I know some DW members are both committed Buddhists and martial arts practitioners, and I'd like their views (as well as everyone else's!) on the relation between them. Not so much as a historical matter (did Bodhidharma really teach Kung Fu at Shaolin Temple?) but at the levels of practice and contemporary culture. How do these practices inform each other for people who engage in both?
A related question: how did martial arts centers become sites where Dharma is presumed to be transmitted? I can see ways in which this might be a positive development, but business like this (see link below) is a cause for serious concern.http://www.ninjutsustore.com/store/home.php?cat=108
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Hope no one minds me necroing this, here's my two cents:
Anyway, I have done martial arts for most of my life, mainly Okinawan Karate but a smattering of experience in other stuff as well. I teach Karate to others as well and have a small school.
I don't consider it Dharma connected by any means, but when practiced well it does encourage some qualities that I think are beneficial.
The trouble is, it can go either way. It can encourage some awful stuff too. Among other considerations, training in the "martial" aspect of things (as opposed to a class that is really about fitness, aesthetics, meditation etc. - which truthfully is many of them) is teaching people to access a mindset that society does not find acceptable outside of it's armed forces, probably for good reason. It's not for everyone to access this and some people are better off not touching it.
Many people have no real idea of what violence is like, and have a set of ethics regarding it that are completely removed from hac ing to make decisions about it based on any real experience. Combine this with the wrong type of person, or without the proper context in teaching, in terms of purpose, limitations, and motivations.. and I think martial arts can be very unhealthy - across a wide spectrum, MMA, Traditional arts, Reality-Based Self Defense..whatever. In addition to this, it CAN go any of these directions because it is no longer a needed skill for anyone outside those needing it for a vocation, living in a society where physical self defense is unlikely to be commonly necessary for many folks makes proper context difficult to find sometimes.
This is also a question of personality, oddly i've found that some of the greatest success cases were those that got involved with the arts due to lack of ability in controlling and dealing with anger. The thing is it can be something transformative, or something completely poisonous..it really takes vigilance on the part of the teacher to make sure that it does not become a poison, and to make sure that the wrong people simply aren't taught. This actually involves getting to know people a bit, you cannot possibly know which direction things are going in for people if you teach a class of 30 transient strangers. Of course in today's age anyone can learn whatever they want anyway, but on a personal level if one teaches you do your best to make sure these people get weeded out. People laugh about the fact that the arts were always taught with these goofy sounding moral codes in the past, but however imperfect, they are there for a reason.
From a Buddhist point of view for me it is just like sex, thoughts and training centered around violence aren't something to mess around with without a real clear idea of what you are doing, and a teacher that can push that energy in a healthy direction. For stuff that isn't this, stuff like Tai Chi just as movement form or something, there really is no big consideration because most of the time it's not really martial training anymore anyway. It's when you are actually learning something that is meant for breaking other human beings that the context and motivation behind the practice become indispensable to having something beneficial rather than something horrible.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen