You become what you practice, it’s the way brains work. The more you engage in a particular set of actions whether physical, or emotional the better connected the paths that lead to those actions become in your brain. They become faster, more automatic.

The effects of this are clear in the fluid movements of well trained dancers, the incredible feats of gymnasts, and of course the focussed power of martial artists.

(I could say the focussed power and strategic movement of Bagua practitioners, but while Bagua is an amazing something there is nothing exclusive about it in this regard. Bagua just uses what is available, like any other effective training method).

It is also clear in married couples who have learned to see many of their spouses behaviours as an irritation.

It is not all extremes of grace and grouchiness though. The principle applies to mediocrity too.

The result of practice over years!

This is what meditation is for. Mindful meditation is the deliberate suspension of all activity apart from curious observation.

Why curious? because curious is not about judgement, it is about noticing. Observe yourself in a state of judgement and you will probably find plenty that is ‘bad’ which usually leads to feeling bad, which makes the practice a practice of feeling bad.

Of course you will also find things that are ‘good’! That means you are likely to swing between feeling good and bad. You may start to skip or avoid the ‘bad’ because you don’t want to feel bad. When that happens there goes the noticing!

Curious just goes – ‘oh that’s happening’ and it also sometimes goes ‘what else could happen’. Curious welcomes what is, and that is a much more objective and pleasant attitude than resisting or judging.

A thought or emotion comes up ‘oh how curious’ and with the thought or emotion some desire to act on it, perhaps another thought or emotion, perhaps an action (go to the fridge, check the computer, grimace). ‘Oh how curious’ again, suspend the action, choose to relax the muscles that will carry it out.

So mindful meditation is a way to notice what you have practiced, which also leads to what else you can practice.

You can cultivate this in a sitting practice. It also works wonderfully in a moving practice. Let’s imagine you have a movement that you want to perfect.

If you want to perfect it it’s not working the way you’d like. When it does not work you can practice being upset, you can throw your hands down in disgust, curse and stamp your feet.

Or you can get curious. What just happened? How did it happen? What else could happen?

To observe your body with sensitivity it is helpful to relax. To learn a new way to move it is essential to suspend the old habit. That means being able to relax. It’s the same process as in mindful meditation.

If your movement involves a heavy weight (and that can include body weight) it may not be easy to relax and suspend old habits. Use less weight, make the movement easier or do the movement in your mind. When you visualize an action the muscles that will perform it are stimulated, you begin to build the nerve pathways to the performance that you imagine.

So when learning a new make make the conditions for learning optimal, pay attention, relax and be curious.

Too often in martial arts I see people practising in two ways that do not really serve them. Especially in partner practise they go too fast, they want a result, they are not really sure how they will get it, or if they will get it. The combination of this with the speed = panic!

Please do not make martial arts a context to practise panic!!!!

Feel, observe, be curious, slow down to the point you can stay calm and move correctly. Once you can do that getting fast is easy, getting effective is clear.

The other thing that I see is seriousness. For many martial arts are a ‘serious’ business. Uniforms, belts, titles, rituals, bowing to each other under all the weight of ages.

So martial artists often feel like they need to be very serious and concentrated in their practice. The thing is the result is often a little beyond serious. It is constipated!

Please do not make martial arts a context to practise being tight arsed and constipated!!!!

Unless of course that is one of your life goals, in which case who am I to judge. But not in my class.

So make your attitude to your physical practise include those qualities you want in your life.

It is not just the attitude during your practice that you become, it can also be the nature of the practice, if you take the practice as a metaphor.

In which case I’ll say that Aikido is the metaphor of ‘harmony’, Wing chun the metaphor of ‘directness and minimalism’, Xingyi is ‘takes what’s there right now’, Capoeira is ‘community’, MMA is ‘just get down and do it’.

So what metaphor is Bagua?

Bagua is integration of opposites and change.

I like Bagua because the nature of the practice is simple, natural, fluid, flexible and changing. As an attitude it says ‘explore opposites’ ‘play with possibilities’, if there is up there is down, if hard there is soft, if small there is big, light and heavy, curved and straight, offensive and defensive, inside and outside. The centre is the point that integrates these different extremes.

That’s why I call it physical training for the mind.Vous devenez ce que vous pratiquez, c’est la façon dont les cerveaux fonctionnent. Plus vous vous engagez dans un ensemble particulier d’actions clairement physiques ou émotionnelles, mieux les chemins qui mènent à ces actions se connectent dans votre cerveau. Elles deviennent plus rapides, plus automatiques.