Like a tree our growth depends on our foundation. In the martial arts we begin by learning the basic form and slowly begin to internalise the fundamentals which builds the basis of our skill. We continue to grow by copying the form and experiencing the feeling of movement, and as we progress we discover we have to become more self-reliant as our improvement depends on self-refinement.

To turn rough, coarse abilities into fine skills, we need to commit ourselves to the process of refinement. We should make it part of our standard practice to continually refine our movement, attitude and understanding. This is the mind, body and spirit of our art.

Coarse movement lacks the control of technique, distance, position and timing. A coarse attitude is limited by ego, unawareness and its conflict with nature, and a coarse understanding is limited by a handful of tactics and pre-conditioned patterns. Refinement requires subtle awareness, precise careful training and a clear and focused mind. With practice we can fulfil our potential, and with an upright spirit we can realise that our potential is limited only by our own preconceptions.

For the rough and ready or those who have pre-conceived ideas perhaps a few coarse techniques will suffice, but this isn’t the pinnacle of martial arts skill. The further we travel along the path, the more we realise the interconnection of mind, body and spirit, and those with a coarse unrefined spirit will not develop into refined martial artists.

Are we training to live out a fantasy or do we want to get to the bottom of life and death? Training is a mirror in which we discover ourselves. We may or may not like what we see, but if we can realise that we are always facing ourselves, we have the chance to recognise our true spirit and cut through the bonds of the ego and its delusions.

We should forge and refine our self-control, mentally, physically and spiritually so that we can respond in measure to circumstance and adapt to small changes, fitting to each situation like a key to a lock.

As with any journey we can follow directions, but progress ultimately relies on us. It is our responsibility to refine our own mind, body and spirit. We should not excuse ourselves for having coarse, unrefined skills, we should not use strength to compensate for poor technique, and we should not rely on anything to improve us but the measure of our own effort!