Standing on the head really means learning to stand on your own feet.
~ Swami Rama
Elly and I have recently started practising Wing Chun Kung Fu. Some people around me have been very surprised about this, asking me why a person who intends to be non-violent is interested in learning how to fight. I thought it was very interesting that so many people see a contradiction where I see a complement.
Swami Rama said that learning to stand on the head means learning to stand on the feet, and I have had to contemplate this statement for a while before it started to make sense to me. When we learn to stand on the head, we learn how to be in balance when the world is upside down. This gives us the confidence that we can remain balanced in virtually all circumstances. This confidence helps us to be relaxed and elegant when standing and walking on our feet.
This concept can similarly be applied to the martial arts. Learning to fight means learning to be non-violent. When we know how to defend ourselves, we automatically become less afraid. A fearless person can remain non-violent, because violence is a product of fear.
Another point related to this is that yoga does not prescribe any type of rigidity, not even rigidity about fighting. Yoga asks us to act according to what the situation requires with an attitude of non-attachment. For those who know (of) the Bhagavad Gita: Krishna instructs Arjuna to fight, because the war cannot be prevented and the situation demands fighting.
Even though the act of fighting and the act of violence, whether physical, verbal or otherwise, can seem to be the same from the outside, it is the intent that differs between these two. Fighting can be a training or a necessity, but violence is always due to ignorance. Marshall Rosenberg would say that violence is a tragic expression of an unmet need.
Through the practices of meditation and contemplation we gain clarity of mind. One of the symptoms of this clarity is that we start seeing complements where we previously saw contradictions.