Communion in Cooking and Martial Arts
Similarities in the Seemingly Disparate
As a passionate eater and martial arts instructor, I find similarities between the seemingly disparate practices of cooking and martial arts. In exploring the similar in the dissimilar, I'm able to distill my primary attraction to martial arts: communion.
While some martial art instructors seek out books on war and domination, I turn to cookbooks for inspiration on nurturing people and fostering a sense of community. It makes for different cultures.
From cookbooks, I have learned that effective teaching is less about top-down instruction and more about creating space for exploration and growth. Likewise, in martial arts, the focus should be on the practitioner rather than the instructor.
Just as there is no general cooking, there is no general martial arts. Each style has its own unique flavors and concepts, but all are united by a dedication to a few fundamental principles. Learning the fundamental principles of one style allows you to better understand and appreciate other styles. In addition, knowing the principles means you can improvise and think like the masters of your tradition.
Mastering the basics of cooking is crucial to improvising and creating new dishes, just as mastering the basics of a martial art is vital to reaching higher levels of skill and creativity.
Using your head and improvising doesn't mean breaking the rules, but rather creating unique flavor combinations within a framework of established principles. You are reciting recipes no one has taught you. The most essential rule is it has to taste good. After all, instructions are not rules but directions, and sometimes preserving flavor, or effectiveness, means making your own directions.
Once you know the basics, you're never lost because meat and vegetables, likewise bodies, all obey the same laws.
Just as with any good meal, martial arts should bring people together and create a loving, wholesome environment of respect and camaraderie that nourishes not only the body but also the soul. A good gym is like a good meal, like a good barbeque, like a good church: spiritual.
While some may turn to martial arts for domination and power, I see it as an opportunity to learn about myself and others, just as cooking allows me to express my creativity while bringing joy to those around me. They are practices that reconnect us to ourselves, each other, and to the world around us. They are communion.
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