PDA

View Full Version : Martial Arts and Religion



Sensei Grim
26th June 2001, 13:18
I was reluctant to post this topic because the mention of religion is usually a sure way to send a conversation into a debating tailspin complete with much wailing and gnashing of teeth but I think this is important so please, let's keep it focused and not duel theology (I'd win, anyway, heh-heh). I have been practicing and teaching the martial arts for about twenty years in what is known as the buckle of this country's bible belt. I though I've heard it all and seen it all in regards to myth and superstition in the arts but- as it is when we think we know it all, something happens to let us know we don't. At a recent session of our kenjutsu class, a young lady came in to observe and I invited her to participate. This she did with glee. I gave her a bokken and assisted her throughout the class while our chief swords instructor, Master Shell, led the class. She was a quick learner and had a great time. Before she left, she introduced her mother, a wonderfully polite and gentle lady. Master Shell conversed with her at length about our ryu. One of the questions this nice lady asked regarded meditation. She wanted to know if we taught and practiced any "deep meditation". We do not and this Master Shell informed her. As Master Shell informed me later, her concern was a religious one. Some people believe that meditation lowers the mind's natural defenses and allows Satan into our brain. I thought he was joking. To further my consternation and chagrin, I have a modest background in myth and folklore studies and apparently this is a piece of myth that has escaped me until now. Before the nice lady left, Master Shell assured her that nothing we did conflicted with her faith and that our Bushido teaching involved honor, duty, honesty, and integrity and these are things we actually have in common. I was wondering if anyone else out there, instructors especially, has had a similar experience- with this or any other superstition.

Jack "Grim" Bennett, Ronin Bushido Academy

Deshi
28th June 2001, 04:33
Mr. Bennett,
Actually, her concern may be legitimate, although misplaced. Please understand, I am a born again Christian that studies MA, and have done a lot of prayer/study on the percieved contradictions between MA and biblical living. More importantly to this conversation, however, is the background I had as a practicing occultist. In the UNSAVED, there is the threat of demonic influence through meditation. This is most common through the meditator's desire/need to HEAR something. Once they recieve any kind of message, it must be from their 'higher power/spirit guide/inner self' whatever they want to call it.

Unfortunately, what too many Christians today have missed, in the fear and excitment of "Spiritual Warfare" is that the fight has already been fought. When Jesus died on the cross, and was resurrected again, the fight against satan was won. It is the job of the believer to carry on, picking up the spoils, all while dodging the assassins darts. There is no fight against the powers of darkness that goes beyond our own overcoming of the carnal impulses inherent in our own flesh. And only our own weakness will allow any kind of attack by satan and his minions to succeed.

Specifically concerning meditation, the bible commands us to "meditate day and night' upon His word. Even Jesus himself went off many times to be alone in prayer and fasting. In all actuality what is meditation but deep thinking? And where is the harm in that.... only if the things you think upon are outside the will of God in your life.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me... I'd be thrilled to cover them.

Your's through Christ,
Gary Beckstedt
bolodex2000@yahoo.com

Sensei Grim
28th June 2001, 05:23
I agree with you 100%, Mr. Beckstedt. If the individual is inclined to immoral or dishonorable thoughts, I can see that "deep thinking" can more deeply root these bad thoughts. We should all realize that the purpose of meditation- as with prayer, is to set ourselves RIGHT mentally and spiritually. Thank you for your input, Mr. Beckstedt. You may indeed be getting email from me to discuss these matters more in depth as I would very much like to broaden my understanding of this subject. I have trained for many years in the martial arts and have studied theology and mythology for almost as many- but have never given much thought to the correlation between the two.


Jack "Grim" Bennett, Ronin Bushido Academy

Joseph Svinth
28th June 2001, 08:57
There are a bunch of websites dedicated to the proposition that martial arts are not for Christians. Some strike me as being a bit shrill. See, for example, http://www.bible-truths.org/tracts/martia~1.htm . A sample: "Will you choose the Kodokan? (The way to hell and damnation) OR Will you choose the SAVIOUR – JESUS CHRIST? (THE ONLY WAY TO ETERNAL LIFE.)"

A less sulfurous example: http://www.utdallas.edu/orgs/ntskeptics/AUG98/newsletter.htm

"Many deliverance ministers also warn people to avoid any participation in Oriental martial arts; Rebecca Brown, an exorcist who claims to be an expert in freeing people from Satanic cults, has stated that 'Most people are already infested with demons by the time they reach the level of a brown belt.' Such demons, according to Brown, are acquired through the various postures used in martial arts, which she regards as incantations: 'From very ancient times such hand and body signing has been used to summons [sic] demons. You will see this type of activity extensively used by Heavy Metal Rock Music stars.'"

Fortunately, most presentations are calmer. For example,
http://www.execpc.com/~dlbrown/logos/mrtl-art.html : "Christians have no business being involved in the martial arts, even at the most elementary level. The one benefit that can be derived from the martial arts -- exercise -- is available in so many other spiritually harmless activities that there is no reason to open oneself up to the spiritual hazards or commission of sin that these techniques lead to."

Or, probably most rationally, http://www.home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/Martial2.html :

"The Christian must be careful not to cause a weaker Christian to stumble by practicing a martial art (Rom. 14:21). A younger Christian might become disillusioned seeing a respected brother or sister practicing the martial arts, thinking that such involvement is a compromise of the faith. Or perhaps a weaker Christian might conclude (for example) that it's okay to practice Zen meditation since his more mature brother practices the martial arts, thereby (apparently) giving approval for all that is involved in the martial arts."

However, inasmuch as faith is by definition impervious to reason, launching into even the calmest and most rational counter-arguments usually leads nowhere. So, unless you enjoy ontological debate for its own sake, I recommend that you simply be honest with the folks regarding what you do and don't do, and then let them make up their own minds about whether you're the right teacher for them, or for Little Johnny.

Deshi
28th June 2001, 21:47
Sorry, double post.....

Deshi
28th June 2001, 21:47
Unfortunately, Mr. Svith, you corectly characterize too many people of varying faiths. Thankfully there is a movement at work today that is striving to prove to Christians (at least) that not being able to provide intelligent evidence concerning your faith does no glory to God, and is therefore paramount to sin. Several of the sites you listed are as guilty of this as many people I've met.

I'd like to address a similar issue among ignorant people of faith concerning MA... whether or not God would condone the study of warfare. I am not lumping into this group the aberrant individual who studies so he can learn how to kill someone for making him mad... but rather the majority of us who study this wonderful path for the basic reason of protecting ourselves against the 'just in case'. First of all, Paul (in the Rom 14:17-23) makes it clear that ANYTHING done without faith is sin. On a basic level, this means if you have a sincere doubt, don't do it. But you are not to stop there... God doesn't want us ignorant... do your own research and find what God specifically wants for you. Second of all, Paul says that anything we do, that does not SPECIFICALLY violate the word of God, in faith is OK with God. Finally, if God were so against the preparation for war, why did Jesus condemn the priests, and not the soldiers? And would God's blessing upon Samson (during an incredible display of kobudo with a ass's jawbone)have happened if Samson had been out of line? What of David's exploits... was God not there when he led the Isrealites in one battle after another? And what did Jesus mean in the garden when he told those present to sell their cloaks and buy swords? Wasn't He warning them that times were coming when defending themselves against manifested HUMAN enemies would be needed?

I leave this message with a request for my brothers and sisters in Christ who would argue with me.... there are many things of God that satan has successfully twisted for his purpose.... does this taint even the thing that God has granted us? God forbid! Do we not glorify God in our bodies (as commanded in Corinthians) when we can do things with our empty hands that others cannot do with steel? And what gives greater glory to the maker of all the universe... when His servants are able to overcome the human agents of evil, or when we roll over and pee on ourselves in the face of an assailant?

I simply ask that flames be sent in private, to spare the readers of this forum. Intelligent conversation should be shared here.

Sincerely,
Gary Beckstedt
Buke Ryu

Joseph Svinth
29th June 2001, 11:39
Jumping Jiminy, I like rational discussions.

That said, I think context needs to be considered. For example, in Jack's example, I would still recommend erring on the side of discretion, even assuming people willing to discuss religion and politics in a rational manner. After all, it is inside the dojo, and therefore the conversation is being held in a semi-public and presumably reasonably professional setting. On the other hand, if some yahoo knocks on my door and commences to tell me that I am Damned, Damned I say, well, I have no idea why they so often get this look of shock on their faces when I shut the door in their faces.

But at at the restaurant after class, then it's a level playing field. And if you get your dialectual tail kicked, well, there's always next week...

Sensei Grim
29th June 2001, 13:35
Wow. I didn't expect this much intelligent input.


Originally posted by Deshi
there is a movement at work today that is striving to prove to Christians (at least) that not being able to provide intelligent evidence concerning your faith does no glory to God, and is therefore paramount to sin.

Herein lies the problem. Much of faith seems to have little to do with intelligent evidence. That is not to say faith is WRONG. As the late myth and religion authority Joseph Campbell said to a priest who conceded that there is no way to PROVE the existence of a personal God, "If there were, Father, what would be the value of faith?" So we get people pushing their agendas and prejudices and opinions by slapping an erroneous endorsement by God on it and calling those who disagree sinners and heretics. This is an age-old method of social coercion which seems to apply to any activity short of breathing depending on who you are talking to. EVERYTHING we do is evil to SOMEBODY, even the noble tradition of self-improvement through the martial arts. So, if the inability to prove intelligent evidence in a matter of faith is sin, well that does in a LOT of modern dogma doesn't it?

Jack "Grim" Bennett, Ronin Bushido Academy

Deshi
29th June 2001, 21:51
Mr. Bennett,

Your point is well taken, sir. In the tradition of intellectual discourse, however, let's define a couple of things.

First, let's define faith. In most social definitions, it's somthing to the tune of accepting an idea or concept despite a lacking of proof. For myself, this idea works. Especially in my professional field of electronics. You see, the entire realm of electricity, much to the surprise of your average Joe, is based on the UNPROVEN existence of the elctron. However, after looking at how electricity behaves, science has concluded that SOMETHING must be accountable for all this activity, and has come up with the idea of the electron. Does such a thing exist? I'm fairly certain... has it been proven... not beyond anecdotal evidence. As a result, each flip of the light switch is done, by definition, in faith.

Secondly, let's define some common ground. You see, two highly educated rational people can have the most useless conversation about economics if one person thinks they are speaking in terms of socialism, and another of capitalism. For this reason, I strive to define what authority will be used before engaging someone in a conversation like religion. You see, in electronics, there are two prevailing theories about how electricity moves... called the hole vs. electron theory. Two people, discussing the same circuit, can have a very complicated conversation if they don't agree as to which theory they will use.

In the case of religion, and actually almost any science, (of which I personally class religion), you MUST first define what assumptions will be agreed to before you begin conversing. For myself, the basis of knowledge, the collective assumption of how/why things are, is the Protestant bible. Does this mean that other faiths with their differing texts are wrong? Perhaps... but the more important issue is that we can NOT have a reasonable conversation about certain topics if my assumptions are that (for instance) Jesus is God incarnate, and their's is that He was simply a prophet.

In terms of faith, you cannot arbitrarily declare one person wrong for not sharing your faith. You must acknowledge, however, that there is disagreement. And in that understanding, even a Christian can share their beliefs with a Zen Buddhist, and still learn something from the Buddhist.

Given the turn this thread has taken, perhaps we should move this to email. Very little of what I have said concerns budo, and I would dislike greatly being attacked for not staying on task. :nono:

Sincerely,
Gary Beckstedt
Buke Ryu
"God gave you two ears and only one mouth... use them in proportion."

Tami
29th June 2001, 23:54
I respectfully request that you keep the thread going here as long as it continues to stay polite and civil. I don't have anything worthwhile to add at this point, but I am sure enjoying reading what you all have to say so far.

Thanks!

Sensei Grim
30th June 2001, 16:18
This well illustrates the point I made when I began this discussion- It's difficult to remain on one focused subject when talking religion because it is such an emotional, personal matter to many people and there are so many ways to practice it with many different philosophies and interpretations. So it has the potential- and often the tendency to be very divisive. When it isnt' divisive, there's still so much to talk about. In this way, it is very much like the martial arts.

In the context of this discussion, that's what I'm interested in- when the two come together. Do they clash more than they coincide? The point was made earlier that the Bible has many references to war and warriors. Preparing for war and battling for the RIGHT REASONS appear to be a respectible pursuit in the eyes of God as does the strengthening and betterment of the body temple. Perhaps the problem with the martial arts, in the eyes of many Christians, is the fact that the martial arts is an Eastern influence and so MUST be a vehicle for Shintoism and Buddhism and all the other non-Christian religions and philosophies. I'm very interested in everyone else's thoughts and experiences with this.

Jack "Grim" Bennett, Ronin Bushido Academy

Joseph Svinth
30th June 2001, 22:25
"Right reasons" often provide more insight into what is good for the speaker than good for the other fellow. Interpreting the data is also subjective. For example, one fellow hears God in a burning bush. Another hears Satan in Beatles' albums played backwards. And a third person gets treated for schizophrenia. Who is "right"? All? None? One of the above?

Here it's often hard to get agreement on preponderance of the evidence, let alone beyond reasonable doubt.

Karami Au
12th July 2001, 08:28
From my own experiences, I have had potential students approach me, extremely hesitant to bring up the topic, asking about their spiritual path in conjuction to the martial arts. 9 times out of 10, their doubts came from those around them...their spirit could be reassuring, but friends, co-workers, peers, or family would spout ideas of demonic possession and such. I can understand the concern, especially since those concerned allowed their assumptions to guide them.
And even from the polar aspect, I have had students approach the class with ideas that they will be transformed into a cold-blooded assassin; ruthless, and devoid of emotion. They were curious about the 'darker' arts, (and I use the term loosely), asking when kuji-kiri would be taught, or when the mysterious moves where they could kill someone by simply brushing by them would be learned. Both views were based upon supposition, as well as the 'fire and brimstone' people who condemn me for my disciplines.

I myself have had experiences with slightly over-zealous individuals. Most of the comments would follow the idea of, "You take martial arts?! You can't be a Christian!"

Hai, the meditation was a deep concern for them, which I would only counter with scripture about meditation...but another qualm was the aspect of bowing. "You're blasphemous, you bow down and worship false gods!"

They do not understand because they do not wish to; thus, a sign of respect is seen as a tremendous act of slander.

Regardless, I have come to realize that it is not what they say or think that matters...I know my heart, and act upon what I feel to be right. I seek out the essence in all things. A balance must be found.

I appreciate the maturity and wisdom displayed throughout this thread.

Timothy Walters Kleinert
12th July 2001, 13:44
Let me begin by saying that I am a Christin who is a practicing martial artist. I am also currently a Bible student in Chicago. I pretty much agree with what the other Christian post-ers have said, but I wanted to clear a couple of things up. I'm not an expert but here goes...


Originally posted by Deshi
...I'd like to address a similar issue among ignorant people of faith concerning MA... whether or not God would condone the study of warfare.

(point 1)...Finally, if God were so against the preparation for war, why did Jesus condemn the priests, and not the soldiers?

(point 2)...And would God's blessing upon Samson (during an incredible display of kobudo with a ass's jawbone)have happened if Samson had been out of line? What of David's exploits... was God not there when he led the Isrealites in one battle after another?

(point 3)...And what did Jesus mean in the garden when he told those present to sell their cloaks and buy swords? Wasn't He warning them that times were coming when defending themselves against manifested HUMAN enemies would be needed?

Point 1: Jesus didnot condemn the Roman Army, but he did criticize the Jewish militant movement, though this may not be overtly noticable. EX.1: Jesus overthrows the temple money-changers and cries, "...You have made this place a den of robbers." Some scholars argue that this phrase was associated with the militant Zealot movement, thus the overthrowing of the temple not only criticized the temple's commercialism, not also its militant teachings. EX.2: Sermon on the mount. Militant groups would go out into the hilly countryside and have what we would call today "political rallies." With the Sermon on the Mount, scholars argue, Jesus did the same thing. He brought a group of people out in the country for a rally, but instead of a militant rally he instead talked about peace. Thus the Sermon on the Mount can be seen as a critic against the militant movement, or at least as a statement that Jesus was against militant-cy in his own personal movement.

Point 2: The use of warfare in the Old Testamant is highly debatable. In Moses' law, there are things that are allowed that God did not neccessarily approve of. EX.1: Interracial Marriage. In Moses' law, the are laws concerning marrying women from other countries whose husbands were defeated in battle by the Israelis. But then later in the law it states that the Hebrews are not to inter-marry at all. EX.2: Divorce. In Moses' law divorce under certain circumstances was permitted, but then later God through the prophets said, "I hate divorce." Many people argue that the use of warfare was like this, something that was allowed but not approved of. What I think is the point here is that Moses' law was pragmatic, that it realized that there were things that people were just going to do, regardless of how God would prefer it to be.

Also, something to keep in mind is God allowed the Israelites to wage war because he wanted to punish the surrounding nations, this God himself states. If God did not want to punish the surrounding nations, it is highly debatable whether or not he would have allowed the Hebrews to wage war.

Point 3: Though Jesus did tell his disciples to buy swords (which I won't get into), you must also balance that out with the fact that Jesus rebuked his disciples when they actually used the swords to cut the ear off of one of the servants of the high priest, later in that same chapter.

There's more I can say on the warfare/martial art subject, but I gotta go. Sorry this was so long. If anyone wants to email me personally to discuss this some more than go ahead.

Timothy Walters Kleinert
12th July 2001, 16:01
Well, I have some more time so I'll finish what I wanted to say. To sum up my last post:

Old Testament: Use of warfare is highly debatable, but the fact is God allowed it...

New Testament: Jesus was clearly against the use of force within religion (or at least what would later be called Christianity). But it is debatable what he thought about a secular army...

Also something else, meditation in the Bible is not the same as Eastern meditation, or at least not the same as Zen meditation. First, meditation in the Hebrew (I'm not sure if meditation is mentioned in the New Testament) is actually a puzzling concept which most Christians don't understand. What many don't realize is that the word most often translated as meditation actually has three meanings/translations (to keep things simple I won't get into what I think is the root meaning of the word):

1. Speak/Sing (as in to speak to a group of people)
2. Complain (specifically complain to God)
3. Meditate

Now it should be noted that the Bible never gives instructions on exactly how to meditate, it pretty much just says "meditate". If you study the context of how its used, though, you will see that meditate is mostly used in the sense that you're to meditate on something, or that you are to think about something (like meditate on the law of God). It is not really used in the sense of emptying one's mind, as in Zen meditation.

Even though Zen-style meditation isn't "Biblical" per se, what many don't realize is that there are traditions of comtemplative, Eastern-esc, Christian meditation that date back to the third and fourth centuries A.D., that involve ritualistic breathing and the recitation of what could be considered "mantras"! There are also puzzling sayings in the New Testament, like how Jesus "emptied" himself (though I haven't studied those sayings, so I can't comment too much on them). Also, some writers have pointed out how some of Jesus' parables have a koan-like quality to them. So, while Zen-style meditation may not be "Biblical," it is not neccesarily un-Christian.

Alright, gotta run again.

P.S.: I can give sources and verses if people really want them.

Jeff Hamacher
13th July 2001, 01:50
first of all, i must join others in saying how wonderful it is to read such engaging, level-headed, well-informed discussion on this topic. i am not a Christian although i have been exposed to the teachings of the Bible and have had many opportunities to discuss Christianity with believers. i have some questions which i hope will provide fellow posters with fuel for further discussion, and at the same time enlighten me on martial arts training for the Christian.

1) although it may depend upon the art, the school, or the teacher, it seems to me that the principal practical aim (putting aside for the moment other goals of training such as mental, emotional, or "spiritual" development) of japanese martial arts training in the modern age is to defend oneself by subduing, neutralizing, or avoiding violence, not seeking to create violent situations. this does not seem to conflict with Christian belief in an obvious way. i recall the New Testament recording Jesus saying, "Put on the full armour of God", an armour which would protect the believer from evil, much as martial arts ability might protect the student from harm. does this interpretation make sense?

2) in my practice of martial arts (aikido and jo), meditation or mokusou is nothing more than a moment to allow the mind to settle and reconcentrate the center of breath in the abdomen (so-called "Zen breathing") so as to prepare for or recuperate from periods of actual training. i personally do not attach any "spiritual" significance to this act. my few experiences with zazen proper were most decidely spiritual, but i distinguish them from martial arts training. if the Christian student of martial arts wished to live faithfully through their training, could they not use mokusou as a time to "meditate on the Word" or perhaps even pray silently?

3) the practice of bowing is a tricky question. when one japanese bows to another it is a sign of respect and has nothing to do with religion or spirituality. when a japanese student of martial arts bows to the shoumen, it is a different matter. not every dojo where i have trained has a kamidana, and in fact, in my current aikido club, we share a municipal dojo with other groups (judo, shorinji kenpo), and while it has a kamidana we don't bow to it. we sit facing one of the walls where the kamidana does not hang and bow to a photograph of Ueshiba-kaiso, which is common practice for aikido. still, i can't imagine a Christian bowing to the kamidana without feeling some concern. praying to false idols is just not on, is it? are there any Christians training in dojo where they regularly bow to the kamidana?

looking forward to some insights.

sincerely, jeff hamacher

MarkF
13th July 2001, 11:47
Hi, Jeff,
Have you seen the thread[s] now closed in the Shinto forum? Dander was flying and was on this very subject. It seemed some disapproved of a kamidana being placed in a YMCA dojo, a christian (by name, mostly) organization. In fact, I'm sure I saw you there, but if not, check it out, and then bring it back here and expand some on your questions and statements.

Mark

Deshi
13th July 2001, 14:20
Jeff,
Thanks for the fuel to keep this going! I'll try my best to answer your questions with the rememberance that you're not a Christian, although being from the South please forgive me if I pontificate just a little! :laugh:

1. Your quote about the armour of God is a creative application of that scripture, although completely out of context. In that case, the apostle Paul was referring to the spiritual tools available to the Christian in our battle against both the spiritual enemy of satan, and the carnal enemy of our own weaknesses. He used the analogy of armour because it provided a word picture the readers of that day could understand. Concerning the concept of defending oneself as being anti-Christian, I've found little to no scripture to support either argument. Closest I can come is the referral in the book of Hebrews 11:32 "And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms (not to mention combat), wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
I've seen arguments contrary, but to be honest, most are gross misinterpretations of the scripture. :nono:

2. Concerning meditation, Mr. Kleiner made an excellent point in his earlier post in this thread. My only addition is that during our bowing in ceremony in the club I"m honored to oversee, we have a period of mokusou, during which I'm feverishly praying that God would spare us injury and that He alone would be glorified.

3. Bowing to the masters.... as I asserted earlier it is all about motive. I teach that we bow to the joseki wall in honor of those who have gone before us. It is a western concept that bowing is equated with worship, and I understand that. However, when one of my students asked me, "Do you think Jackie Chan could take Bruce Lee?" I answered with a smile, "Easily.... Bruce is dead." As a Christian, I worship a living God, and not the memory of the men who developed the system of fighting I study today. By bowing to the wall, I'm not performing an act of worship (although I can already hear some of the bible thumpers around me bristling), I'm performing an act that recognizes those who have gone before. For myself, it's no more significant than when I visit the cemetary to honor my relatives that have passed away.

In conclusion, thanks for the questions, and the input. I look forward to even more responses.

Gary Beckstedt
Buke Ryu
Beware the pointing of fingers... they rarely come back alone.

Jeff Hamacher
17th July 2001, 07:38
Originally posted by Deshi
Your quote about the armour of God is a creative application of that scripture, although completely out of context. In that case, the apostle Paul was referring to the spiritual tools available to the Christian in our battle against both the spiritual enemy of satan, and the carnal enemy of our own weaknesses. He used the analogy of armour because it provided a word picture the readers of that day could understand.
rereading my post now i realize that i gave the wrong impression; my understanding of that passage is precisely what you detail above. i certainly didn't mean to suggest that such a simplistic interpretation could be wrought from those words.

Concerning the concept of defending oneself as being anti-Christian, I've found little to no scripture to support either argument. [...] I've seen arguments contrary, but to be honest, most are gross misinterpretations of the scripture.
i think this is the crux of the matter. it's easy to recall the words, "turn him the other cheek", and thus conclude that Jesus was telling his followers to take every kind of abuse on the chin. on the other hand, Scripture such as the "armour of God" passage seems to say, "stand fast in your faith, and don't back down in the face of evil or temptation".

so is it right for a Christian to train in martial arts? i think what you say regarding "glorifying God" is very a propos: from what i understand, each follower must look deep within themselves to find the motivation for their actions. through prayer, Scripture study, and "soul-searching", each one has to make their own decision about whether or not their activities glorify God and if those activities are an expression of His will. whaddya reckon, Gary?

Mark: you're right, i was following the YMCA thread. i think that whole business just got way off track, and i'm much happier following this line of discussion. read ya later!

cheers, jeff hamacher

Deshi
17th July 2001, 14:42
Originally posted by Jeff Hamacher

i think this is the crux of the matter. it's easy to recall the words, "turn him the other cheek", and thus conclude that Jesus was telling his followers to take every kind of abuse on the chin. on the other hand, Scripture such as the "armour of God" passage seems to say, "stand fast in your faith, and don't back down in the face of evil or temptation".

The misrepresentation of Matt 5:39 is one of my pet peeves, and yet is highly prevalent among the self righteous. To this end, I'm glad you brought it up. I am sure that thousands have been misled by well meaning people when it comes to a proper Christian response to violence against their person. For your edification, I'll break down the meaning, in context, of that passage.

"But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."

resist:(anthistemi) 1) to set one’s self against, to withstand, resist, oppose
evil:(poneros)
1) full of labours, annoyances, hardships
1a) pressed and harassed by labours
1b) bringing toils, annoyances, perils; of a time full of peril to Christian faith and steadfastness; causing pain and trouble
2) bad, of a bad nature or condition
2a) in a physical sense: diseased or blind
2b) in an ethical sense: evil wicked, bad
smite:(rhapizo)
1) to smite with a rod or staff
2) to smite in the face with the palm of the hand, to box the ear

So, to make it plain (after boring you with all the details :rolleyes: )

"Don't try to avoid the perils and annoyances of being a Christian. Instead, if someone smacks you across the face (as an indication of insult), turn to him the other, showing you are not moved by his assault."

This scripture doesn't play at ALL into the handling of violence against a person. IT applies to handling attacks against your pride.

OK, what about Luke 3:14 "And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages."? The word translated violence here isn't the modern understanding, but rather,
diaseio:
1) to shake thoroughly
2) to make to tremble
3) to terrify
4) to agitate
5) to extort from one by intimidation, money or other property
In other words, Jesus is warning them against harrassment, and provocation.

In conclusion, I've not yet been presented with ANY scripture wherein God has laid down a law preventing the preparation for, and prevention of, a physical attack against a believer.


Originally posted by Jeff Hamacher
so is it right for a Christian to train in martial arts? i think what you say regarding "glorifying God" is very a propos: from what i understand, each follower must look deep within themselves to find the motivation for their actions. through prayer, Scripture study, and "soul-searching", each one has to make their own decision about whether or not their activities glorify God and if those activities are an expression of His will. whaddya reckon, Gary?

I'll end this lengthy post with a personal story.

One of my best students quit recently. His desire to study was matched only by his natural adeptness at the art. However, in a time of deep prayer, God spoke to him, and asked how my friend could ever opperate as a minister of healing when he is studying so diligently to cause harm. Seeing the contradiction, he stopped his study of MA immediately. However, in our conversation concerning this decision he made a point that brought me comfort that he was indeed correct to stop. His point was this... Paul wrote that each man is called to a different ministry based upon the gifts God has given him. To some he gave gifts of preaching, others gifts of teaching, and in some he gave the gift of healing. But the number of gifts is as varied as the man God created. To me, he gave a gift not unlike the gift he gave Samson, Saul, David, and many others.... the gift to make war. To make war NOT to glorify myself, or other men, but to glorify God only.

I look forward to the responses, and appreciate everyone's MATURE handling of the discussion.

In Christ,
Gary Beckstedt

P.S. I wonder how many lurkers we have? ;)

INFINOO
22nd July 2001, 07:50
All I can say is never attack a praying man.
Gregory Rogalsky
Director Rogalsky Combatives International

Joe Logue
22nd July 2001, 08:57
Hello all, I was surfing a bit and read this thread, I would suggest
the following two details that many "Christian Scholars" tend to forget:

1) When our Lord Jesus said to "turn the other cheek" he didn't
mean for us to be treated like doormats, or to make us out to
be a bunch of wimps. The subject was what and how he
instucted the apostles to teach. In teaching-- if you're informing
people what the truth is of our Father's word and you anger
the person so much that he wishes to hit you-- well, it's your
own fault, don't try to react with physical revenge. Jesus taught
us to be "Fishers of Men" -- if you fish with a correct/non-pushy
manner you won't scare away the fish. If you try fishing with a
ten pound sinker and a five foot long hook, i.e. pushy-- you're
most certainly going to scare away the fish and your good
intentions of trying to help someone to learn the Word of our
Father will be wasted and will make the person close his mind
immediately. An example of this is when I speak to some
people that have been taught the " Rapture Theory", thinking
that they're going to fly away like birds with "Jesus" , if I'm not
a careful "Fisherman", if I begin too strongly to inform them that
this doctine was started in 1820 by a sickly/halucinating
Scotish woman named Mary Mac Donald and her two would
be preacher brothers and that actually they'll be trying to "fly
away with the spirious messaiah, the fake/Anti(instead of)
christ--the devil--- well, the majority ,(not all), get a bit riled,
and defensive, ( a lot like informing some that they're learning
a false budo, from a false teacher-- see Dojo/Bad Budo section
thread # 3), Personally, if I'm walking down the street and
someone attacks me, I would defend myself immediately, and
afterwhich- have him arrested for assult and battery!

2) When the Temple guards and priests came to take Jesus away,
Peter took out his sword(long knife) and cut off an ear of one
of the guards immediately-- not a motion of someone taught
to be a wimp! Jesus of course then restored the ear to the
guard's head (as it was Jesus' mission to be taken/crucified
to be the sacrificial lamb so upon our repentance our sins can
be blotted out by our Father ). Did Jesus then condemn Peter?
He who would be the "Rock" of the foundation of Chritianity?
NO! So, if self defense or the defense of a friend was okay with
Jesus, then it's okay with me and I wouldn't think twice to do
so in a similar situation. Obviously Jesus knew that this apostle
(and perhaps the others), carried a self defense weapon and
would use it if necessary.

Best Regards to all,

Joe Logue











2)

will szlemko
23rd July 2001, 08:42
Hi all,

I encounter the bowing/worshiping question the most. At our dojo we make a point of telling new students that we bow to the front to show respect to those who have learned, trained, and passed on their knowledge to us, and we bow to each other to show respect for our partner and to remind ourselves that we are thankful to have someone to train with. We also point out that the hand-shake developed as a way of showing that you held no weapons. The American Indian "how" originated to show that you intend no harm. The Asian bow originated by showing you meant no harm, as it is terribly difficult to attack someone while in the midst of a proper bow.
For those who attack the Buddhist/Asian connection I have occasionaly asked them about their values and matched them value for value with the values in Buddhism (the 4 noble truths, eight fold path). At this juncture they generally realize that the goals of Christianity and Buddhism are remarkably similar. There really is nothing in what we teach that is religious. There is however respect and depending on the person spirituality, but not religion.

will

Groenewold
1st August 2001, 04:56
Hello all,

I am new to this forum, but not to other MA related forums. First, I must comment on how absolutley civilized this discussion is developing. That is really a marvellous demonstration of the Bushido-spirit, particularly the kind of mentality we see in writers like Nitobe.

Issues of bowing and religiousity in a Japanese dojo are really not much of an issue at all. They are not issues because the Japanese, for example, are a god-less pagan nation, full of hedonistic tendencies. They are non-issues because spirituality is a topic which I have never heard of ever being raised on the dojo floor.

I have lived and trained in karate for a number of years and these issues have never surfaced. The Japanese that I have known and trained with over the years focus on the dojo as the place to learn about the physicality of karate, not on the meditative spiritual nature of things.

Yes, there is a mokuso at the end of class, but that is mostly for the benefit of kids, to calm them down at the end of class, and to get them to focus on the dojo kun so that they understand their more "civic" responsibilities as future karate-ka.

I have addressed several of these issues (but not resolved them!!!) on my website at http://www.karatethejapaneseway.com . Just go to the index and click on the Spirituality and Karate section. I am very interested to get some feedback on these questions, as they are all things that are food for thought, if not the soul.

Best regards,

Mark Groenewold
Ishikawa-ken, Japan

Groenewold
2nd August 2001, 04:25
I meant to say that I have lived and trained doing karate IN Japan... sheesh, it's a miracle I can work here as an English teacher!

Thanks folks,

Mark Groenewold

Ryan
15th August 2001, 18:27
Hello all,

I'm a Buddhist and I haven't seen any postings from any fellow Buddhist, so I thought I'd chime in.

I'm not an expert at the relationship between traditional martial arts and Buddhism, but I've had some fairly lengthy conversations with people who, I think, are.

My understanding is that as the early Indian missionaries were teaching Buddhism to the Chinese, the Chinese had a problem falling asleep during meditation. To help solve this problem, the Indian teachers began teaching the Chinese "Kinetic" or moving meditations.

The Chinese already had a primitive type of martial art based on semi-religious movement and Taoist principals, so it was natural for them to develop a system based on this new type of meditative movement. This partially explains why ancient Chinese martial arts are usually associated with monasteries.

Chinese Buddhism and martial arts were of course, exported to Japan. As the Japanese refined Zen and Tendai Buddhism so did the martial arts become refined and took on a distinctly Japanese flavor. Zen in particular was useful to the Samurai to maintain a serene and calm mind in the face of constant, eminent death. The non-samurai favored sects of Tendai and it’s mystical elements to evoke magical spells against, and to attempt to sense the intentions of their enemies.

Originally, the martial arts and the religious/spiritual training went hand in hand. The martial arts and their peculiar religious views were completely linked for generations. After World War II, especially in Japan, the martial arts began to be taught to Americans who had no interest in converting to Buddhism. Because the Japanese economy was destroyed, the choice was often to teach Americans martial arts or to starve, so the religious aspect was essentially removed.

Although much of the religious aspects were removed, certain artifacts remain. The most obvious is the objective of obtaining Mushin (literally, no thought) during some of the more traditional sword arts practiced in America. Mushin is the most essential element in practicing Buddhist meditation; it is the “first step” of nearly all of the tantric practices and was a mandatory requirement for all ancient, Asian martial artists.

If one could trace the roots of nearly every movement and concept of all Asian martial arts, he would find that they are based almost entirely on Buddhist concepts or the are metaphors for Buddhist principals. That doesn’t mean that one has to become a Buddhist to be a martial artist or to study the martial arts, it only means that its there if you want to pursue it. My favorite example is that the Jesuits began the science of heredity as it relates to genetics in the 16th century, but you don’t have to convert to study their work.

Without starting a debate about what constitutes Christianity or Buddhism, let me explain where, to my understanding, the conflicts for a Christian would lie. From what I can gather, relaxing your body, controlling your breathing and emptying your mind, in and of itself, is not a sin to the Christians (the Jesus people as I like to call them). That is the major hurdle, since that is what is required for 95% of the Buddhist related aspects of martial arts. Technically, you’re not practicing Buddhism unless you achieve this state specifically to dissolve your ego. I often teach them to visualize a cross or other Christian icon to relieve any guilt or suspicions.

Some troubling Buddhist aspects for Christians are certain Asian and Buddhist traditions of kneeling and bowing to show respect for certain things. To Christians, kneeling before a picture, statue or person constitutes breaking a Mosiac Commandment and most find it offensive. I try to explain that it is no different than saluting a flag, but the Asians kneel to salute - they still seem very offended. They seem much less troubled by bowing from a standing position and I have found that to be an effective compromise.

The point where the Christians will find things troubling, is in the concept of “Non-Self” and “Non-Duality” because of the nature of the Christian definition of the “Immortal Soul” and it’s incompatibility with those Buddhist concepts. You could study a very traditional Asian martial art for decades before running into those concepts. You could study most American martial arts until you were the Soke yourself and never bump into them.

All and all, I would say that Christianity and the study or martial arts is nearly 100% compatible. The actual employment of martial arts in a self-defense situation is another matter entirely. I try to keep them appraised of the law concerning the use of martial arts and ask them to decide beforehand what they will do rather than waiting for the situation to appear to decide. I never ask or imply that I want to know how they will respond.

There, I hope that adds something to the conversation.

Charlie Kondek
15th August 2001, 19:24
Great thread. I'm a refugee from the highly ballistic "Jesus, Krishna, etc." thread in the No Holds Bar and Grill and really appreciate how civil and educational this one has been. You're all to be commended.

In Him,

Charlie

Gil Gillespie
21st August 2001, 03:36
Keep in mind, should you be inclined to defend Japanese budo vis-a-vis a Christian lifestyle, that these arts emanate from probably the safest most civil society on the planet. Without fail a Westerner's first impressions of Japan concern the general societal courtesy and almost unbelievable cleanliness. Japanese don't train in budo because they'll need it on the street. My sister routinely felt secure walking the streets at 2am and never experienced anywhere near the same feeling in America (except for Greenwich Village, but that's another story ;o).

In our aikido style we open and close class bowing to the shomen and clapping twice, which is directly derived from offering one's prayers at a Shinto shrine. My sensei is an ordained minister and this bothers him not in the least. The huge majority of aikidoka merely view this as tradition, devoid of religious significance. The founder of aikido, Ueshiba Morihei, was a Shinto mystic as well as an invincible eclectic budoka. His budo and his religion not only refined until his death, but virtually merged. He not only tramsformed destructive techniques into an art devoted to universal love and harmony, but insisted that one train with joy and that training itself be an act of prayer.

It has come down to the rest of us to be flawed humans in pursuit of an unattainable goal of perfection. Inspired by O-Sensei and his life's work, we walk The Path in our own evolving image of the art, knowing we'll never get "there." Hopefully the journey itself will make us better Buddhists, or Christians, or humans.

Chuck Clark
21st August 2001, 07:06
Great post, Gil

This is a real "keeper"

Thanks,

Kaijin
30th August 2001, 15:43
Greetings,

For what it is worth, here are my theories. I am truly humbled by the serene nature of all members of this discussion Please, dissect the finer points, so that I might learn more and rethink these ideas:
---

It would seem that the greatest tragedy in history has been the belief that "spirituality" and "religion" are synonomous.

A human is comprised of three things: mind, body and spirit. When the mind is fed, this is called learning. When the body is fed, this is called nutrition. When the spirit is fed, it is called spirituality.

You may feed your mind with books. I watch movies.
You may feed your body with rice. I eat Chips Ahoy.
You may feed your spirit with The Holy Bible. I rake leaves.

As you can see, I am not feeding myself well. ;)

My point is this: As humans, we owe it to ourselves to see the similairities in all things. For example, I try to see a 1-to-1 mapping of most Shiatsu techniques to Western Medicine concepts. Why do I do this? Because I want to discover that we are all saying exactly the same thing, in different languages, and with different emphasis. Do not all religions seek harmony?

Instead of seeing a "bow to the masters", why not realize that we are thanking Christ or Buddha for enabling the masters to be so gifted and generous? Can we not use religion as a vehicle of insight?

So how does the mind learn?
- By trying to juxtapose dissimilar memories into understanding
How does the body learn?
- Through repeatedly performing seemingly unrelated kinetics in series
How does the spirit learn?
- By feeling from different perspectives

----
At least, these are my thoughts on it. Although I am not as versed in theology as any of the members of this thread, I hope that my ideas will be useful in furthering the discussion.

With great respect,

- James Leatherman

Steve C
12th September 2001, 16:44
Hi, all. Interesting points, all of them. Thanks.

So - I'm wondering about this in a slightly different way, and that is to wonder why western teachers are concerning themselves with eastern practices that don't pertain to learning the art.

I'm a karateka, and I train at a club that has a very light amount of japanese influence; we bow for kumite, but that's clearly explained as a mark of respect, to re-enforce that the person who's going to attack you is actually a partner and not an enemy; it's got a practical use. Otherwise, we use japanese for the techniques, which I think is, well, acceptable but not necessary. I'd rather use english, but it's not my club. And that's about it.

My question is; why do you bother bowing to a photograph if you're not a shintoist? Why bow to an empty hall on your way out? Why explain a few moments concentrating on breathing as mediation?

When karate moved from Okinawa to Japan, all of the okinawan 'artefacts' were stripped away and replaced with japanese; why don't we do the same, and use language and customs that come from our own heritage?

I think those bits might be distracting from the real religious (and related ethical) questions about learning violence, about embracing aggression, or any other issues people might have.

kenshorin
14th September 2001, 18:52
Originally posted by Steve C

My question is; why do you bother bowing to a photograph if you're not a shintoist? Why bow to an empty hall on your way out? Why explain a few moments concentrating on breathing as mediation?


Why do you salute the flag? Why do you stand and remove a hat if the national anthem is played? They are signs of respect, and don't have any real religious connotation. So bowing to the founder of your style or into an empty dojo is nothing more than a sign of respect. You enjoy training at your dojo? Respect your dojo. You like the style you are taking? Respect the guy who probably spent his entire life trying to propagate the art.

Why keep these "antiquities" in the art? Because in today's life, there are very few things we have where respect and etiquette are stressed anymore. These "antiquities" serve as a lesson to us all, so that we may be better people.

Gil Gillespie
14th September 2001, 19:37
I "bother" to acknowledge the founder's portrait because I was taught that it's presence symbolizes his presence; we then are training before O-Sensei in as real a way as we choose to manifest that. Or not. This is not pounded into anyone. But what is emphasized is that there is a message in aikido. Some styles do not even use a picture of him in their kamiza. And some aikidoka train purely to enhance their CQC techniques. The spectrum of motives and goals is exceptionally broad.

If you want to blow off the Japanese cultural accoutrements then what do you have? The 4th Street Gym. C'mon in and learn to fight. Fatigues, sweats, leather n chains, suuuuuuuuure. Anything's cool.

No.

A dojo is a sanctuary. We leave the outside world behind when we enter. And in all Japanese dojos I've encountered, one is expected to bow when entering and leaving, as well as the appropriate times during training. When we change into our uniforms, we change our mindsets, our spirits. And there's definitely a purification inherent in the change.

I would not want to lessen my budo experience by removing the flavors of the culture that breathed the actual life into these arts. "It ain't about fighting." And it's not about trying to "become Japanese." The true enemy is myself, and The Path is all about refining body, mind & spirit, NOW, this moment.

Of course this is only my opinion and yours is just as valid. But I learned this from a fortuneate array of excellent sensei's. I'm eternally grateful for their influence in my life.

Ichi go, ichi e.

Steve C
18th September 2001, 12:14
Originally posted by kenshorin
Why do you salute the flag? Why do you stand and remove a hat if the national anthem is played?

I realise that your question is rhetorical, but I don't do those things anyway. They're more American that British as customs.


Originally posted by Gil Gillespie
If you want to blow off the Japanese cultural accoutrements then what do you have? The 4th Street Gym. C'mon in and learn to fight. Fatigues, sweats, leather n chains, suuuuuuuuure. Anything's cool.

Ok - I see what you're saying, but I think there are a couple of points to bring up.

The first would be that I wasn't suggesting the removal of all etiquette. What I was suggesting was a shift to western customs in western dojo's. Don't bow to the hall when you leave, but make a point of saying 'thank you' to your instructor. Don't use Japanese words when everyone in the hall understands English as their first language, unless those words have no direct translation. Shake hands or touch gloves before sparring, rather than bowing. Things with the same meaning and the same amount of respect.

Also, we already have western traditions of combat and etiquette mixed together, from which we might draw up a new set of rules. Some examples;

* Medieval concepts of chivalry
* Seventeenth and eighteenth century duelling rules
* The tradition of parley on the battlefield
* Queensbury rules of boxing

One reason for the shift that I'm suggesting is that, if you're English or American, you understand the rules of etiquette and language in your own culture far better than Japanese manners. This means you are less likely to be making mistakes in how you do things; cringeworthy mispronounciation, for example, isn't likely when you say 'roundhouse kick to the head,' but it is likely when you say 'mawashi-geri jodan.'

Maybe the division between eastern and western traditions comes down to the nationality of the instructor; If you are a westerner, and your instuctor is too, why communicate through a system neither of you really understand properly? If your instuctor is japanese, then japanese respect may be the way to go.

---
Additional Resources;

have a look at these two articles, about bowing and the use of the word 'Osu' (ooos!) - they make interesting reading.

http://www.24fightingchickens.com/shotokan/heresy/osu.html
http://www.24fightingchickens.com/shotokan/heresy/bowing.html

joe yang
18th September 2001, 14:07
We bow to an empty hall because it is a centering ritual on our way to trancendance. Martial arts training is meditation. Ritual and pattern free the mind to become one with the body.

Jeff Hamacher
20th September 2001, 08:24
Originally posted by Steve C
What I was suggesting was a shift to western customs in western dojos. (...)

Also, we already have western traditions of combat and etiquette mixed together, from which we might draw up a new set of rules. (...)

One reason for the shift that I'm suggesting is that, if you're English or American, you understand the rules of etiquette and language in your own culture far better than Japanese manners. (...)

Maybe the division between eastern and western traditions comes down to the nationality of the instructor; If you are a westerner, and your instructor is too, why communicate through a system neither of you really understand properly? (...)
i think by following this line of thinking to its logical conclusion we would end up with a mode of training in a japanese martial art completely divorced from the culture that allowed it to grow. perhaps in light of rampant globalization it's of no use to insist upon knowing or showing respect for the national or cultural origin of things, but i would argue differently.

if the etiquette or language of japanese martial arts is too unfamiliar and those of european martial traditions seem more comfortable, than might i suggest taking up boxing or fencing instead? the heart of training in martial arts (or studying anything at all) is admitting to yourself that you do not know or understand, that you wish to learn, and that you are willing to accept a perpetual cycle of your ignorance being overcome by your patient effort. non-native speakers of french learn ballet using french terminology, musicians commonly learn to read instructions printed in italian or acronyms taken from latin, and those challenges are accepted and mastered. so it should be with asian martial arts.

i personally feel that taking the "japaneseness" out of japanese martial arts is akin to (and here's a desperate attempt at dragging this thread back towards its origin) what Jesus had to say about the salt losing its saltiness. i'm not recommending that ostentation be the order of the day (Dave Lowry recently commented about rabid japanophiles in another thread, and we don't need more of that), but a simple, earnest, and informed approach to proper etiquette and cultural "bias" in the dojo should be maintained at all times, regardless of the country. doing it any other way just sounds like revisionist martial arts, and that's another thing we don't need.

PS any non-japanese instructor who claims to teach a japanese martial art without having a very strong grasp of japan's cultural traditions and social rituals probably isn't "worth their salt", just to add to the reference above.

Steve C
20th September 2001, 15:55
(Brilliant discussion, all; thanks)


Originally posted by Jeff Hamacher

i personally feel that taking the "japaneseness" out of japanese martial arts is akin to (and here's a desperate attempt at dragging this thread back towards its origin) what Jesus had to say about the salt losing its saltiness.


It may be that we're coming from a different starting point here, then. I practice Shotokan karate; an art created in Okinawa and taught by an Okinawan, Gichin Funakoshi, to the Japanese.

So karate is a very recent addition to Japan anyway; only about eighty years, which isn't so long ago when you compare it to the hundreds of years ago in the sengoku and tokugawa periods, the high water mark of martial arts in Japan.

In this way, Shotokan karate is a second-hand import; from Okinawa, through Japan, to England. It's a little hard for me to accept that Japanese should provide the cultural basis here. Either Okinawan or English, surely?

Looking a little deeper into the history of karate, it's earliest roots can be traced back to lessons from China, and the repression of the Okinawan people by the Japanese in the seventeenth century. I imagine that at the time the fundamentals of the art were coming together, the founders hated the Japanese.

What I'm saying really is, although Japan was very important for the spread and development of many of the arts, it doesn't have a complete monopoly on them.

----

To bring it back to the original discussion, then.

What I was hoping to point out was that the martial arts often uses customs derived from religious practice, such as the shinto-based bowing to photographs. You can re-interpret the behaviour and think about it in your own ways As Gil said earlier in the discussion;


I "bother" to acknowledge the founder's portrait because I was taught that it's presence symbolizes his presence; we then are training before O-Sensei in as real a way as we choose to manifest that. Or not.

So Gil is appropriating the custom and changing the underlying meaning of it to suit his own culture. He's choosing the meaning of the custom. I'm just proposing a slightly different angle; don't use the custom if you're going to divorce it from it's original meaning.

If I have the basic tenets of Christianity right, bowing with the original meaning may well be unchristian.


Exodus 20:4-5
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them

Which is fairly clear, if you ask me. 'Don't take photos. Don't bow to them'.

(Sorry. That was a bit fatuous. But the point remains; The Ten Commandments don't seem to favour any kind of worship or religious respect given to images.)

-----


Originally posted by Jeff Hamacher
perhaps in light of rampant globalization it's of no use to insist upon knowing or showing respect for the national or cultural origin of things, but i would argue differently..

Actually, Jeff, I'd like to hear what you've got to say on the subject. What deserves to be kept in an original form -say, japanese meditiation - and what deserves to be translated or modified - say, instruction manuals for japanese electronics ;) ?

I don't want to give the impression that I'm not a fan of parts of Japanese culture. It's fairly ironic; I'm sitting here, asking people to drop the japanese aspects from their arts, and in the last 24 hours I've bought two books on japanese poetry. Hmmm...


Originally posted by Joe Yang
Martial arts training is meditation.

For me, though, the martial arts are actually ways to win fights.

The first style I was taught was a very practically-focussed form of karate-jitsu, where each thing you were taught truly was for self defence, and I think I've kept that idea central to my training.

Isn't the idea of martial arts as character building relatively recent? Didn't it come with the invention of kendo in the late nineteenth century? Kendo inventing the concept, judo using it too, and karate-do leaping on the bandwagon... Any historians out there?

Ryan
20th September 2001, 20:46
OK, I've been reading this thread for a while and I don't know if we're ready for this, but here goes:

I. It’s an art

The Japanese martial art I practice, I consider an "art" foremost. While it is ultimately extremely combat efficient, I don't spend a lot of time in combat. I do spend a lot of time in the dojo practicing my art as an art.

Beautifully crafted techniques performed perfectly in real time improvisations have a genuine aesthetic as valid as any painting in a museum. It takes years of intense training to even be able to see it and it only lasts tenths of a second. That teaches me things about impermanence.

II. It’s a meditation

While practicing my martial art, I focus entirely on emptying my mind to the point where I am no longer maintaining the delusional ramblings of my own mind; this brings me to a point of singularity. This singularity allows me to see the world without discursive thought, so I can observe, "that which is" as opposed to "that which is described" - this is called "Sunyata".

Sunyata is the moment when you've ceased the process of maintaining your "i" sometimes called "extinguishing the ego", or "selflessness" or "Mushin" which means without thought or emptiness of thought. When you’re in this state, you can find a sense of bliss and universal compassion unlike anything you’ve ever experienced and it is truly spiritual. I feel sorry for the Christians sometimes because they seem to be afraid of allowing themselves to experience it. I’ve had a student tell me quite frankly that if he empties his mind the devil will jump into it.

III. Its combat preparation

It is during Sunyata that I am most effective in combat. In this state, I am completely relaxed with no anticipation of the opponent’s movements. There are no prepatory movements to my movements as I flow effortlessly with my opponent rather than reacting to him. This is the essence of the Japanese martial art I practice.

Japanese martial arts are pursuits designed to take you to this mushin or sunyata just like the tea ceremony or gardening. All of your 11th century Japanese warrior heroes were certainly in this state of mind when they were in battle.

IV. Conclusion

Before Sammy Sosa goes to bat, he does a set of actions in a certain sequence, all atheletes do. Your mind’s language is highly symbolic, not the verbal language you use to speak to others. Ritual and ceremony speak directly to the mind – they are powerful methods of achieving a certain state of mind. Like the ritual you all do before you start your jobs; showering, shaving, getting dressed. You tend to do these things the same way every day; it helps you mentally prepare. That is what ritual is for whether it is Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish or baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, track, or martial arts.

Over a very long period of time, the Shinto and Buddhist rituals of entering a dojo and beginning practice have been refined to maximize the effect of mentally preparing you to practice. If you remove all of this ritual, in a short amount of time you will replace it with another ritual of your own – that is how humans work.

If the rituals of your dojo don’t work for you, you should probably replace them with ones that do. I would recommend becoming more formal rather than less, however.

Jeff Hamacher
21st September 2001, 03:33
Originally posted by Steve C
It may be that we're coming from a different starting point here, then. I practice Shotokan karate; an art created in Okinawa and taught by an Okinawan, Gichin Funakoshi, to the Japanese. (...)
What I'm saying really is, although Japan was very important for the spread and development of many of the arts, it doesn't have a complete monopoly on them.
my bad, i didn't realize you were a student of karate. still, it doesn't change my point of view: whether your art is japanese, okinawan, chinese, korean, thai, philippine, or what have you, your training should respect and maintain its culture of origin. as you pointed out earlier in the thread, the japanese stripped karate of its okinawan flavour; perhaps some karateka ought to consider a reinstitution of that cultural essence.


What I was hoping to point out was that the martial arts often uses customs derived from religious practice, such as the shinto-based bowing to photographs. (...)
So Gil is appropriating the custom and changing the underlying meaning of it to suit his own culture. He's choosing the meaning of the custom. I'm just proposing a slightly different angle; don't use the custom if you're going to divorce it from it's original meaning. (...)
If I have the basic tenets of Christianity right, bowing with the original meaning may well be unchristian. (...)
(The Ten Commandments don't seem to favour any kind of worship or religious respect given to images.)

i'm not aware of photographs being used in any Shinto ritual, but if you can provide details i'd like to know more. it's true that japanese place photos of ancestors in Buddhist altars in their homes, but reciting sutras in front of them does not constitute revering your ancestors as deities. given that the japanese view of spirituality is vastly different from "western" monetheisms and you are not "praying" as such to a photograph in the dojo, what is Gil doing that divorces the custom from its "original meaning?" as far as i know, the original meaning of the custom is a show of respect and does not constitute religious practice.

having said that, i have read information on other threads regarding actual Shinto rituals (reading of prayers, etc.) as part of martial arts training, usually that of a classical school. if such elements are offensive or run contrary to a student's religious beliefs that student should look elsewhere for martial arts training. however, the student of martial arts should make themselves aware of what a given school's rituals involve and not jump to conclusions about these traditions. further upthread we heard about a Christian student who stopped martial arts training because he was convinced that it was not God's Will for him to continue, and although i'm not a Christian, i understand and respect his decision. in that sense, i agree with you Chris: keep the cultural tradition intact, and if you disagree with any part of it, don't just blithely sanitize it or restructure it for your own needs. if you can't make a compromise and accept the tradition wholesale then don't study it.


Actually, Jeff, I'd like to hear what you've got to say on the subject. What deserves to be kept in an original form -say, japanese meditiation - and what deserves to be translated or modified - say, instruction manuals for japanese electronics?
i'm gonna assume this is totally facetious, but i'll answer anyway. the rules of the modern world dictate that you've got to play to your "market" and shape your "product" so as to generate greatest appeal. on this level, Naomi Klein's book No Logo explains things much more skilfully than i ever could (interestingly enough, she describes the current trend of "branding" to be a kind of psychological imperialism, where the societies that consume products relinquish their own culture in favour of the Culture of Nike or whatever; the brand becomes universal culture). of course you can't expect every french consumer to read the instructions for their new VCR in chinese, so you translate them. but what we're discussing isn't a practical concern as much as it is an emotional or (once again) cultural one. does it matter to you whether or not the cultural accoutrements of your martial training stay in place?


The first style I was taught was a very practically-focussed form of karate-jitsu, where each thing you were taught truly was for self defence, and I think I've kept that idea central to my training.

Isn't the idea of martial arts as character building relatively recent? Didn't it come with the invention of kendo in the late nineteenth century? Kendo inventing the concept, judo using it too, and karate-do leaping on the bandwagon... Any historians out there?
no, Miyamoto Musashi wrote about honing one's mind through martial training in Go Rin no Sho in the 17th century. he likened it to Zen meditation and the enlightenment that it brings (and he was no stranger to Zen), although he insisted that Zen and kenjutsu are certainly not one and the same. remember that, with the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate and the Pax Japonica, there were laws against running around killing people; samurai had to direct their fighting energies into something other than simple killing, for the most part.

let me pick up from my question above: you say that your martial training has been based upon a very practical mindset, and perhaps then some of the cultural trappings of these martial arts aren't paramount to meeting your goals. fair enough. in my mind, though, following that path means missing out on some very valuable insights that your art may offer you. having self-defence skills is great, but what about your personal skills? learning to be a better human can help you to avoid conflicts that escalate into fights where you are forced to use your physical ability.

on the whole, the "religious" aspects of martial arts training are often exaggerated; i think each student must determine for themselves what kind of spiritual goals they hope to attain through their study. if a student or potential student cannot reconcile their religious beliefs and their training then they have to choose. i maintain that if the culture of (or behind) a martial art doesn't interest you, than why study it? but then there will always be students who want practical self-defence training and nothing else, and there's nothing wrong with that.

P Goldsbury
21st September 2001, 05:15
Very interesting thread.

The Founder of aikido stated that aikido was a religion without actually being a religion "Aikido wa shukyo ni arazu shite, shukyo nanode arimasu". (Hideo Takahashi, "Takemusu Aiki", p.36).

However, he explained this phrase entirely within the context of kotodama theory, which, whilst being the Japanese version of a very old belief concerning the relationship of the soul/spirit and sounds/words (going back at least to the Greek Presocratic sages), was taken over by scholars like Motoori Norinaga in the Edo period and used as the foundation of the uniqueness of the Japanese spirit (and nation), which had led to unfortunate consequences by 1945.

The Founder's son Kisshomaru Ueshiba was instrumental in removing all of this superstructure from aikido in order that it could be practised again and also practised by people who are not Japanese. Thus the "religious" aspects of aikido in Japan go no further than the ordinary Japanese view, which is extraordinarily comprehensive: i.e., everything or nothing. As for aikido overseas, it might well complement or amplify a religious, ethical or 'ideological' system, but I think it is not itself a substitute for one.

As for bowing before pictures, images, or even statutes, let alone talking to them, for a Christian I do not think at all that in all cases this implies worship.

Best regards,

Peter Goldsbury,
_____________
Graduate School of Social Sciences,
Hiroshima University

Steve C
21st September 2001, 16:21
Originally posted by Jeff Hamacher
i'm not aware of photographs being used in any Shinto ritual, but if you can provide details i'd like to know more. it's true that japanese place photos of ancestors in Buddhist altars in their homes, but reciting sutras in front of them does not constitute revering your ancestors as deities.

Sorry, this is my mistake. This was what I was talking about, and I apologise for getting this wrong.


Steve: What deserves to be kept in an original form -say, japanese meditiation - and what deserves to be translated or modified - say, instruction manuals for japanese electronics ;) ?

Jeff: i'm gonna assume this is totally facetious, but i'll answer anyway.

Well, I was being half-serious and half-jokey with this. Assume, from now on, that I'm being jokey rather than serious/facetious. The spectre of internet miscommunication must not be allowed to raise it's ugly head ;)

So, the half-serious bit of me was thinking that many of the things in the martial arts are very solid things or concepts. If you were to buy a japanese video recorder, you wouldn't expect to have to learn the japanese for 'play button' just to watch a tape. But when you learn a martial art, you are expected to learn the Japanese for 'kick', 'punch' and 'throw.' Doesn't this seem odd to anyone else?


Steve: Isn't the idea of martial arts as character building relatively recent?

Jeff: no, Miyamoto Musashi wrote about honing one's mind through martial training in Go Rin no Sho in the 17th century.

Ah. We've got a misunderstanding here, and I apologise for not being properly clear.

When the martial arts were developed, they were developed to win fights. Kenjitsu to cut people up, ju-jitsu to kill people who wanted to cut you up but were peskily wearing armour, and karate-jitsu to kill people who wanted to rob you. Musashi makes this clear in The Water Book: "When you take up a sword, you must feel intent on cutting the enemy." MA = fighting techniques

But even with proper technique, you will be found lacking if you are not set right mentally and spiritually. You have to have courage, determination, discipline to win in battle. You must be able to react quickly to everything your opponent does.

So physical skills are not enough. The devoted warrior will study mental and spiritual aspects in order to be more effective in achieving his goals. And of course, the samurai were devoted warriors, professional soldiers in the way that, say, the standing armies of Britain or the US are today.

Here's a marvellous quote from Hagakure, by Yamamoto Tsunemoto (sp?)


The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance. To say that dying without reaching one's aim is to die a dog's death is the frivolous way of sophisticates. When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one's aim.

We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaming one's aim is a dog's death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he pains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.

For me, this is clear evidence that a) the samurai used his philosophy to complement his way of life as a warrior, b) that the martial arts weren't about peace and harmony, but about conflict, and c) that the samurai were a bunch of mentalists.

But after the meiji restoration and the effective neutralising of the samurai as a fighting force, the martial arts had to look for a new niche in order to survive. And so, starting with kendo (as far as I know) the martial arts underwent a switch in focus to avoid becoming an anachronism;

They start as a way of winning fights, physical skills enhanced with mental discipline.

They become a way of achieving mental discipline through the practice of physical skills.

I think this happened first when kenjitsu, (an outlawed fighting technique,) became kendo, (a sport.) Memory fails me, but I think the whole kendo movement originates, in it's current form, from about 1890. Karate-do as taught by Funakoshi espouses the view that karate is primarily a method of improving character. And this is what I was talking about in my last post.

From this understanding, then, I see the idea of martial arts as meditation, as spiritual training for it's own sake, as a recent invention of a modern Japan which did not need the arts any more. This idea isn't the original idea of the art at all.

So jeff, when you say about keeping the culture of the art alive, we seem to have different kinds of culture to consider; some is Japanese etiquette (bowing), some is philosophical (mushin), some is martial (practical self defence).

For me, practical self defence was the original purpose of the arts, the philosophy builds and enhances that, and the japanese parts are really a coincidence; the martial arts happened to flower in Japan, but owe little to the japanese language or forms of etiquette.

If you or I were japanese, studying the arts in japan, the etiquette parts would be nearly 'transparent' to us; the same forms of etiquette you show your karate teacher you show to your school teachers, too. You don't learn special, foreign words to describe everything, you communicate directly with your teacher in your mother tongue. Why do we do it differently?


Jeff: having self-defence skills is great, but what about your personal skills? learning to be a better human can help you to avoid conflicts that escalate into fights where you are forced to use your physical ability...

I maintain that if the culture of (or behind) a martial art doesn't interest you, than why study it?

Well, I think I've been fairly clear in this post about that. If you want to learn about personal skills, learn them directly. If you want to learn the culture, learn it directly. If you want to learn about the benefits of eastern philosophy and culture, then learn tea ceremony. Read buddhist scripture. Take up za-zen meditation. Compose haiku. Make copies of the lotus sutra. Read the Tale of Genji and Narrow Road to the Deep North. Buy a big book on Zen (and then burn it ;) ) Just don't learn to punch someone in the throat.

There may be people out there who think I'm being overly critical of Japanese culture; that's far from my intention. regardless of what this reply might suggest, I'm actually a big fan of a lot of ancient Japanese culture, and have tried to study the art, culture, history, and poetry. I just don't see where the overlap occurs between the martial arts and the rest of the culture.

Anyway, I'm very interested to hear anyone's thoughts.

Especially someone who knows what the hell they're talking about ;)

Timothy Walters Kleinert
21st September 2001, 18:47
Well, I see that this thread has changed topics since last I replied. It may be worth considering moving this discussion to a new thread in the general forum...

But anyway, let me say I view MA's from more of the "art" side of things. I believe that if you want raw self-defense there are more efficient ways to learn it. Even my sensei admits that there are six-week courses that teach self-defense more efficiently, quickly, and practically than any MA (but then he goes on to say that MA's in the long run teach a deeper understaning of personal combat).

That being said, MA's are not simply sets of combat techniques. They are historical and cultural artifacts. Along with techniques exists philosophies and strategies.

Now follow me a minute. I'm not a very experienced fighter, but the more I study MA's the more I view advanced fighting as being based on strategy. Anyone can throw a punch, but do you know how to get your punch to land without getting hit yourself? That's strategy.

Now in order to really understand the particular strategies of a particular school, you need to understand the logic or thinking (i.e. philosophies) of that school. Understanding the logic of the school helps you understand why a particular strategy was chosen.

But how do you understanding the logic/thinking of the school? By understanding the cultural and historical background of the school/ school's founders.

So in conclusion, why do we follow the ettiquette, learn the language and other customs of the school? Because in the long run it helps our fighting! Following ettiquette and speaking the language helps us get into the mindset of the founders (or at least the current heads of the schools), which helps us understand their strategies, which helps us fight better.

P Goldsbury
22nd September 2001, 00:22
To Steve Cooper,

Mr Cooper,

Your last post was very interesting, though I think I would place the time at which the Japanese samurai became 'spiritual' rather earlier than the Meiji Restoration. I agree, though, with much of your general line of argument and it certainly a good basis for future discussion.

For me the problem occurs when an activity or art which has its intellectual, philosophical and spiritual roots in a particular culture is 'exported' to another culture. I think there is a very wide spectrum of possibilities here.

For example, in my experience sado (Japanese tea ceremony) as practised in England is done so pretty much in the same way as it is here in Japan.

(Incidentally, my Japanese friends spend vast amounts of money buying delicate bone china and tea from Fortnum & Mason so that their experience of drinking English tea can be 'authentic'. And when my friends come to my house 'for tea' I also use bone china etc., which I never do when I have breakfast alone.)

I would also think that someone practising kashima-shinryu in the US would follow as closely as possible the rules and conventions of the head dojo in Japan. This would presumably be a requirment of the ryu-ha.

I cannot speak so much for judo, kendo and karate, but postwar aikido was practised overseas from very early on and, as I stated in an earlier post, the prewar religious trappings were quietly abandoned. What was exported was the new-style 'religion-free' aikido which became the norm in the Hombu Dojo in Tokyo. I think there were two reasons for this. One is that Morihei Ueshiba was so exoteric in his explanations that very few of his disciples uderstood what he was saying (but note that this was never an obstacle to their practice: they were not excluded from the dojo for failing to grasp any 'secrets'). So when they came to teach the art overseas, they taught it exactly as they themselves had understod it. The second reason was political in some sense, and also economic. No martial art which clung closely to 'right-wing' ideas like kotodama and yamato-damashii stood much of a chance of being allowed in the late 1940s. I think postwar aikido was first practised overseas in America.

Another factor for aikido is that competitions are not generally practised. Of course, the case of sumo shows that competition itself cannot immediately be equated with sport, understood in a western sense, but it would seem that Jigoro Kano was quite heavily influenced by western ideas and some of these, like the dan system, found their way into aikido. Nevertheless, competitions are one way of evaluating progress in the art in an 'objective' fashion. For aikido, other ways have to be found and I think aikido everywhere is practised with the same 'vertical' structure that it has in Japan.

As for some of the other cultural trappings you mentioned, like dojo etiquette, in my own experience there is a great deal of variation, even here in Japan. In fact I suspect that 'Japanese' conventions are adhered to more strictly overseas than they are here. Whenever I go to Europe to teach a seminar, there is always a picture of the Founder and no one has ever raised any religious objections to bowing either to the picture or to each other.

As for names of the techniques, the Founder of aikido did not coin these himself. When he taught, the only names he ever used were "Ikkajo" and "nikajo", which are simply counting terms. Aikido is still a relatively young art and the cultural connections with Japan are still very strong. Thus, the very senior dan ranks (8th dan) are monopolised by Japanese who knew the Funde directly. These senior instructors themsleves devised names for the techniques when they were students. The names have stuck, partly because these same istructors taught aikido in Japan and overseas and also because no one has yet been able to devise any acceptable substitutes.

As I suggested, the interesting question for me is to what extent an 'art' like aikido is essentially defined in terms of the culture of its origin. Clearly, you do not have to be Japanese to understand and practise aikido. You do not have to be Japanese to teach it to others. But the Japanese aspects are clearly very prominent and are regarded by people like the Doshu as essential.

Best regards to all,

Peter Goldsbury,
_____________
P A Goldsbury,
Graduate Schol of Social Sciences,
Hiroshima University

Steve C
22nd September 2001, 00:23
Hi, Timothy. Nice to have your input.

I'm with you almost all the way. I agree with you about 'short-cut' self defence courses. I think that's evident if you look at eight-week students in karate, for example, who are barely managing stances, movement, and basic punching, versus eight-week students in street self defence, who I'd expect to have several really applicable techniques. And yes, as time goes on, martial artists overtake these students.

I also agree about strategy; learning about your opponent, the effectiveness and applicability of techniques, etc. all take both physical and mental study. Going back to Musashi - he calls longsword fighting 'the Way of Strategy'. Great minds think alike...

And then you say that we have to understand the strategies of the schools we're learning, and that these have a cultural basis. And you ask, and reply "But how do you understand the logic/thinking of the school? By understanding the cultural and historical background of the school/ school's founders."

At which point (predictably, some might say) I disagree. How does learning Japanese or affecting japanese mannerisms affect in one way or another your martial skills?

Does this mean that japanese haiku poets of the eighteenth century were somehow more predisposed to military prowess than english poets at the same time? No! Samuel Taylor Coleridge could have kicked Kobayashi Issa's ass any day! ;) (That would have been the big Fight of 1791, that one...)

Likewise, Was Camillo Agrippa's 'Treatise on the Science of Arms and a Dialogue on the Same Theme' any worse a book on swordmanship than 'Go Rin No Sho' just because it was in italian rather than Japanese? No!


"These things cannot be clearly explained in words. You must research what is written here"-- Musashi

I think the core of the martial arts is not spoken. It is not linguistic. It is physical. It is about muscle and bone and nerves, and about courage and alertness and speed.

If you want to get into the minds of the founders, well, there are good translations of the works of Morihei Ueshiba, Shinmen Musashi, Gichin Funakoshi, Bruce Lee, and Jackie Chan available in all good bookshops. You don't need to go and learn a foreign language in order to get it.


"The Way of the warrior does not include other Ways, such as Confucianism, Buddhism, certain traditions, artistic accomplishments and dancing."-- Musashi

Thanks everyone for a great discussion.

Steve

Joseph Svinth
22nd September 2001, 06:55
The one time I found knowing the Japanese names useful was the time we had an Okinawan teacher in class -- though he had lived in Hawaii for 35 years, his English was awful, and so it turned out to be fortunate that the people in class knew terms such as "zenkutsu dachi."

Some knowledge of foreign terms is essential during sporting competition. For example, international boxing uses English commands. Likewise, fencing uses Italian and judo uses Japanese. These are conventions, but if you're going to play or referee, you need to know various terms. (Start, stop, point, etc.)

Beyond that, I'm willing to posit that much of the usage is meant primarily to foster group solidarity. Basically, you can't be one of Us until you can recite the Latin Mass and give the proper Masonic signs, no matter if you can whup everybody in sight, Poohbah included. If you doubt this, try to come up with a contextual glossary that transcends styles.

Ryan
24th September 2001, 19:55
With reference to the 6-week type hand-to-hand combat courses, I must disagree. I've had discussions with many very expert people about 6 or 8 week hand-to-hand combat courses and have had my opinions confirmed over and over by the people I respect most in the martial arts.

All you can teach someone in several weeks is vulnerable areas of the body to attack, some basic strikes and very primitive kata. These methods would only be effective against a totally inexperienced fighter, or one greatly impaired and would be completely useless against multiple opponents.

In my opinion, a 6-week defense course would only be slightly more effective in actual combat than 6 weeks of physical conditioning alone. While these courses have limited combat value, they can give the student a false sense of abilities and cause him to enter into a dangerous situation he might otherwise avoid.

If you only have 6 weeks and must protect yourself, the opinion over and over is to purchase a pistol and take 6 weeks of practical combat marksmanship. Nothing you could do in the martial arts for 6 weeks could provide equal capability to defend yourself than even the minimum proficiency with a firearm. The judgment required to know when to deliver an omote shuto to the throat is precisely the same judgment required to know when to pull the trigger.

I propose that the vast majority of modern, sport-oriented martial arts have very limited combat application even when practiced for many years. In my opinion, notwithstanding the experience a student may gain in sparing, many are really no better than learning boxing or even American football for real combat.

The few remaining arts with real combat efficiency take at least a decade of dedicated practice under an excellent teacher to get to the point of engaging a trained, experienced opponent in a real combat situation with any hope of survival. In my opinion, TV and movies have greatly distorted even many martial art practitioners’ view of martial arts as applied in actual combat.

At any rate, I think it’s dangerous to suggest to someone that they have practical hand-to-hand combat skills after 6 weeks of any kind of training.

Jeff Hamacher
25th September 2001, 03:06
Originally posted by Steve C
The spectre of internet miscommunication must not be allowed to raise it's ugly head ;)
good point. i know that it's really hard not to come off sounding harsh in printed communication like this, but i'll accept your comments as a kind of "friendly banter" (sort of like the butler Stevens from The Remains of the Day) and please accept my words in a similar way.

But when you learn a martial art, you are expected to learn the Japanese for 'kick', 'punch' and 'throw.' Doesn't this seem odd to anyone else?
as i wrote upthread, in many activities the terminology of certain languages are used as a kind of convention no matter where that activity is pursued. in that sense i don't consider it odd at all to use japanese terminology in reference to a martial art which is japanese, just as you might use chinese terminology in reference to a chinese martial art, and so forth. i don't think it's necessary to learn to speak japanese as such (and i agree it would be kind of odd to hear non-japanese students and teachers in a country outside of japan speaking japanese in the dojo), but the terminology acts as a common reference for students of many different countries.

When the martial arts were developed, they were developed to win fights. (...) Musashi makes this clear in The Water Book: "When you take up a sword, you must feel intent on cutting the enemy." MA = fighting techniques
true, but bear in mind that Musashi himself would never have cut anyone in his famous undefeated duelling career; they fought with bokuto in accordance with shogunal law. samurai from Musashi's era forward had to sublimate their intent to become better killers into a desire to become better swordsmen who no longer had the opportunity to kill, for the most part.

Here's a marvellous quote from Hagakure, by Yamamoto Tsunemoto (sp?) (...) For me, this is clear evidence that a) the samurai used his philosophy to complement his way of life as a warrior, b) that the martial arts weren't about peace and harmony, but about conflict, and c) that the samurai were a bunch of mentalists.
if i remember correctly, EJMAS has some good articles which poke a few holes in the bushido myth, with some particular references to Hagakure. the link should be found at the bottom of Joseph Svinth's post. in essence, the articles warn not to take Tsunetomo (or Nitobe Inazo's Bushido, for that matter) as a pure reflection of reality.

If you or I were japanese, studying the arts in japan, the etiquette parts would be nearly 'transparent' to us; the same forms of etiquette you show your karate teacher you show to your school teachers, too. You don't learn special, foreign words to describe everything, you communicate directly with your teacher in your mother tongue. Why do we do it differently?
linguistic conventions, just as i wrote above. and i wouldn't be too quick to assume that there is a strong commonality between dojo and school etiquette. many japanese, especially young japanese, have only fleeting ideas of their country's traditional social rituals, not entirely unlike young people around the world.

If you want to learn about personal skills, learn them directly. If you want to learn the culture, learn it directly. (...) Just don't learn to punch someone in the throat. (...) I just don't see where the overlap occurs between the martial arts and the rest of the culture.
and this is where you and i lose our common ground on this issue, Steve. you see martial arts as having adopted social rituals or spiritual dimensions as a kind of add-on, which is not untrue. my point is that for a few hundred years now the japanese martial arts have been shaped and defined by a mode of practice where personal or spiritual development have taken precedence over the simple ability to kill or injure effectively. i'm certainly not suggesting that effectiveness ceased to be a consideration (Musashi writes, "that which is of no use should not be studied"), but ritual, etiquette, and spiritual development became intertwined with the practical components of martial arts training.

if you consider it more applicable to your own goals to attempt to recreate the training experience of martial artists before these esoteric elements crept in, no one will fault you i'm sure. i realize that karate is quite separate in its history from japanese martial arts, so that may fortify your "case", so to speak, in favour of "practical, host-culture-focussed" martial arts study, although i don't know enough about Okinawan culture or history to comment. but for anyone who trains in a japanese martial art, i think your line of argument is faulty in one important sense: all of the japanese cultural traditions are manifestations of the same Way. tea ceremony, calligraphy, poetry, ink drawing, or zazen are all methods to hone the spirit and are not separate from martial arts training, at least not since the beginning of the 17th century. so you see, training in martial arts is an example of learning the culture directly, of studying japanese social ritual directly. reading books or copying sutras are simply alternative methods. (bear in mind that this has nothing to do with modern japan; if you want to find out about this country's present-day state then reading books, learning the language and living here for a while are your best bet).

if you have any comments or responses, Steve, i'd be happy to hear them, but i don't think i have anything futher to add regarding your original proposition. you and i differ our points of departure for training in martial arts, so i don't think we can continue to debate as such, but thank you for providing food for thought.

Steve C
25th September 2001, 09:34
Ryan:

I think we agree on things, in general. I wasn't saying that a 2-month self defense couse would make you any good; just that, at that stage in a martial arts 'career' you are probably worse. Certainly in karate, you're struggling with funny stances and difficult-to-coordinate power techniques, and in things like judo, for example, I imagine the problem is even worse; unskilled throwing and grappling being even less useful than unskilled punching.

Jeff, Everybody:

Brilliant stuff! Jeff, I think you're right; we've come to the end of the discussion. But the discussion was great, and although it turned away from the original thought (sorry about that) I think it did cover a lot of ground _surrounding_ that idea.

Anyway, thanks to everyone, and good luck in your training.

Steve

luihu
30th September 2001, 14:44
It is absurd to talk if it´s right to practice MA with christian ideology. Why? Because both of these possible practises (christianity and MA) base on different grounds. Martial arts is a thing you you can freely choose to develop yourself as a human being. If you decide to start training you are like Socrates trying to find the best possible way of being a human. MA includes morality based way of life. And moral can exist only between human beings, who aren´t totally outmatched.

Religions, any of them including atheism (they BELIEVE, that there is no gods), are all about things that are valid between man and his gods, whatever they might be. For example if your religion is christianism, you do not actually do good things for peoples sake (even if Immanuel Kant tries to prove this), you do them because god has given the basic rules of living and behaving. As long as you live with those norms everything is allright.

My point is, that choosing whether to do martial arts or not, is a question of choosing your moral and way of life, not question of choosing religion. As long as some omnipotent says it is wrong to try to behave as a civilized man trying to develop themselves as a human beings, it won´t fight against religious ethics. Probably you can develop your way of life into religion, but if you were christian, you aren´t one after that, so problem is solved.

Of course morality and religion have some fields where they both have different answers, but the grounds of the questions are still different. And my personal belief is to do what is right, considering options and consequenses.

J.Pap

bujijar
14th October 2001, 17:38
God is in the soul. Addressing his first question(I havne't read this whole thing!), If you're talking about clearing your mind of all thoughts, I think that's fine, you're keeping saten out of your mind, but God is still in your soul. And if you're talking about deep thinking, that's just find and dandy, becuase I do it all the time, and I'm not possesed. To some people, martial arts might be a threat to their faith, but, is thy faith as strong as it needs to be, if Saten can get into your mind so easily. To some people, martial arts are fine, no threat.

Take care,
Steven:idea: