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II The Martial Artist as a Healer
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The Martial Artist as a Healer

By Perry Gil S. Mallari

Most Oriental martial arts are presented as a double-edged sword, one side represents aggression and destruction, while the other side represents healing and compassion. Based on this premise a true martial artist can kill or heal. Whether we admit or not, there will come a point where the violent side of the martial arts will creep into our system. This is the phase where we are just obsessed on taking the other guys head off. When we find ourselves in this situation, it is very much likely that we are dwelling too much on the combative aspects of our arts. The solution then to this imbalance is to develop our capabilities as healers. Knowing how to heal will complete our education as martial artists. To the best of my knowledge, I dont know of a single martial arts master who does not know how to heal.

I was raised by a healer, Sgt. Penitente Apolinar or Tiyong (uncle) Enteng, was a burly Visayan skilled in the art of Hilot (Filipino art of bone setting and therapeautic massage). He is also a proud Bataan defender and survivor of the infamous Death March. Tiyong Enteng was different from most of his contemporaries in a way that he never claimed to have had any contact with any supernatural being or divine source for his healing power. When I asked him how he was able to cure sprains and pulled ligaments, he simply replied that he just willed it to happen. He was also an ardent advocate of the placebo effect. I find his explanation too simplistic at that time and many years had passed before I comprehend the validity of his claim.

Through intensive research and personal experimentation, I finally realized that anybody could become a healer so long as he or she is willing to be one. A sincere and gentle touch can do wonders. On the most basic level, it can abate the fear and anxiety of the patient, physiologically, a simple massage can slow down the release of the stress hormone cortisol and increase our body's production of another hormone, serotonin, which can improve mood and boost immunity.

As far as Im concerned, you dont have to wait until you have mastered a sophisticated or esoteric healing technique before you start aleviating other peoples afflictions. Some people scoff at the idea but prayer is a powerful healing tool. Pray for those who are sick whether you knew them or not. I dont want to look at prayer from a mechanical point of view, but science is beginning to realize its potency. It is now known by neuropysiologists that art, prayer and healing all emanate from the same source in the body, they are associated with identical brainwave patterns, mind-body changes and are connected in feeling and meaning.

My interest in healing also remodels my repertoire both as a martial artist and a visual artist. From a purely combative orientation, I began to graft my martial arts with elements of bodypsychotherapy, a discipline that believes that the body is the key to hidden psychological issues. My paintings had also undergone a drastic change. From mere aesthetic expressions, I now incorporate concepts of color therapy in my artworks so that they can radiate therapeautic effect on the viewers. I was guided by a single principle and that is all product of my creativity must have a utilitarian purpose of healing.

Whatever healing method you may want to use, it is absolutely important that all its principles must be in accordance with your belief system. There must not be any inner resistance whatsoever on the part of the healer and the patient, otherwise healing would not take place. In my case, I choose methodologies that are scientifically quantifiable. It is a neutral ground and does not violate my faith. I felt I could reach a lot more people this way.

I know the pleasure of seeing my opponent stagger after whacking him in the head with a stick, on the other side of the plane, I also experienced the bliss of easing the suffering of a fellow human being through my healing skills. Between the two, I will definitely embrace the latter; its influence is lasting and its significance eternal.

*Originally published in Rapid Journal Vol. 5 no. 3

Penitente Apolinar
My uncle Penitente Apolinar as a USAFFE (United States Army Forces - Far East) sargeant during WW II

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