I read a cool blog the other day written by Henry Akins, a top Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor, in which he discussed rolling (sparring) with an opponent on the mat and used the term “moving meditation.” In the blog, he wrote, “When you’re rolling [sparring] with an opponent on the mat who is trying to submit you with a choke or joint lock, you cannot be thinking, ‘Oh man, I had such a shitty day at work.’ You have to fully present with a calm mind.”
The blog struck a resonant chord with me because I had never heard another martial artist use the term “moving meditation” before. The first time I heard the term with regard to martial arts was back in the early 1970’s, shortly after I began training in Jeet Kune Do with my teacher, Dan Inosanto. During one of our many discussions (this one concerning sparring), Dan told me that Bruce often referred to sparring as “moving meditation.” When I asked Dan what Bruce meant by that, he explained to me that “moving meditation” related to maintaining the same state of calmness and imperturbability of mind and thought while sparring with an opponent that one could attain while meditating in a stationary position. You are fully established in the present moment and your senses are empowered with the energy of mindfulness. Your mind is not chaotic, unsettled or racing. Your thoughts are not jumbled or clouded. You’re aware of what is going on with all of your senses.
According to Dan, Bruce felt that if a person had to go up a mountain and sit by waterfall or under a tree in order to be able to meditate then they didn’t really understand meditation. However, if they could sit and meditate in the middle of Times Square in New York City or while dealing with an opponent who is attempting to knock the snot out of you and achieve the same state of imperturbability of mind, then they really had it (which is is not to say that meditating in a place free from the distractions of everyday life is a bad thing or not beneficial). Regardless of what martial art you may practice -- Jeet Kune Do, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Filipino Kali, or whatever, I believe that with dedication to training and the cultivation of the proper mental attitude, like Bruce Lee, you too can experience sparring as a form of “moving meditation.”