Author Topic: Buddhism and the Martial Way  (Read 5004 times)

Offline edgeoftheboard

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Buddhism and the Martial Way
« on: January 09, 2013, 06:54:25 am »
Hi all,

Just wondered if anyone had a similar experience to this or could shed some light...

I was introduced to meditation and training quite young through martial arts (traditional Japanese Karate).  It helped me a lot, I felt more confident, peaceful and (dare I say it) spiritual.  It gave me some sense of meaning at least.

As time went on, I started to develop a mental attachment to a sort of pseudo-zen-buddhism.  I read books like the Book of Five Rings, Art of War and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance(!) And began to 'feel' as though I had some connection with something very deep and meaningful :)

My meditation practice was at first very useful, especially while I was training heavily but I suspect I began to get the wrong idea about it...meditation became mind-training to allow me to deaden my emotions, quieten fear, train harder or 'succeed'.  I believe it took me further away from where I wanted to be.

A lot has happened in the last 20 years and one way or another, it has brought me back to a much more open-minded and simpler approach to Buddhism.  I am surprised to notice that I hardly even noticed the ethical component of the path as a young man, yet this is the element which has been most meaningful to me in recent years.

Apologies if this is a little jumbled...perhaps I don't know where to start.  But yes, I believe I had an unhelpful view of Buddhist practice, partly through the teachings and training of martial arts and wondered if this was a common experience?

Regards

P

Offline Lobster

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Re: Buddhism and the Martial Way
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2013, 09:01:29 am »
Hi,  :hug:

My first formal practice was in Buddhist martial arts, a form of karate/kempo cult. I learned to fight, had a couple of insight flashes and was introduced to Shingon Buddhist practices . . .

The thing to do, in my estimation is decide what the real battle, acceptance, practice is? It is in essence not about stultifying, suppressing or stupifying. I would suggest that ethical training is a very complete practice. Combine this with Tai Chi Chuan and you have a complete package . . .

Offline edgeoftheboard

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Re: Buddhism and the Martial Way
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2013, 02:42:06 pm »
Yes, thankyou Lobster I have considered Tai Chi and may follow your suggestion here.

I came to much the same conclusion about hardening or supressing in meditation and if anything have been trying to reverse this over the last few years.

As I said, I do wonder if this is a common experience for martial artists or more my own personal misunderstanding.

P

Offline Lobster

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Re: Buddhism and the Martial Way
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2013, 11:58:22 pm »
I feel we all misunderstand and gain clarity in our own way an time . . . Martial Artists are often hard asses, it is part of their training, to overcome or fight physical limitations. So I recognise elements in martial arts practitioners who are not very flexible or soft unless engaged in the internal arts.  :)

Offline sdjeff1

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Re: Buddhism and the Martial Way
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2013, 11:51:48 am »
Ch'an monks practice Kung Fu, in fact it was started at the Shaolin temple.

I was in martial arts years ago and we were first imbued with a healthy respect for life. We had to learn respect, being gentle with nature and each other, and we had to learn meditation and did it at the beginning of every class. The style of fighting was Goju Ryu, a close-quarters one punch one kill style, but we were taught it as fitness and for tournaments. Not street fighting, although it was certainly possible to defend yourself.

So, not all karate types are hardbutt muscular cobra-kai (remember that movie?) walking around spoiling for a fight. although I will say finding a good honest Sensei is extremely difficult.

Aikido is also a really good one. You won't get fit and trim, but it's great if you are older, have bad joints, etc. It teaches maximum effect causing minimal damage. Mostly joint locks. It's actually quite gentle to you and your opponent.

It's easier to push the cart rather than thinking of pushing the cart.
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To be normal is the ideal aim of the unsuccessful.
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Offline edgeoftheboard

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Re: Buddhism and the Martial Way
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2013, 12:50:21 pm »

So, not all karate types are hardbutt muscular cobra-kai (remember that movie?) walking around spoiling for a fight. although I will say finding a good honest Sensei is extremely difficult.


Yes, I was blessed with many great instructors, senior instructor was Shihan Steve Arneil, a great Karateka.  Karate was always presented to us as the Art of Not Fighting, rather than the Art of Fighting.  I feel the misunderstanding was very much my own, mostly acquired through my reading rather than my instruction.

This article is interesting though, it mentions the Japanese interpretation of Zen:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2012/may/22/anders-behring-breivik-meditation

What am I trying to say?  When we approach Buddhism or other practices, the intention of the heart is very important.  Ethics and Morality (in a Buddhist sense) very important

P

Offline Lobster

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Re: Buddhism and the Martial Way
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2013, 04:33:44 am »
One of the first things we learn in martial arts is confidence in our being. In Buddhism we learn confidence in our ahimsa. Both are rather good defensive postures. The last time I was very nearly attacked my defense was a smile which thwarted the attack from physical to verbal and a move away into confusion for the fight seeking aggressor.

Offline sdjeff1

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Re: Buddhism and the Martial Way
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2013, 09:42:39 pm »
One of the first things we learn in martial arts is confidence in our being. In Buddhism we learn confidence in our ahimsa. Both are rather good defensive postures. The last time I was very nearly attacked my defense was a smile which thwarted the attack from physical to verbal and a move away into confusion for the fight seeking aggressor.

One of the first things I learned as well was to carry myself with a little more confidence. I started in Junior High (grade 8) and once I was able to just to do that, the bullying and provocations stopped.
It's easier to push the cart rather than thinking of pushing the cart.
-anonymous monk

To be normal is the ideal aim of the unsuccessful.
-CG Jung

Offline Richard

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Re: Buddhism and the Martial Way
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2013, 03:10:59 pm »
I came to Buddhism through the martial arts, I have also spent time as a self defence instructor and pro wrestler.

The thing I can say strictly for myself is that when I abandoned both fighting and training (at the height of my training I spent four to six hours a day in the gym, five days a week) my practice improved almost overnight.

That is not a moral statement, I cannot say if it was abandoning the mental 'qualities' of being a fighter, the freedom from having an attachment to the physical aspect or a mixture of the two that helped my practice - all I can say is it did.

Regarding certain Prajna excercises such as Yoga or Chi Gong I think that they can be benefical to formal meditation if carried out properly - although personally I no longer practice these either.
Buddham saranam gacchāmi . Dharmam saranam gacchāmi . Sangham saranam gacchāmi

Offline Kaji

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Re: Buddhism and the Martial Way
« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2015, 02:33:02 am »
I too had my first glimpses of Buddhism through martial arts, the most influential of them all being the writings of Takuan Sōhō (沢庵 宗彭), a Japanese Zen master who was also a teacher/mentor to famous sword masters such as Yagyū Munenori and Miyamoto Musashi.

It was from reading the English translation of his work The Unfettered Mind that I began to understand what Buddhist practices are all about.

Offline Inner Peace

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Re: Buddhism and the Martial Way
« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2015, 07:29:02 am »
Martial Arts also induced me into Buddhism.

I hold the following Karate grades:

- 2nd Dan Wado-Kai

- 1st Dan Shotokan

After many years Martial Arts participation I strolled into Buddhism (Tibetan).


Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Buddhism and the Martial Way
« Reply #11 on: September 09, 2015, 08:08:28 am »
Quote
edgeoftheboard:  "Apologies if this is a little jumbled...perhaps I don't know where to start.  But yes, I believe I had an unhelpful view of Buddhist practice, partly through the teachings and training of martial arts and wondered if this was a common experience?"


I have always had difficulty with such suttas as "The Simile of The Saw" and martial arts as taught by Kung Fu (Chin) and Karate' Masters (Zen).  Buddha explained that it would be better in consideration of Karmic consequences to let attackers saw off our arms and legs than to violate The First Precept:  "Cause no harm..."

Quote
"Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: 'Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.' That's how you should train yourselves.

"Monks, if you attend constantly to this admonition on the simile of the saw, do you see any aspects of speech, slight or gross, that you could not endure?"

source:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.021x.than.html
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Buddhism and the Martial Way
« Reply #12 on: September 09, 2015, 08:11:03 am »
Quote
edgeoftheboard:  "Apologies if this is a little jumbled...perhaps I don't know where to start.  But yes, I believe I had an unhelpful view of Buddhist practice, partly through the teachings and training of martial arts and wondered if this was a common experience?"


I have always had difficulty with such obvious conflicts in suttas like "The Simile of The Saw" and martial arts philosophies as taught in Kung Fu (Chin) and Karate' Masters (Zen). 

Buddha explained in The Kakacupama Sutta that it would be better in consideration of Karmic consequences to let attackers saw off our arms and legs than to violate The First Precept:  "Cause no harm..."

Quote
"Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: 'Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.' That's how you should train yourselves.

"Monks, if you attend constantly to this admonition on the simile of the saw, do you see any aspects of speech, slight or gross, that you could not endure?"

source:  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.021x.than.html

What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline David1967

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Re: Buddhism and the Martial Way
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2015, 01:23:03 pm »
Yes I too was introduced to meditation through the martial arts. I studied traditional Japanese Karate and before we began our workout we always meditated. Usually for around 15 minutes. Trying to get kids to be still that long was a challenge. The training seemed always more productive after meditation than say if just a few of us showed up to work out informally. At the time (25 years ago) I had no idea there was anything Buddhist about it. But later I asked my American instructor was Buddhist and he said yes, his Sensei was a Zen Buddhist.

 


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