Are a person’s eyes the window to his soul? Yes, in some ways they are. If you look carefully, you can see a lot in another’s eyes — strength and confidence, weakness or hesitation. They can give away lies, or confirm truth. They indicate the type of brain processing too — drawing on memory or creating fiction.
In the martial arts it is no less.
You’ve seen it. Two boxers facing each other before the match, close – their stare trying to consume the other, unflinching intimidation, looking for hesitation, weakness.
Among warriors it is no different. If your eyes show weakness, fear, or intimidation you give strength to your opponent. But if your eyes are confident, unflinching, and strong, they can intimidate, sow fear, even freeze an opponent — winning the psychological battle without resort to action.
If you are a martial artist you should cultivate this look. It is a kind of self-defense. If you have it, others are less likely to challenge or attack you. Easier prey are often available. And if attacked, how you react, what your eyes exude, can often curtail a conflict after initial action. The attacker will not see a helpless victim, but someone who is not intimidated or fearful, someone whose eyes look back with icy spirit, like a tiger looking at his prey – hungry.
Part of this look, your eye power, comes naturally from experience and from confidence won from hard training, experience and knowledge of how to react and counter. But “hungry eyes” should also be practiced as part of your kata. For kata is much more than linking muscle memory to execute consecutively linked moves. Part of this extra ingredient of kata is to practice “hungry eyes,” steady, spirited and penetrating, a gaze that looks through an opponent, not at him. Your opponent should feel hunted, like a prey to be devoured.
“Hungry eye” also power and enlivens your kata performance, giving it more life. This effects your body too. When you are able to consciously project indomitable spirit you will actually feel (however slightly) your body and its alignment change too.
“Hungry eyes” also produces a change in inner dynamics, a kind of bio-feedback mechanism that builds and strengthens your inner psyche. Usually the outer self reflects the inner self, and vice versa. But when they do not match, as when you consciously ramp up and outwardly project strength and spirit, dissonance is created. Over time if this continues (as with constant practice), the inner self will seek equilibrium, and in doing so gradually take on attributes the outer self in projecting – strength, spirit and confidence.
About The Author: Christopher Caile in the founder and Editor of FightingArts.com. He has been a student of the martial arts for over 50 years and a teacher of karate since 1962. He holds a 6th degree black belt in Seido Karate, under Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura
For a related article, see So You Think You’re Confident