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Thread: Koryu & PTSD

  1. #1
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    Default Koryu & PTSD

    A friend of mine was asking me about PTSD and traditional Japanese martial arts.

    I am curious what training there is extent in koryu curriculum which addresses the idea of PTSD. People are people, and I doubt that fighting men of the medieval era suffered from PTSD any less than modern men in any essential capacity. Outside of culture--which has gotten softer, I think most would say--we are no different in capacities now than then. Our brains are built the same, and fighting men still kill each other in gruesome ways, and a given percentage of them are troubled for many years to follow.

    I remember reading through a thread a few years back (this one, to be exact: Highest Teachings on the subject.

    What kinds of training exist in koryu which address PTSD directly or indirectly? How much of an impact does misogi, etc. have on mindset? Does the ryu actively link misogi and other 'soft skills' to physical training? When, and in what way, do these kinds of soft skills enter the training schedule of a student? Why do you think this is?

    Thanks.

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    In brief, a number of koryu had mikkyo to "keep ghosts in the grave" - several levels. The majority really believed in ghosts. The other level is psychological - 'burying the dead." There is also no doubt that Zen was very attractive because it taught equanimity. (This was extra-curricular study, as was devotional Buddhism - Jodo Shinshu and Nichiren-shu. The Israelis have done a fair amount of research establishing that religious people are less subject to PTSD - they have an ideology that can "explain" something that happens to you. AS for misogi - Shinto rites were for purification and death was seen as a pollutant. So it would be the same as the AMer. Indians using sage to smudge themselves after a battle - IIRC, some tribes would not allow the warriors to return unless the death was cleansed off of them.

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    You might want to check out Dr. David Hall's new book about Marishiten. It is an expansion of his PhD dissertation and it covers some information about religion and PTSD during the bushi eras. It is an academic book so the price tag reflects that. I went to the library we have at my job and asked about it and they might be ordering a copy; they said Brill is the best publisher of religious books in the world.

    http://www.brill.com/buddhist-goddess-marishiten

    Cheers,
    Chris
    Christopher Covington

    Daito-ryu aikijujutsu
    Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu heiho

    All views expressed here are my own and don't necessarily represent the views of the arts I practice, the teachers and people I train with or any dojo I train in.

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    Mr. Covington, that book looks like exactly the kind of thing that I am trying to find.

    Mr. Amdur, is mikkyo a sect or type of buddhism or a single rite or act from esoteric buddhism? Or, yes? I did some google-fu'ing, and found this. Can you give an example of what you are speaking of?

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    PTSD is not necessarily bad. For instance, let's say that you're a small-time hood who decides to move into the big leagues. Or, let's say you're a journalist investigating corruption in government. You live longer if you trust nobody, sleep lightly, and don't stay in one place too long.

    The problem is when you take the same mindset to a place that is comparatively safe. Audie Murphy is a famous US example of this. He did fine during WWII; it was peacetime that caused him issues.

    Put another way, it's simply an adjustment disorder. What was useful in one situation is counterproductive in another situation.

    So, as you're asking about mikkyo, here is a koan. The teacher and the disciple were out walking. They saw a geisha standing next to a muddy ditch that she could not cross without getting her fancy clothes wet. The old monk carried the woman across, and then he and the disciple continued on their way. Hours later, the disciple asked, "Teacher, why did you carry that prostitute? Aren't we supposed to avoid them?" The teacher replied, "I carried a woman across a muddy ditch. I left her there. Why are you still carrying her with you?"

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    Default Mikkyo

    Mr. Amdur, is mikkyo a sect or type of buddhism or a single rite or act from esoteric buddhism? Or, yes? I did some google-fu'ing, and found this. Can you give an example of what you are speaking of?
    The website explained things pretty well. Mikkyo IS esoteric Buddhism. In Japan, it's largely associated with the Shingon and Tendai sect, and is essentially identical with Tibetan/Bhutanese Buddhism.

    A specific example would be pointless. They are basically rituals, associated with mudra (hand and body postures), mantra (specific chants), and mandala (drawings that portray the spiritual world of which they speak).

    Honestly, other than antiquarian curiosity, I see mikkyo as a waste of time for a non-Japanese practitioner of martial arts.
    1. First of all, mikkyo in koryu is not Buddhism. They are rituals taken from Buddhism used for utilitarian ends. For example, when I was fifteen, I had a broken nose and they used cocaine to numb it and set it. . . . other people use the same drug to get high. Similarly, you could learn Buddhist rituals and they are out of context for koryu studies.
    2. Almost all the transmission lines for mikkyo in koryu are broken. Few of the teachers understand the texts or the rituals, and of those who do, very few believe them.
    3. The best research on PTSD, as far as I know, is being done by the Israelis.

    I'm not brushing-off your request for information. I'm certainly curious about the rituals - lost - in my own traditions. But the truth is that, for the most part, the information does not exist in usable form.

    Ellis Amdur

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    Thanks for the reply.

    The Israelis have quite of a bit of skin in the game, as it were, and significant exposure risk. It makes sense that they are on the leading edge of PTSD study.

    To a certain extent, I think that it would be advantageous on a very simple level to have a 'job' upon completion of an edged weapons kill. The spiritual side of things can be what they are, but having a mental and physical focal point that is somewhere away from the wide-eyed, pulse pounding, blood pumping, shock-induced-sweaty mess that you just made out of another human being would be rather helpful. This would be a welcome kind of disassociation, I should think. The friend in question offered an example of chatter between spotter and shooter in a scout-sniper team as a method of formalizing the very direct act of killing into a mechanical act that allowed a certain emotional distance. He has a measure of experience with such things.

    Your point about the mikkyo being tools is well taken, I guess.

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    Mr. McGaw,

    A good book on PTSD in general and how we as Americans deal with it is located here: http://www.amazon.com/War-Soul-Veter...r+and+the+soul . As for the koryu, I tend to agree that religious people suffer less from PTSD because they have a way to rationalize their experiences that juxtapose worlds. Generally speaking, Japanese culture surrounding the development of various koryu acknowledged the divine in some sense or other which might have helped those involved with the killing of other human beings. Similarly, most of the folks I've met in the U.S. military who do things 15-year olds like to replicate via video games are somewhat more religious than your average American. Of course, this is all anecdotal on my part.

    Another good read is located here: http://www.amazon.com/What-Like-War-...e+to+go+to+war .
    Last edited by Joel Simmons; 21st May 2014 at 06:37. Reason: Info
    Regards,
    Joel

    Isaiah 6:8

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    Joel --

    On the US military's religious nature, I think it depends on the era. The 1990s to present? Definitely. However, the early to mid 1970s? Bachelor subculture was far more influential than sky pilots. In those days, when the preacher saw us coming, he knew we were there for the women and the food, and he took steps to lock up both.

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