On the mat, they say
Use your earth energy
Flow like water
Light as air
Bright, bright fiery motion.

Every beginner hears it.
Minds fill with images,
Bodies practice rote strength,
Spirits amuse themselves
While the minds and bodies
Go their separate ways
Trying to integrate.

The path from beginner to master
Is earthy. Grit in the teeth, in the eyes.
Pressed against the ground,
Staying down an extra second for the rest,
Gasping. Walking the woods alone, carrying
Weapons, blistered, unseen, sweating.
Scrabbling up a slope on all fours,
Bowing in to a distant mountain top,
Listening to her silence and steadiness
Transform an asinine thought into

Immersed in the ocean,
Survival demands the
End of ideas about water.
The work of
Exorcises thoughts.
The body is flotsam in the flow.
Only alignment is life.
To think is to thrash and tire,
To tumble then crash,
Breathless on the bloody sand.

On the mat, those little puffs of air thought are
Toddlers blowing on birthday cakes.
Standing in sirocco,
Lifting off my feet
Watching bits of the roof fly away
Finding I can’t lift my own arm,
Much less that weapon, until I
Surrender to air,
Move within motion,
Slice with the gusts

Don’t get me started on fire.
That little blowtorch in your head is
Barely a spark.
Sunshine is fire.
Sunshine is life:
Free for all, no
Judgement or evaluation.
When that fire suffuses my body
My smile can stop a bus.

Body, mind, and soul together
Conduct these energies.
A master on the mat
Feels the mountain under her feet
Borrows slow inexorable motion as she
Slides between the waves of attacking motion
Turns a tornado behind him, into which he and his attack
Vanish while they
Laugh together
Happily polishing their spirits.

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