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In Trial Battle, Relax and Practice, and Be Ready for Vomit and Other Messes

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My blog entries on trial practice boil down to relaxing and practicing, just as amazing taijiquan teacher Ben Lo reminds his students that the key foundation of excelling in taijiquan is “relax and practice”.

For relaxation, I mean active relaxation, not collapsing. Certainly, brittleness is useless, and hardness gives the opponent a great target. Even the heaviest boulder can be thrown far away with a well-placed lever.

For practice, one must know what to practice. In this blog, I often discuss martial arts practice, mindfulness practice, mental practice and intellectual practice.

Trial battle helps tell me how well my practice is going, where my practice should continue going, and what improvements should be made.

Through battle, we learn how messy the fight can get. For instance, when I studied in 1979 for my certificate to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (“CPR”), the instructor never told us that as we compress the chest during the administration of CPR, some people will have vomit come out of their mouths, the same mouths into which we are supposed to blow air when the person has stopped breathing. The CPR dolls on which we practiced did not vomit back; humans receiving CPR can vomit right back at their rescuers.

Trial battle can come with proverbial vomit, or like taijiquan master Ben Lo says: “No pain, no gain. No burn, no earn.” My client may have omitted telling me a key piece of information no matter how much I urge my clients to give me full and honest answers to my questions. Some prosecutors and their witnesses may try throwing dirt in my eyes against court rules or against honorable fighting practices. Not all judges are as neutral, fair, and law-following as they should be.

If a lawyer does not want to smell or even get hit with proverbial vomit, s/he should stay out of trial work. Appeal work is a more genteel, while intellectually intense, type of litigation practice that lets the litigants read about the vomit in the court record and write about it in court filings without smelling or touching the vomit. However, a criminal case does not get to the appeal stage before proceedings go forward in the trial court, with or without vomit.

The very act of practicing can bring messes. I can go outside early in the morning to practice taijiquan only to learn that the nastily-biting flies are in force or that a thunderstorm has just started. I can spar with taijiquan opponents where some follow our teachers’ rules of sparring, and others use grab holds that go against those rules and can unnecessarily injure, regardless of why they deviate from those rules.

In Cheng Hsin: Principles of Effortless Power, Peter Ralston makes total sense in declaring that problems between people “are really a parallel to what occurs in martial interaction and in fighting.” If this is so, how can a trial lawyer afford not to learn, study, practice and apply martial arts in court? Choose the martial art you want, but forego martial arts in court at your own peril.

Relax and practice, and deal with the vomit.