In the Western world, the practice of alchemy has a long history as predecessor to modern chemistry (it’s where we get the name), school shrouded in mystery, and practice persecuted as pseudoscience or blasphemy by the powers that be. Outwardly, alchemists main goal was to produce the philosopher’s stone, a substance rumored to be able to transmute lead to gold and to bestow eternal life. Inwardly, alchemy blended spirituality and science perfectly as alchemists sought knowledge of the workings of the material, mental, and spiritual worlds.
I refer to the philosophy of our system as martial alchemy because outwardly, we seek to transform gross body movements into efficient martial gold. Inwardly, we use the physical practice of martial arts as a bridge to spiritual and mental perfection.
From time to time, people get hinky when we mention the word “spiritual” because they frequently equate spirituality with religion. that’s fine but, as a rule, we stay clear of religion – everyone is entitled to their own and we do not ever preach religion. We might borrow examples from religious doctrines as a teaching tool, but our students are expected to come to their own truths about these things.
Training the spirit in martial arts, to us, means becoming acquainted with and integrating the invisible parts of ourselves while becoming intimately more aware of our place in the universe. Spirit training, to us, builds a form of mental and emotional resilience or toughness where we can roll with the punches the universe sends us and take greater control of our own destiny. It involves accepting and working with the hidden parts of ourselves (often called the shadow). Spirit training also involves training the will or “fighting spirit”
Our training is integrated, so that training the body trains the mind and the spirit. I am reminded of my early training, sometimes doing the same set of footwork for hours on end. This accomplished several things. First, it imprinted the symbols of the foot movements into my unconscious brain, they became a part of me as new, more efficient neural pathways were developed. Second it required me to work through the enemies of boredom and fatigue. Every time the mind said quit, I would smile and tell myself I was loving the work.
This type of training builds mental toughness, something which is perfectly handy for for a professional warrior or someone who sits in a cubicle all day. Done correctly, the training will also make you smarter by creating newer and stronger neural-connections in the brain.
The philosopher’s stone in martial alchemy is the training.