Having recently read The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, I have also just completed a book where I made good use of those 5 elements:
Firstly, I truly believe that Thinking Makes a Difference to physical activities and exercise. Mankind has been endowed with reasoning skills and applying these to one’s learning path can improve it immensely.
The Five Elements of Effective Thinking are:
- Understand Deeply – starting with simple ideas, focus on what is really important
- Make Mistakes – failing to succeed highlights gaps in understanding
- Raise Questions – the right question deepens understanding and promotes connections
- Follow the Flow of Ideas – look back to see where ideas came from and to the future to see where they can go.
- The Quintessential Element – understanding and utilising change allows you to get the most out of anything
I wrote a book based on my experiences from decades of martial and moving arts training (Karate, Aiki Jujutsu, Aikido, Bagua, Tai Chi, Qigong, Systema).
What puzzled me most was not the claims that martial and moving arts were effective forms of fighting, but that they almost all claimed to have health giving properties.
I like to think about things and analyse them. When I was studying my various Martial Arts, I would often ask about the rationale behind the moves and techniques that we were taught. I rarely got any answer, other than that’s the way it’s always been done! And, when I did get answers, many of the explanations seemed barley plausible.
So I delved deeper. I wanted to understand deeply. I looked at the simplest elements, looking for patterns between and within the martial and moving arts.
Four key concepts provided my focus:
- the first of these was the concept of Anatomy Trains. Basically, units of fundamental structure in our bodies that provide models of understanding.
- the second was the guidance from one of my instructors who advised me to read about Viktor Schauberger’s discoveries around the properties of water. We are, after all, 70-80% water!
- the third concept developed from the first: the use of mental or mind models to simplify one’s understanding (something that is also integral to the book, The 5th Discipline);
- the fourth concept was something I just kept on hearing through-out my training. There is a ‘law of threes’. Sanmi-sangen states that there are three elements that “constitute the basis of all forms of existence”. Their depiction is of a square, a circle and a triangle. The elements of this law change, but their relative meanings are similar:
- solid, liquid, gas;
- past, present, future;
- beauty, virtue, truth
- destiny, life, mission
I tried various mental-models to accurately reflect the properties of Anatomy Trains and the spiralling properties of water. After numerous failures, I was able to see where the gaps were in those models and create new ones to fill those gaps. I could test any new exercise against those models to see if they fitted the model or whether the model needed to be changed.
Once I had begun my search for the underlying principles of the health parts of the martial arts, I asked deeper questions:
- what makes and keeps you healthy?
- what makes and keeps you strong?
- what are the underlying reasons for ill health?
- why don’t people exercise?
- how are these connected?
- what can people do to change their status quo?
Follow the Flow
This aspect of effective thinking provided some useful and surprising insights. Many claims are made about the legacy and deep traditions of the Martial Arts. Yet many of them, particularly the Japanese ones, are 20th Century inventions – they are all derived from older forms of Martial Arts that were often closely held family secrets. These arts were also learned from other, older Martial Arts from other countries such as China, India and even Greece.
There is an approach in the Martial Arts world suggesting that you need to get as close to the source as possible if you want to know the deeper aspects of your art. Indeed, I believe getting as close to the origins of your art is even better.
Once I had looked backwards, I also looked forwards to a modern Martial Art – one that the Soviet Military regime pieced together from all of its collective knowhow – Systema. I could now test my models out, not only with the old and the relatively recent arts, but also a modern one. They held!
The Quintessential Element
I realised that what I had uncovered could now be described by a set of models and exercises that would convey the feelings that people should get from doing the exercises.
As with any development, there are natural snapshots or way-points of progress during their evolution. I wrote my book to encapsulate that first coherent snapshot. However, I fully realise that it is only the first way-point along the path and that not only I, but many others, will take that path further into the future.
Change is not only inevitable: it is also advantageous.