February 10, 2012

Spirituality on the MMA Mat? ~ Jamie Squires

Recently, I had the opportunity to see Brian “Seraiah” Wood fight in a MMA bout at the Paramount Theater. The first thing I noticed about Brian was his calm persona. I was lucky to be close enough to the ring to be able to see that his muscles were in a state of relaxation. That alone made me take pause. How was this man walking out to a gladiator style bout of testosterone and possible severe bloodshed, not tense? I would be shaking in my boots. No, that is not true. I would have peed myself before fainting. Calm would not have been in my repertoire.

I felt something special about Brian Wood the moment he took the stage.

There was quietness to Brian that I had not seen in any other fighter. I don’t mean he was not being audibly loud (though he was not ranting and raving), there was a quietness to his person. Looking back and forth between the fighters, one was rutting and smacking hands together glaring and generally looking like a bull ready to charge then there was Brian who calmly looked like he was watching paint dry. I was more surprised by Brian’s behavior in the ring and I knew I needed to find out more about his background.

As Brian entered the ring he graciously honored the crowd, the judges and his opponent. During the fight I noticed that there were moments when he allowed his opposition to catch his breath. I saw him allow the other fighter time to compose himself and get to his feet. In a sport where every weakness is an opportunity for annihilation I found this shockingly refreshing.

Brian won his fight and with the other fighter on the mat the first thing he did was drop to his knees to comfort, hug, offer gratitude and thanks and make certain the other fighter was ok. There was no strutting about and demanding everyone notice his win. Brian’s respectful nature to all around him is truly what sealed my desire to write about his demeanor, his training and his views.

Many people view MMA as a barbaric blood sport and I wanted to find out how Brian’s faith fit into this sport.  It seems such a contradiction to be non violent yet participate. With his passion Chinese Qigong, which is the foundation of Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, he was blessed to experience it in China firsthand where he felt a spiritual connection to eastern modalities. Brian combines Yoga, Qigong and meditation into a perfect system for himself and these are things that make him more than a fighter but a real teacher.

Brian Wood: I believe that the true purpose of the human being
is to experience life as a spirit within the mortal shell. I  remember that life is ever changing and we must experience the light and dark, good and bad, yin and yang, for this is the way of the Tao and the expression of God within use all. I am reminded of the words of words of Bruce Lee “To me, martial arts means honestly expressing oneself.” I remind myself regularly that the purpose of training is to cultivate oneself and to experience enlightenment through the searching of the soul.

I believe that the faith I have in my training, conditioning and mental preparedness allows me to understand that a win only comes with sacrifice and a humble heart filled with humility. The opponent is the illusion and the worst enemy has often been myself. I have hope that I will be able to continue to influence others to look within and search for something much greater than smashing someone’s face in. A true champion is humble.

Everyone must be reminded in daily life, in or out of a ring that one must find love, compassion and forgiveness for self as well as others. I  was taught it’s best not to analyze how many minutes or hours one practices but to cultivate the ability to create no separation from meditation and normal thought. My  Shaolin teacher, Shifu Yan Lei, taught me that  the simplest concept of meditation is to have ONE dominant thought override 10,000 meaningless thoughts.

I train by myself or with coaches 3-6 hours a day, 6 days a week. One thing I do  for my body is to allow myself a great deal of sleep. As a personal trainer and instructor I am blessed that my schedule is my own and I am allowed to sleep and rest my body. I believe that sleep is the missing link for most fighters instead of thinking that more training is better and many fighters become fatigued and easily injured.

Brian holds no grudge or resentment towards anyone who has defeated him and he takes the time to appreciate and honor every one of the men who have defeated him, although the numbers are few, as a valuable teacher in this life. Post fight involves “relaxing in solitude or with quality friends”, he does not gloat or feel the need to peacock about a win. His win or loss is not about anything other than his own personal dedication to a sport and philosophy he lives daily. There is a dichotomy to be a spiritual pacifist as well as a MMA fighter and for someone who is a non- violent person he fights to compete with himself rather than the opponent.

In a jaded and ego driven world of MMA fighting Brian is a bit of an enigma, not really understood and slightly on the edges of acceptance. He has hope that he will be able to show others new to the world of martial arts or those who may need a change in the way the approach fighting that there is a different way. Brian Wood is generous of spirit with everyone who comes into contact with him. He is a true bright spot in what many consider a violent sport.

You can reach Brian at BRIAN “SERAIAH” WOOD here and here
*All pictures were taken and are copyrighted by the author, Jamie Squires

Edited for elephant journal by Jennifer Cusano, elephant Love Editor

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