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Broken Tusk - How to Break the Body to Make a Higher Body


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I wanted to post my guest post here: Broken Tusk: Breaking the Body and the Art of Fighting because I think this is a really deep topic and possibly there is a lot to be talked about here. The idea is that the fighting arts compose a kind of graphic system that can be used to express an inherent beauty in violence, and that the pursuit of fighting arts, in that they are arts, and in that they verge towards a real violence, can be used to restore bodies and spirits that have been broken. In fact, through fighting the body can be built as a "higher" body, and higher house, a higher vehicle, by analogy.

An excerpt:

...Sylvie’s “house of the spirit” doesn’t really exist any longer, not in any sense that we often assume someone to have one. Her house of the spirit, her body, was broken that day of multiple violations. Her spirit has no dependable house, no real protective shell. Since she was 11 she has been living in the ruins of her body-house, and as the human spirit is both beautiful and adaptable she has learned to live in those ruins. She can hide in them, in the broken pieces, use the shadows, the crevices, the places people don’t think to look. She learned since that young age to be in the ruins, of a kind.

What Sylvie is doing in Thailand – for all those who don’t get (or worse, approve of) what she is doing – is building a higher house, or one can just as easily say, a higher body to replace the broken house/body she has had for all these years. This is why she strains and breaks herself over and over and over, reaching up to the promise of calm in the onslaught of violence. And like Genesha she cannot stop until the epic is written. This is why the Art of Muay Thai is a salvation and even a duty, the calm she sees in the bodies and faces of so many Thais that have fought since a young age – the poise, the balance, the grace, the ease – it calls her.  This attempt is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

I'd love to hear the experiences and thoughts of others. So many focus on the violence of the real fighting arts and imagine a motive of something between aggression and rage. But to me the fighting arts, when pursued, are something so different. They compose a base language, and a writing system that uses the broken edges of the body as its instrument.

In the article I draw the analogy of the myth of Ganesha, and his broken tusk:

Genesha-Broken-Tusk.png

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Hi Kevin

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Ganesha is an interesting character.

I have a question, for you or Sylvie - do you think martial arts or fighting is unique in its capacity to build a higher body?

The reason I ask this is because if it isn't, if there any other less damaging ways to do so, why wouldn't Sylvie do that? Sylvie do you need to break yourself over and over again? And when is it enough? When will you know when your higher house is complete? What if it never feels complete? Do you keep breaking yourself over and over again until you're destroyed?

These are some of the questions I had when reading the article.

Thanks

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Hi Kevin

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Ganesha is an interesting character.

I have a question, for you or Sylvie - do you think martial arts or fighting is unique in its capacity to build a higher body?

The reason I ask this is because if it isn't, if there any other less damaging ways to do so, why wouldn't Sylvie do that? Sylvie do you need to break yourself over and over again? And when is it enough? When will you know when your higher house is complete? What if it never feels complete? Do you keep breaking yourself over and over again until you're destroyed?

These are some of the questions I had when reading the article.

 

These are really good questions Gavin. Maybe Sylvie can hop in and answer from her own perspective, but from what I see, yes, generally you can build a higher body any number of ways...but, in instances of where your body was broken through violence the fighting arts (and fighting) seems to have a very privileged place. The reason for this is - at least how I intuit it - that the arena of the art, and not just the ring, but the very "stuff" of the art, is composed of the "stuff" that wounded you. If you nearly drowned, learning to breath underwater might have a special place for you. That is what the fighting arts are for some. They teach freedom of movement under the pressures and states that are likely deeply associated with what broke you. Of course each person is on a different path, but generally I feel that this is what is at play. It takes the stuff of wounding and weaves a new cloth.

As to "when" the higher body is completed, I'm not sure at all. But when I ran these ideas past Sylvie she responded strongly to the fact that Ganesha could not stop until all the verses were written. There is a driving duty almost to see the task through. One assumes that when the verses are written one knows. Whether this is an act of destruction or not, I think the fighter can feel that. Sylvie is, from my view, after 111 fights in Thailand, much less destroyed, much more free than before. Things break, but the arc is upward. The art, and the fighting is elevating. You can feel the liberty and growth as it is happening, even as you become more critical of what you want to accomplish.

But I am sure that there are ballet dancers who have composed a higher body for themselves, and writers, and poets, and skateboarders. musicians, photographers, mountaineers. In a certain sense I think for some fighters fighting has chosen them, it is not something they would ever have chosen fighting. Sylvie never wanted to fight. Then once fighting, even though she loved it she never imagined to fight a great deal. But then the fire took hold, a fire of transformation I think. It is very hard to judge the burning of the fire from the outside, other than to say that something is definitely burning there, and it is making such a beautiful light.

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These are really good questions Gavin. Maybe Sylvie can hop in and answer from her own perspective, but from what I see, yes, generally you can build a higher body any number of ways...but, in instances of where your body was broken through violence the fighting arts (and fighting) seems to have a very privileged place. The reason for this is - at least how I intuit it - that the arena of the art, and not just the ring, but the very "stuff" of the art, is composed of the "stuff" that wounded you. If you nearly drowned, learning to breath underwater might have a special place for you. That is what the fighting arts are for some. They teach freedom of movement under the pressures and states that are likely deeply associated with what broke you. Of course each person is on a different path, but generally I feel that this is what is at play. It takes the stuff of wounding and weaves a new cloth.

As to "when" the higher body is completed, I'm not sure at all. But when I ran these ideas past Sylvie she responded strongly to the fact that Ganesha could not stop until all the verses were written. There is a driving duty almost to see the task through. One assumes that when the verses are written one knows. Whether this is an act of destruction or not, I think the fighter can feel that. Sylvie is, from my view, after 111 fights in Thailand, much less destroyed, much more free than before. Things break, but the arc is upward. The art, and the fighting is elevating. You can feel the liberty and growth as it is happening, even as you become more critical of what you want to accomplish.

But I am sure that there are ballet dancers who have composed a higher body for themselves, and writers, and poets, and skateboarders. musicians, photographers, mountaineers. In a certain sense I think for some fighters fighting has chosen them, it is not something they would ever have chosen fighting. Sylvie never wanted to fight. Then once fighting, even though she loved it she never imagined to fight a great deal. But then the fire took hold, a fire of transformation I think. It is very hard to judge the burning of the fire from the outside, other than to say that something is definitely burning there, and it is making such a beautiful light.

 

Thanks for explaining - makes sense.

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Well that was a beautiful post, Kevin.  You two are a beautiful pair.  I would add this example of trauma recovery (less poetic but just my experience), that EMDR which is used by the U.S. Army for PTSD in vets for example, uses rapid eye movement manipulation to relocate traumatic memories.  In other words, horrors, like rape and war, are stored in too readily available form by the brain, instead of going back in time as they should.  In dreams (the REM stage), we store our memories every day (you see peoples' eyes moving when they are deeply asleep - this is the process).  During EMDR therapy a combination of talk and moving the eyes (with a pendulum or just a finger), permits the separation of the horror from immediate memory stores (thus no traumatic response in daily life any more).  My limited experience of sparring tells me that it is the most highly sensory, visual experience possible and so much depends upon making things happen outside peripheral vision, for example.  Perhaps this incredibly consistent, vigorous use of her sensory apparatus has disseminated and diffused the horrible memories of Sylvie's rape.  I frigging hope so.  EMDR has worked for me in profound ways.  Good luck with her family and much wonder and love to you both in your radical, exemplary marriage.  http://www.emdr.com/general-information/what-is-emdr.html

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Thanks Dana. What I'm interested in is body mapping, the Efference Copy. I sense that when trauma happens to us, especially violent invasive events, our body maps become redrawn. This involves our virtual selves, the copies we use to project ourselves into space and predict how we will interact with other/s (objects, events, spaces), which influences our sense of agency. I suspect that we have different body maps for different thresholds of arousal/intensity, and that fighting and training to fight forces a kind of regrowth of body maps that have been broken or amputated in some ways. As fighters with impaired body maps attempt to train actions under extreme duress, and they enter into those thresholds, it is as if certain limbs or pathways of action are being grown again - under the auspices of the art. But this is very slow work.

One of the most frustrating aspects of becoming a fighter, for some people, is: "Why can't I do x or y, when under pressure?!" The harder they push to do it, the more impossible it becomes. I believe, that at least for some people, they simply do not have the body map to complete those actions, under those intense affects. It's like asking someone to take a step with a 3rd foot, a limb they don't have. It is literally off the grid.

I could see how memories, conscious or otherwise, play a role in these maps because they return us to primordial states, but here the idea is more about two-fold thinking. Train bringing yourself back down into affective states where you have a more complete body map. Two, through the art itself and stress inoculations grow your impaired body map at higher states. Literally grow your virtual limbs under pressure.

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