Martial Arts and Psychotherapy

“That within which feels pain is itself pain-less; that which feels fear is fear-less; that which perceives tension is tensionless. To witness these states is to transcend them. They no longer seize you from behind because you look at them up front.” —Ken Wilber, No Boundary

Dr. Keith and Corey explore the fertile intersection between martial arts, psychotherapy, and integral living.

Martial arts, says Keith, is a form of somatic therapy — and psychotherapy can be understood as a form of martial arts. Both practices nurture similar qualities:

  • Transforming trauma into triumph,
  • Increasing physical operancy and confidence,
  • Becoming competent and attuned to others and multiple social contexts,
  • Improving breath, posture, attitude, and self-identification expressed through the body,
  • Creating a clear channel from Spirit to real action in the world.

Martial arts open the body to an organized flow of spirit through the system in specific focused thoughts and actions, while somatic therapies generally open the body so distress can flow freely and be expressed in open channels of emotion through the body (tears, voice, movement, shaking, etc.) These energetic flows help generate more embodied stories, beliefs, and schemas about self and experience with new emotional reactions to trauma memories and triggers, and integrating these two approaches helps align and attune our inner experience with the ever-present flow of self, culture, and nature.

Watch as Dr. Keith shares the deep wisdoms he has received from his own lifelong martial arts practice, and how those wisdoms directly inform his approach to his own psychotherapy practice and the various healing strategies he draws upon.

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Dr. Keith, Corey, Thank you, for doing this episode!!! If I may I’d like to share why this talk is important to me. I’ll try not to carry on too much…

As a kid of 9 I got into Tae Kwon Do. It was a very important introduction to Eastern Martial Arts. It was the first time I was introduced to meditation. It was very disciplined and all the masters were from Korea and China. Then my Mom moved again and that ended. I never forgot and always carried some of that with me. Bruce Lee had always been one of my Heroes.

In my early twenties I found myself meditating in Sedona and studying Tai Chi Chuan Yang Style and in my mid thirties I began training under Sifu James De Mille one of Bruce Lee’s first four students here in Seattle from 59 to 64. It was more like Jeet Kune Do in the sense that it incorporated some of the Classical Wing Chun yet incorporated other elements and was open to evolution/adaptation. I eventually stopped training within a couple years for a variety of reasons, being too spread out in life activities coupled with injuries. I’d also dabbled in Hungar Kung Fu under Grandmaster John S.S. Long as well as two other Sifus(situ Alson Yuen one of them) teaching the Classical approach to Wing Chun. During those years I met people that introduced me to the “energy” or “Chi” in ways that blew my mind and changed my perspective on reality!!!

Fast forward to today… I haven’t practiced(specifically trained) in any martial art for years. I’ve struggled with guilt over this. For a handful of years I keep threatening to get back into it. I’ve had opportunities and life keeps bringing it into my awareness. A few months ago I met through my job a person that is named Brian Lee. It was quaint at first cause my name is Brian Lee Downey and many people here in Seattle that knew me back in the late 90’s called me “Brian Lee” because I was studying Wing Chun and was inspired by Bruce Lee. Brian and I started talking and one thing led to another and next thing I know he’s recommending I read… The Book of Five Rings

A few weeks later he gave me a copy of it which I’m engaged in and it is sitting here on my desk next to my computer as I listen to this talk. That means a lot to me and just wanted to share it. Serendipitous? Only to me and that’s all that matters! I’m very grateful for both of you and deeply inspired by this talk! Thank You!

Brian Lee Downey