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The Mirror

In a martial arts school there is usually a mirror. In my martial arts school there are two mirrors, and they are huge. They cover the majority of one wall and from their position, a person is reflected in the mirror if they are anywhere near the workout floor. It is hard to hide from the mirrors, but to my astonishment some do. What happens when a person walks in and sees themselves in the mirror?

In a martial arts school the mirror is a way to give correction so that both the student and the teacher can see the same thing without any confusion about what they are seeing. That is one way that the mirrors are used, but still there can be a discrepancy. That may seem strange. How can it be that two people can look at the same image and not see the same thing? It is fairly easy when we realize that our perceptions color our reality.

Many times I have pointed out to a student that they need to make a correction and they will look at the same image I am seeing and say, “What do you mean?  I’m not doing that!” I don’t get angry. It just amuses me how much we (including myself) have such a hard time facing the facts about what we see. We want to justify, rationalize, and make excuses about what is plainly visible. It is as if we think that the mirror provides an unreliable version of ourselves. In truth, it often just provides an inconvenient one.

mirrorkarikatur1I am continuously surprised and intrigued by the different reactions people have to the mirror. Some can’t stop looking at themselves, getting lost in their own reflection. They will sometimes get distracted and look away from what they are doing to gaze at themselves: looking fondly at their own likeness. It sometimes looks as though they are admiring a handsome stranger. Perhaps they are.

Others can’t seem to get far enough from the image they see. They look away from the visage of themselves as if they are witnessing a terrible crime, or like it is simply too much to handle. I think that how we view ourselves in the mirror tells a great deal about us, and how we feel about the decisions we have made in our lives. Do our eyes reflect the optimism of our youth or the apathy of our years? The mirror reflects back the truth about who we are. It forces us to ask ourselves: Do we like what we see?

I think that some students don’t want to look at the mirror, because as the cliché states: In the mirror is our greatest opponent. The one looking back with our own eyes can rarely be fooled, and knows all too well where to hurt us the most and how. The reflected image is the truth in relentless pursuit, leaving us nowhere to hide.

I have felt many ways about the image of myself in the mirror, and once I made peace with it, and accepted it as truth, I was able to start to change what I didn’t like. That is not to say that I have conquered my greatest opponent. It merely means that now when we do battle, it is a fair fight.



  • Noel Plaugher

    Noel started studying martial arts after being a victim of violent crime in 1990. Noel is a third degree black belt in Kung Fu Shou Shu, and a certified teacher of Xing Yi Chuan. Noel has studied other arts including Aikido, Judo and forms of Qigong. Author of the book "Standing Qigong for Health and Martial Arts - Zhan Zhuang" published by Singing Dragon. Noel lives in Atlanta, Georgia USA where he teaches and writes.

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