BONE GAMES: One Man’s Search for the Ultimate Athletic High by Bob Schultheis (Breakaway Books, 1996)
This book is an old favourite of mine. When I came across it on sale a few years ago in the Daedalus catalogue, I bought a bunch of copies to give to friends. And while this book is not about martial arts per se, I can’t help feeling that what Mr. Schultheis has to say is important to all martial artists and those involved with peak athletic performance. While mainly focussed on high-risk sports and survival situations, I think most readers will be fascinated by his obsessive search for the consummate mind-set in which the seemingly impossible is accomplished with ease.
Schultheis is a runner and a climber, and when climbing in the Colorado Rockies, he had a bad fall which triggered a kind of peak experience. As he describes it: “Something happened on that descent, something I have tried to figure out ever since, so inexplicable and powerful it was. I found myself very simply doing impossible things: dozens, scores of them, as I climbed down Neva’s lethal slopes. Shattered, in shock, I climbed with the impeccable sureness of a snow leopard, a mountain goat.”
This experience sets the author off on a quest to find the key to this altered state of consciousness. And what a quest it is! He ranges from Shamanism to long-distance running, mountaineering in Nepal, Plains Indian vision quests, and survival at sea. He doesn’t specifically deal with Martial Arts, but the state of consciousness he seeks is known by various terms such as “muga-mushin” in the Japanese Martial Arts. More recently Mihaly Cziksentmihaly has researched what he calls the “Flow” state and written extensively on it. While Schultheis doesn’t seem to come to any firm conclusions, it’s certainly not through a lack of effort, and it sure is fun being along for the ride.