lived on a planet much smaller than Earth, but with 10 times its gravity. The Kaioken basically involved Goku unleashing all reserve strength into a very powerful attack. While King Kai had initially advised Goku not to exceed going beyond 3 times his normal strength with this technique we have already seen Goku going up to 20 with it. This had featured again in the latest installment of the franchise where Goku uses Kaioken on top of his highest Super Saiyan form.

After Kaio-ken the anguish of watching his friend Krillin getting killed triggered the first Super Saiyan level to come forth. A radiantly blonde Goku now held enough power to destroy a planet with a single ki blast and his speed and strength was exponentially increased.

After this level- and not counting GT's Super Saiyan 4- Goku has transcended the first Super Saiyan power level to a second and third level- the last one being very taxing on his stamina and although more powerful than the other two, much less sustainable.

The common attribute of these power levels that we find in the Z series is that these levels were triggered and seemingly enhanced by strong emotions and increased jing (power/ force) attributes such as strength, speed, resilience and explosive striking power. 

I have written about Goku's latest teacher Whis in an earlier blog post.

What I love about Dragonball Super is that it took Goku's training into a new direction. His Super Siayan God and subsequent Super Saiyan Blue form has enough power to shake the universe, but his teacher Whis is more concerned with controlling this power.

I really think that this is something that needs a lot of attention in this day and age where traditional arts like Karate get questioned and Mixed Martial Artists look to arts like boxing and wrestling to give them an advantage over fighters trained in an art like Karate.

There are a large number of people who can land destructive blows against a heavy bag, smash concrete blocks and so forth. The number of people who lands a destructive blow efficiently without telegraphing it with unnecessary preparatory movements are fewer in number, though.

I have also read a post from someone long enough ago to forget who it was who had said that traditional blocking is not effective in a real fight. Well- I can understand why someone would say that since we have since the start of this MMA culture become preoccupied with hitting hard, knocking our opponents out, going for fractures instead of tap-outs and so on. So- I'd understand if your defense is suffering and you think that it is meant to be that way.

Episode 116, that aired this last Sunday (and which got removed by some martial arts group admins on Facebook when I shared it) showed us the latest form Goku has taken- Ultra Instinct.

Gone are the loud yells and reckless charging in. We no longer see the raw aggression of the previous forms where Goku would even resort to headbutting to best his opponents or the desperate do-or-die attitude with which he had faced impossible odds.

No- this Goku seems really calm. Unsettling so. He seems completely detached as he dodges his opponent's attack with minimal effort. He shows no sign of strain or frustration as he weaves his way through energy blasts to his opponent and his defense seems absolutely flawless.

Seriously- I can understand if laypersons see this episode and just chalk it up as a super power, but if you are viewing this as a martial artist this should be reminder of what exactly you are striving to achieve.

Trash talking and WWE-like showboating has no place in the martial artist's life. The public might like adrenalin filled fights and visible aggression, but the martial artist does not concern himself with these things.

In fact- he does not care about how his technique looks or how he looks while fighting.

Bruce Lee wrote that victory is for the one who even before the combat has no thought about himself or the outcome of the fight. Zen Buddhists will also tell you that vanity (specifically meaning concern over how you appear to others) is an obstacle to perceiving actual reality and definitely an obstacle on the road to enlightenment.

That time you spend practicing your kihon (basics) and kata/ taolu was not originally intended to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your movements (although I love looking at a good form), but rather to teach you to move efficiently as you deliver powerful attacks and defend timeously.

Once you have mastered that aspect (which in most styles mean having attained black belt level)- your body has to respond in the manner which it has been taught without any conscious thought from your side and without hesitation. If you are able to do this you will have acquired the skill to which Musashi Miyamoto refers as the "No design- No conception Cut".

Wing Chun people might know about Bruce Lee's wish that he had been able to hit with his eyes. He had expressed this wish when he realised, like many Wing Chun masters probably teach, that the delay between the message of what you see going to your brain and the issue of the instruction on how to respond thereto is actually significant. Thought and emotion actually aggravate this delay.

Karate people might see the transcendance of this obstacle in Naka Sensei's oi zuki (lunge punch).

Sparring is essential in training your reflexes. Sparring with the wrong attitude, however, does more harm than good- especially if you are not the strongest person in class.

I have recommended, if not outright prescribed, meditation to many of my friends. I still do. Cultivating a calm and detached mind is essential for mastery of any martial art. Next to this is the ability to maintain this state of calm detachment in any situation- even in times of crisis.


I have now reached the end of my post for this weekend. I can't wait for tomorrow's episode. If you have not started watching yet I recommend you do so without delay. We will be at Episode 117 tomorrow, so you have a lot of catching up to do. :D

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