Some people believe that timing is everything. Others say alignment is everything. These principles are related, but which is superior? Which comes first? See why proper body alignment is the key to perfect timing.
Let’s see at the hierarchy of these principles. We’ll look at two examples to find the answer. We’ll use the subjects of Martial Arts and Spiritual Exploration.
Alignment of Body, Mind Soul
We are composite beings of mind, body, and soul. We are consciousness vibrating at a unique frequency. When all three parts are in balance, we can think and perform at our highest level of proficiency.
Yet, we rarely consider the skill set necessary to maintain optimal performance. We don’t even know when we are out of balance until we suffer some injury or illness. We may sense something is wrong; we don’t realize the cause might be a misalignment of mind, body, and soul.
Proper Body Alignment is Everything
Guru Tua Means “great teacher.” It’s what we call our Dutch-Indonesian teacher. He came to the USA after World War ll. He is a painter, philosopher, healer, and teacher of several Chinese and Indonesian martial arts.
Martial artists spend a lot of time training their bodies and their minds. The body is easier to train than the mind. Here’s the problem. If you ingrain ineffective methods, they become difficult to change habits.
Proper body alignment is everything in combat. It requires total harmony of mind, body, and soul. Ignore one element, and things are no longer in balance.
On the positive side, most commercialized martial arts training is largely ineffective. After all, you don’t want many people learning to be efficient and effective warriors.
You can spot a commercial system quickly; it has rules of engagement. To be sure, practicing kicking and punching makes you better at these physical movements.
Boxers train to be proficient at the sport of boxing. People who practice karate train with the parameters of this sport. But we need to remember that these are “sports.” All contacts sports with specific rules. Even mixed martial arts has rules. It prohibits striking the eyes, throat, ears, knees, elbows, and groin.
Once you train with these rules of engagement, you ingrain your mind and muscle memory habits to follow the rules. I learned the hard way that these are not effective outside the dojo. Instead, these commercial offerings are martial-art-like exercise movements.
Authentic martial arts have no rules of engagement. They focus on “staying present” and assessing the ever-changing situation. That way, their actions are precise and efficient.
It’s like watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their near acrobatic dance routine in the 1936 movie, “Swing Time” (1). Studying their musical dance sequences is worth the time if you are a martial artist. Much of the choreography is ad-lib, the response of one dancer to the other’s move, which is a good description of combat. It’s one of the lessons of Guru Tua.
What’s The Key to Perfect Timing?
To time something perfectly is to “do the right thing in the right way at the right time.” It’s as simple and challenging as that.
Authentic martial arts go beyond any single style or form. Some cultures studied how to use the mind and body efficiently and effectively for individual combat. They understood that a warrior might face several opponents at the same time. Some are larger, faster, or stronger. Some opponents have weapons and some armor. You needed to train the mind and body to be fluid and adaptable to the rapidly changing combat theater.
People think the key to perfect timing is moving quickly because they only see the result. The element needed to move “on time” in alignment.
So, training the mind and body to move within a style or form creates boundaries and obstacles to your ability to be fluid and highly adaptable. For that reason, moving at the right time, to the right place, and in the right way are the keys to success. It requires an understanding of how the mind and body align. It enables one to enter the conflict as a dancer able to move fluidly and defeat an opponent.
“Speed is bull___. Proper body alignment is everything.” ― Guru Tua
Guru Tua is fond of saying aligning the mind and body is more important than speed or strength in martial arts. Timing depends upon the proper alignment of all three elements, mind, body, and soul. These three enable one to dance with your opponent in combat.
So, the mind is the fundamental martial arts tool, not the body. The brain is the supercomputer enabling one to assess people and the ever-changing environment. One of these essential keys is learning to control the nervous system.
Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems
Our natural reaction to a threatening situation is to engage the Sympathetic Nervous (SN) system. The neurological function handles the “fight, flight, or freeze” response. The SN is the emergency system that gets us ready for danger.
SN increases blood flow to muscles while closing blood to the skin and digestive organs. It also sends adrenalin and other enzymes to increase strength and shut down pain receptors. These chemicals are harmful to the higher thinking centers of the frontal cortex. So, the brain shuts off the brain’s higher thinking centers. And that is what creates a dilemma.
The SN enables quick and powerful movement but cannot react to an ever-changing situation like combat. You react, but the reaction is controlled by the primitive mind centers of the mind susceptible to fear and anger.
In a combat situation, you need the mind’s higher-level thinking and computing functions online to move with proper timing. It’s why the secret to martial arts is learning to override our primitive instincts. We are more apt to error when acting out of powerful emotions like anger or fear.
So, in a combat situation, you want the “thinking” center of the mind to be in control. The parasympathetic nervous system controls high-level thinking processes. It may seem counterintuitive. However, the parasympathetic nervous system enables proper alignment and timing.
We must engage our higher thinking centers to assess the ever-changing combat situation. It requires a Nano-second assessment and adjustments. So, a warrior trains to activate the parasympathetic system. They learn how to counterbalance automatic actions of the sympathetic nervous system. We can move on time; we need to engage the parasympathetic nervous system.
Here is the key. The parasympathetic system has control over the oculomotor of the eyes. The eyes are the key. If you learn to control the scope of your vision, you can lock in the parasympathetic. So the key to perfect timing is not in training to be faster but in learning to control the nervous system.
Silat Vetting and Training Methods
The essential training methods of this art are given to those who pass the vetting process. The vetting process takes some time because it’s not the learning of athletic ability that is the most important. Integrity and loyalty are the primary factors in whether or not someone is allowed to study the more effective aspects of the art. Only those who will not misuse the art are brought into the inner circle. It’s one strategy that has helped to keep the art from being diluted. It helps ensure the integrity of the art to some extent—but.
The field of martial arts draws those with secondary gain issues. And people change over time. People decide to make a name for themselves by “borrowing” and claiming it as their own invention. It happens all too often.
We’ve mentioned one of the vetting and method and assessment methods above. You watch a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie and then mimic their dance moves. It challenges your ability to learn complex movements, which is essential. It also allows the teacher to see how someone works with others.
If you don’t participate because you think it’s stupid or a waste of time, that’s the end of your Silat training. You aren’t invited back. If you show overt frustration or anger, that’s the reason you are not invited for more instruction. If you don’t like 1950s music, chances are you won’t like gamelan music either. We train to gamelan music so that you won’t be coming back.
Alignment of Mind, Body, and Soul in Spiritual Practice
The “alignment of body, mind, soul” is also critical in spiritual exploration. There are fundamental alignments that facilitate proper movement. You may have some unique underlying skeletal or muscle issues, but the primary alignments for activity are the same.
When mind and body align, we are more in touch with our spiritual essence, our soul. So, we encourage learning as many consciousness development tools as possible. Alignment is everything in spiritual practice.
Almost every spiritual technology helps to align and harmonize these elements. There are both direct and indirect methods. Direct methods are healing technologies like Reiki, Pejut, and Shiatsu. Forest Bathing and Tree Ground exercises are more indirect but are still powerful because they use nature to assist.
Timing is a significant factor in how and when we find opportunities and meet people. It’s the proper alignment that creates the synchronicity to bring people together. When we align our mind, body, and spirit, we experience life differently. We recognize synchronicities; we hear the voice of our intuition. Remind yourself that the key to perfect timing is in aligning correctly.
(1) Fred Astaire, Wikipedia