Rolling with the Punches

by Master Rachael Evans

I was introduced to the power of resiliency early in my childhood. Growing up in an abusive household, constantly living in a state of unease and apprehension, I learned to cultivate presence of mind and mental agility under duress to keep myself safe. A mentally unstable father could appear anywhere, at any time, and if I was to survive I was expected to land squarely on my feet. In his mind he was trying to make me strong – and it worked, just not in the way he intended.

Dad, 1952

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place edict, I have been rolling with the punches. I’m doing everything I can to minimize the impact to the Quantum community, providing assistance to those in need, evolving curriculum to codify instruction from a distance while confined within a small space, and most importantly finding ways to ground myself and my Dojo.

The way I respond to stress is the same way that I respond to a punch or kick – in the moment. The pursuit of Martial Arts develops an understanding of the fluidity of presence, the self-actualizing power of being malleable in the face of adversity. My art requires that I invest the smallest input to generate the largest output while maximizing the number of choices available, now or at any given time in the future. What I’m saying is that to me, this is normal, my life has not changed much since the outbreak upended daily life in the Bay Area. Although many particulars have changed, I am still doing the same thing I do every day, which is to follow the flow of my experience. The pursuit of martial philosophy requires that we become truth tellers; what we seek is not the sophistry created by an unyielding ego, but rather the truth of an effective block or the hard, real sound of a board cracking. Conversely, we have just as much to learn from the hard, real truth of an ineffective block, the disappointing thud of a board not cracking. The success of these moments requires the ability to shift at any time, literally to be ready for anything.

But from your palette of “anything,” you end up with only one thing, the choice made in the moment. All you have to do is follow through, and you find out what that one thing is. What is important here is that you are ready for anything, and that readiness brings you to the truth of your choice. In the present, all choices exist, but in the future, you have arrived at the outcome of the one choice you made. This is a principle of Quantum Mechanics that influenced me on my journey to develop Quantum Martial Arts. Being present means to embrace the concept that anything can happen, and to accept the truth of what emerges. In martial arts, that would be analogous to stepping out of the way of an oncoming attack – flanking would be the choice that sets up the response of your attacker, which would then present to you a new palette of choices. Each choice along the way becomes a step on the path of an effective response. The smoothness of your interface with the path is a reflection of your training.

Being present means existing in the place where all possibilities exist alongside one another. This understanding can create anxiety and fear, but it also leads to the power of agency. Uncertainty exists in both mindsets, but within each paradigm, uncertainty changes its context. When surrounded by fear or anxiety, uncertainty can create suffering and despair; when experienced through the power of presence, uncertainty is an integral truth-telling component. In both scenarios, uncertainty is one of the building blocks; they are simply used differently. Some may argue that by alleviating fear and uncertainty, one can attain a stable connection; I find this to be a fiction. Uncertainty exists, whether you try to cover it up or choose to accept it. The key is to harness your relationship to uncertainty as a transformative tool for self-growth.

Uncertainty reveals choices. In martial arts, the deeper your training, the more choices you have available to you. As you progress, you learn new tools, new ways to move. These tools become a network of choices in and of themselves. Choices increase exponentially as you learn new ways to combine ideas together, further recognizing that the uncertain outcome of each individual movement frees you to use it in innovative and creative ways. You see that a block can become a punch, or that losing your balance is an opportunity to recycle the energy and reinvest it elsewhere to fuel your next  response. Eventually you arrive at a state of harmony within constant uncertainty where you are just as surprised as anyone else at the way everything turned out. I constantly find myself laughing from my soul when free-sparring.

Living in acceptance of this flow will keep you safe; much like being in a roaring river, tumbling down to the sea. If you can let go of fear and find your way to the point of least resistance, you will simply be carried downstream relatively safely. Following this flow in martial arts leads many to question whether they are being asked to give up agency, that free will no longer has a place. Quite the opposite, going with the flow presents to us the most effective choice, allowing us to see what is; not the choices we make from our ego, not the choices to satisfy petty wants, but the choices that actually are true for us and feed our souls. Uncertainty, fluidity, and presence are required for this to function, simply another way of saying that the truth will set us free.

Roaring RIver

Opportunity and resiliency are created through learning to stay present and grounded. All our training has brought us to this moment to be tested. I’m realizing that I’ve been training for this task my whole life, indeed I am still training for this moment. I’m actually busier now than I was before, and all because I have been called to action. I feel energized and confident that I can herald myself and my community through this time of peril.

That is why it feels normal to me. Not only have I been training for this moment, but so have you. Opportunity arises from chaos, it is a chance to see how well we can roll with the punches.

San Francisco, CA
April 1, 2020

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