Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tiger and Dragon

For over a year, I've been studying Danzan Ryu Jujitsu. Founded in the 1920's by Professor Henry Seishiro Okazaki, DZR blends the traditional jujitsu of the Yoshin Ryu with elements drawn from other martial arts. It is devastating, emphasizing throws, joint locks, and constrictions; but it is also a conscientious art that teaches control, restraint, and healing.

In September I began American Kenpo, another blended art. Kenpo was founded by Ed Parker, who drew on the teachings of William K.S. Chow and the Kosho-Ryu of James Mitose. Kenpo uses strikes to create openings that can be exploited. While it appears brutal, and looks like a mauling, every technique I've learned begins with the practitioner being attacked, and ends when they escape.

The Tiger and the Dragon are traditionally associated with the martial arts. The Tiger symbolizes physical strength and skill, while the Dragon represents mental and spiritual strength. The Tiger is aggressive and direct; the Dragon reserved and subtle. Jeremy, my jujitsu instructor, believes that the Tiger reacts, but the Dragon responds.

The difference is control. The Dragon possesses clarity, which allows understanding. The Tiger is pure instinct, all claws and fang, with no room for restraint. And while it may seem that claws and fangs are the ideal in the martial arts, Ed Parker once said: "Mastery of the Art comes when the Tiger is seen but the Dragon prevails."

That statement could just as easily apply to mastering your self. The Dragon prevails when you are able to control your instincts and rule with reason. Marcus Aurelius wrote: "You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."

In the West, we see the Dragon as a monster, a scaled devil that hordes gold and belches fire and brimstone. Among the martial arts that imitate the movements of animals, the Dragon is the sum of all creatures. It is a shapeshifter that moves with the suppleness of the Snake and strikes with the precision of the Crane. It possesses the cunning of the Leopard and the strength of the Tiger. The Dragon adapts, and that makes it formidable.

The internal strength of the Dragon is what defines it, what sets it apart from other animals. We begin as Tigers, but we should strive to be Dragons.