Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

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omph
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Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

Post by omph »

I heard a youtube interview with a Shaolin monk that says he uses the martial arts as a Buddhist practice. He says he does not fight an external physical enemy, but rather, he fights solo, and fights extreme views and works towards the middle way. He says he always tries to "fight the final fight" which leads to the highest realization. I was very inspired by his powerful physical actions and words, but I am unsure of how he does this. I am beginner taking online martial arts class, but am not really interested in fighting a physical person. Has anyone challenged themselves in this way? Your thoughts?
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

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omph wrote: Sat Oct 10, 2020 11:57 pm I heard a youtube interview with a Shaolin monk that says he uses the martial arts as a Buddhist practice. He says he does not fight an external physical enemy, but rather, he fights solo, and fights extreme views and works towards the middle way. He says he always tries to "fight the final fight" which leads to the highest realization. I was very inspired by his powerful physical actions and words, but I am unsure of how he does this. I am beginner taking online martial arts class, but am not really interested in fighting a physical person. Has anyone challenged themselves in this way? Your thoughts?
30+ years of training here, primarily in Okinawan Karate, with a fair amount of grappling and Judo/Jujutsu, and now learning boxing.

If you aren't doing martial stuff geared towards the well...martial, it's not really martial arts, it's something more akin to doing dance or Yoga, and you can basically treat it as such, like a set of movements.

That might be just the thing though, flirting with actual martial arts is dangerous for some people, and very good for others. There are only individual answers there. You can get a lot out of just the physical challenge of learning new movements and increasing your fitness and ability to move in your body. Even on the level of physical training though, there is a big difference between training for aesthetics or meditation and training for function...there is value in both, but it's a good idea to be clear about which you are engaged in so you don't get confused down the line.

You can do actual contact-oriented martial arts and never actually fight anyone in the classic sense. Sparring is not fighting people, unless you go to a place that engages in unsafe or dumb training. The place you train makes a big difference on that question. Typically young men in particular who engage in martial arts training have -less- a propensity to get in fights. That said, martially-directed training is definitely not for everyone and there are some sound Buddhist-oriented arguments against such training. I've decided I think they are short sighted in some ways, but they make valid points.

Either way If you engage in hard enough physical training you will reach a point where your mind basically tells you that you need to give up, it's at this point that the mental training comes into play, and you can begin to make the kind of progress and discipline that I think he is likely talking about.

For me personally, especially as a young person (but also now as an adult) martial arts has been one of the best things I've done for myself outside of Dharma. It's kept me in good shape as I age, and has given me a set of empirical skills to constantly improve, and introduced me to a wide range of people. I think I would have gone in some pretty ugly directions as a teenager and young man (well I already did but they would've been worse) had I not been engaged in training. It also helped me somehow to care less about social pressures, other kids nonsense seemed a lot less important in the Dojo...I'm not sure how to even explain that one, but it seems pretty universal. You can learn serious life skills from good martial arts training.

As far as Dharma goes, I feel that almost any extremely difficult undertaking like that can be brought to the path in a significant way. Be ready to endure occasional preachiness from other Buddhists though, especially ones that don't have any martial arts experience. I once had someone tell me to to "go do something peaceful like Aikido".

Oh, I was also born with fairly serious neurological difficulties and leg weakness. A lifetime of martial arts has made all the difference here, I would probably have significantly impaired function if it weren't for consistent training. In addition, it has helped me overcome the psychological stuff that often goes along with having a visible "disability" to a large degree, even though mine is comparatively slight. That was a big deal as a kid. Even now in boxing I have a real sense of satisfaction developing skills despite some physical limitation, and eventually push past those physical limitations, or finding my way around them.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

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James - thank you so much for explaining in depth of your views on this. They are all important questions to ask oneself and I appreciate that you talk from personal experience rather than just having a pro/con opinion. It's a lot for me to think about which is a good. I feel a strong attraction to it, and I'm still trying to figure out where I belong. I don't want to do it as a fear-based practice trying to visualize an enemy (a lot of martial arts centers here promote self-defense their primary focus), nor do I want to evoke a mind of aggression towards another person. (My current class talks a lot about hitting people). It's an interesting world to explore that's for sure. And after reading what you wrote, I think I am only seeing a small part of it - and that there is a lot more to explore - in terms of the attitude you go in with and what you want from it. Your story is inspiring.
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

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omph wrote: Sun Oct 11, 2020 6:58 am James - thank you so much for explaining in depth of your views on this. They are all important questions to ask oneself and I appreciate that you talk from personal experience rather than just having a pro/con opinion. It's a lot for me to think about which is a good. I feel a strong attraction to it, and I'm still trying to figure out where I belong. I don't want to do it as a fear-based practice trying to visualize an enemy (a lot of martial arts centers here promote self-defense their primary focus), nor do I want to evoke a mind of aggression towards another person. (My current class talks a lot about hitting people). It's an interesting world to explore that's for sure. And after reading what you wrote, I think I am only seeing a small part of it - and that there is a lot more to explore - in terms of the attitude you go in with and what you want from it. Your story is inspiring.
My name is Zach, but thanks for the reply.
I don't want to do it as a fear-based practice trying to visualize an enemy (a lot of martial arts centers here promote self-defense their primary focus), nor do I want to evoke a mind of aggression towards another person.
Violence is typically a result or expression of aggression that already exists in the mind, in my experience it is only people with no experience in martial arts that think doing these things will makes you aggressive per se. The opposite is usually true. However, what it does do (if you are doing effective training) is teach you physical actions that can hurt people, and this is certainly a kind of conditioning that has to be taken seriously by a Buddhist.

Rather than worrying about something making you aggressive, I would say that you're involved in a sport martial art then competition and constantly wanting to be better than everyone else is a bigger obstruction. On the other end, you could get involved with some group that says they teach a super secret deadly martial art, but actually teach stuff that would get you hurt and mostly just stroke your ego, basically people who fantasize about violence. So, in my opinion a lot of the social stuff is a worse bad case scenario than it making you into an aggressive person, which is very rare in my experience.

As to fear/violence, fear of violence or whatever there are really only two ways to go here:

1) Don't do martial arts, stay away from thinking about or learning about violence.

2) Learn about interpersonal violence from a tactical point of view (i.e "self defense"..most of which isn't physical anyway), as a sort of inoculation, and a form of exposure therapy if you worry a lot about violence-. You mentioned "fear based", from my point of view someone who does not understand basic self defense is in a more fear based place than someone who is educated in it. I don't know your gender, but this is especially true for young men, who get the idea of self-defense confused with consensual fighting, and are often the biggest threat to their own safety.. I grew up in a violence place where fights etc. were common enough that it wasn't a bad idea to know a few things, because you'd likely have to use them at some point. I could shut off my experiences if I wanted to, but I figure it is better that I work with them in this way. In short, I can't just not think about violence, that's off the table for me.

The rub there is that most martial arts don't teach you self defense very well anyway, they teach things that can possibly be used in such a situation, often removed from their original context, and packaged as something they are not.. but typically involve lots of ancillary stuff as well. That is what keeps them fun and exciting - there is a lot more there than just physical technique, and there is always something new to learn.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

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Omph, I am a newbie here too. Just starting out on my journey.

Although a newbie, experiencing the dharma for the first time, I can still share the little I have seen to date. I've been a fencing enthusiast for many years. It was one of the first recognized "new olympics" sports. Of course, its origins lie in training for real swordsmanship with all that entails.

In the modern world, if I was to draw a comparison, it is far more akin to learning a classical musical instrument. Focus, correct posture, breathing, motivation, respect for others. It is both sport and art.

From what I have seen so far, fencing and the middle way are more complementary than they are different. But I think it is something you would need to experience yourself and see what your instincts tell you.
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

Post by Mantrik »

Many ways to explore this, across many different cultures.
I had the short but rare privilege of sharing premises we created with a Dojo on the ground floor and a Zendo above.

If you are concerned with compassion, learning how to fight well is very desirable, especially for someone who is likely to encounter violence.
It is only with training that you can manage to be in control to the extent you can exercise compassion:
- By stopping harm to the person being attacked
- By stopping the attacker from attacking more people
- By stopping the attacker becoming more damaged than is necessary
- By helping the attacker avoid the karma of harming or even killing

I tend to think of 'martial arts' as traditional and designed for particular cultures and circumstances
I tend to think of 'fighting arts' as those which can be used on the street today
Some are both.
'Aikido' was mentioned, so I'll use it as en example. Some styles are about as martial as ballet with huge graceful circular movements, whilst others emphasise smashing though, striking, and use weapons in ways suited to modern street defence. So there is a lot of checking to do, not only on the style, but also the ability and emphasis of the teacher - and that of course includes any spiritual aspect. One club teacher I know went on to become a Zen priest, another was a pro wrestler, another a doorman, another a fighter pilot. Takes all sorts. lol :)

If the teacher can help you develop these mind qualities, here in Japanese terms,then your internal struggle will be easier:
Mushin (Empty Mind)
Fudoshin (Immovable Mind)
Zanshin (Abiding Awareness)
http://www.khyung.com ཁྲོཾ

Om Thathpurushaya Vidhmahe
Suvarna Pakshaya Dheemahe
Thanno Garuda Prachodayath

Micchāmi Dukkaḍaṃ (मिच्छामि दुक्कडम्)
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

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Johnny Dangerous wrote: Sun Oct 11, 2020 8:36 am
Rather than worrying about something making you aggressive, I would say that you're involved in a sport martial art then competition and constantly wanting to be better than everyone else is a bigger obstruction. On the other end, you could get involved with some group that says they teach a super secret deadly martial art, but actually teach stuff that would get you hurt and mostly just stroke your ego, basically people who fantasize about violence. So, in my opinion a lot of the social stuff is a worse bad case scenario than it making you into an aggressive person, which is very rare in my experience.
Hi Zach, I'm not concerned about the ego-stroking and have no intention of competing. Perhaps being a female, I am unfamiliar with the mindset that one must bring to fight. I am not attracted to self-defense skills that are often advertised and directed to women at martial arts schools - which seems to promote that I should be frightened of someone attacking me - when I'm not. I may be speaking naively here - but I think my challenge is how to bring a clear peaceful mind to a sport (practice) that is often portrayed as aggressive or violent.I have not met many martial artists - but the one's I have, don't seem aggressive OR fearful.
Learn about interpersonal violence from a tactical point of viewself defense"..most of which isn't physical anyway)
,

Can you say more about what you mean as "tactical point of view" the "Isn't physical"
someone who does not understand basic self defense is in a more fear based place than someone who is educated in it. I don't know your gender, but this is especially true for young men, who get the idea of self-defense confused with consensual fighting, and are often the biggest threat to their own safety.
.

Yes it is possible that because I am a female I may have been socialized to be inexperienced, and unfamiliar with "fighting" (except with my own mind of course. LOL)
I could shut off my experiences if I wanted to, but I figure it is better that I work with them in this way. In short, I can't just not think about violence, that's off the table for me.
Yes I can understand your situation - to not deal with the obvious challenge in front of you would have been like putting your head in the sand.
The rub there is that most martial arts don't teach you self defense very well anyway, they teach things that can possibly be used in such a situation, often removed from their original context, and packaged as something they are not
I'm glad you said that because it seems to be "marketed" (at least locally to women) as being prepared from someone to harm you on the street out of the blue.
That is what keeps them fun and exciting - there is a lot more there than just physical technique, and there is always something new to learn.
That's exciting to hear! Since we are in the pandemic, it's hard for me to know what the culture is inside of a martial arts studio. I've only been taking a class online - which is really challenging to have to get instruction on a 14 inch screen. But I've learned so much in a short time.

I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to my questions.
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

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Paul2020 wrote: Sun Oct 11, 2020 12:59 pm Omph, I am a newbie here too. Just starting out on my journey.

Although a newbie, experiencing the dharma for the first time, I can still share the little I have seen to date. I've been a fencing enthusiast for many years. It was one of the first recognized "new olympics" sports. Of course, its origins lie in training for real swordsmanship with all that entails.

In the modern world, if I was to draw a comparison, it is far more akin to learning a classical musical instrument. Focus, correct posture, breathing, motivation, respect for others. It is both sport and art.

From what I have seen so far, fencing and the middle way are more complementary than they are different. But I think it is something you would need to experience yourself and see what your instincts tell you.
That's interesting. Fencing is actually a good example of how one might approach the martial arts. I'd never thought of that. The chances of you running into a situation where you'd really need to pull out a sword are minuscule. Do you find that your experience goes beyond the physical skills? For example - has your viewpoint or inner awareness changed (outside of the sword fighting time)? I've heard heard people say martial arts changed their life (on podcast interviews) and it's unclear to me whether martial arts offers something quite different than a regular sport (baseball, etc) - because from the outside - it seems really different.
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

Post by omph »

Mantrik wrote: Sun Oct 11, 2020 8:50 pm If you are concerned with compassion, learning how to fight well is very desirable, especially for someone who is likely to encounter violence.
It is only with training that you can manage to be in control to the extent you can exercise compassion:
- By stopping harm to the person being attacked
- By stopping the attacker from attacking more people
- By stopping the attacker becoming more damaged than is necessary
- By helping the attacker avoid the karma of harming or even killing
Those are good examples of a compassionate way to approach M.A. Do you have any additional insights regarding if you aren't likely to encounter violence?
I tend to think of 'martial arts' as traditional and designed for particular cultures and circumstances
Can you give me an example of what you mean?
So there is a lot of checking to do, not only on the style, but also the ability and emphasis of the teacher - and that of course includes any spiritual aspect. One club teacher I know went on to become a Zen priest, another was a pro wrestler, another a doorman, another a fighter pilot. Takes all sorts. lol :)
What a great statement!
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

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omph wrote: Mon Oct 12, 2020 10:00 pm
Hi Zach, I'm not concerned about the ego-stroking and have no intention of competing. Perhaps being a female, I am unfamiliar with the mindset that one must bring to fight. I am not attracted to self-defense skills that are often advertised and directed to women at martial arts schools - which seems to promote that I should be frightened of someone attacking me - when I'm not. I may be speaking naively here - but I think my challenge is how to bring a clear peaceful mind to a sport (practice) that is often portrayed as aggressive or violent.I have not met many martial artists - but the one's I have, don't seem aggressive OR fearful.
Yes, in general almost every martial artist I have known is the better for it, less aggressive, less prone to want to control others through threats, etc. You can't really have a peaceful mind while learning violent acts per se. What you can do (and this is built into a lot of martial training, it's the Zanshin that Mantrik mentioned) is have a clear mind purely focused on the task at hand, with no emotional content coloring it. Ask any professional fighter, people who get mad etc. tend to fail due to their emotions. Calmness, relaxation a focused flowing mind is paramount to almost any martial art. The only other thing I can say is that again, aversion/aggression are not physical acts, physical acts come from our reaction to our aversion/aggression. If you want to address them, the place to start is your mind. If you think you will be dangerous to to others (rather than beneficial) once you learn martial arts, it might give you pause. If you have good impulse control, you probably have little to worry about, from my perspective.

As an example, I have had people literally spit on me and threaten to hit me and through what I've learned through martial arts training I managed to 1) talk them down and get them to leave without violence, and 2) keep them from ever even trying to swing on me. Now this is a specific example having to do with how men escalate with one another and get into fights, but I did learn how to deal with this through martial arts.

Anecdotally, I have taught for something like 20 years, and I will tell you that female students tend to 1) be much better technically because they cannot rely on size and strength the same way, and 2) almost never get caught up in the escalation/competitive game that happens with male students. IMO women make better martial arts students than men, especially in the long term.

Can you say more about what you mean as "tactical point of view" the "Isn't physical"
90% of self defense is understand the psychology and kick-off of violence, understanding your own victim profile, how to deal with aggressive language, how to work with your own awareness of your environment (pleasantly, some of this connects a little to meditation), how to escape, how predatory people operate, and all kinds of of stuff that has little to do with physical technique. I can recommend some books if you'd like.
Yes it is possible that because I am a female I may have been socialized to be inexperienced, and unfamiliar with "fighting" (except with my own mind of course. LOL)
Lots of men have no experience as well. Honestly the only place I have seen female students lack is that sometimes they have been discouraged from physical culture in general (though thankfully this is changing), so sometimes need a little extra conditioning.
I'm glad you said that because it seems to be "marketed" (at least locally to women) as being prepared from someone to harm you on the street out of the blue.
Here is a person I have done a little training with and respect greatly - iain Abernethy talking about why martial artists make abd self defense teachers:



The marketing of most martial arts towards self-defense is garbage. I have just enough experience with face to face violence to tell you seriously, always take the marketing with a huge helping of salt. It's important to understand what is for self-defense, and what is actually not - he addresses this in the second video.

That's exciting to hear! Since we are in the pandemic, it's hard for me to know what the culture is inside of a martial arts studio. I've only been taking a class online - which is really challenging to have to get instruction on a 14 inch screen. But I've learned so much in a short time.

I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to my questions.
No problem. Every Dojo/Gym etc. is different. So much depends not on style, but who you are learning from. Let me know if I can help you, I have done a lot of different stuff and can share my own experiences, and can share the resources that I've come across. in my opinion if you are worried about training being opposed to your interest in Buddhism, try to look deeply at what your motivations are for training. As Mantrik mentioned, you can come at it from a point of view of "I will never, ever use this unless I absolutely have to". Or you can say "I just want to learn the "art" portion". If it's the latter, not much to worry about because you are not learning a functional combative skill anyway. If it's the former, you can contextualize your training into the self-defense category, and most of that is quite positive - you can learn to be safer and even to protect others should you ever find yourself in such a situation.

If you are clear on that you can easily direct your training in a way that does not clash with your Dharma practice. Not everyone agrees with that of course, it is just my take.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

Post by javier.espinoza.t »

omph wrote: Sat Oct 10, 2020 11:57 pm I heard a youtube interview with a Shaolin monk that says he uses the martial arts as a Buddhist practice. He says he does not fight an external physical enemy, but rather, he fights solo, and fights extreme views and works towards the middle way. He says he always tries to "fight the final fight" which leads to the highest realization. I was very inspired by his powerful physical actions and words, but I am unsure of how he does this. I am a beginner taking online martial arts class, but am not really interested in fighting a physical person. Has anyone challenged themselves in this way? Your thoughts?
my thought is that martial arts are quite boring, lol.

discipline is what inspires you?
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

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I have dabbled in martial arts over the years. It really depends on the class, and whether there is a focus on martial application. Many classes lack either a spiritual component or fighting applications, and are therefore largely just a form of physical exercise in my opinion. Classes that actually teach you to fight do make me more aggressive. And a lot of martial arts taught publicly are often missing the key ingredients that make them effective physically or spiritually. They are out there, but they take quite a bit of looking.

I find that a lot of the benefits of martial arts can be better provided elsewhere. Spiritual practice is best done via meditation and study. I get more fitness from Western style cardio and weights. Yoga and qigong are also available. If I spend two hours on a martial arts, that is two hours I'm not studying, meditating, or doing qigong.
omph wrote: Sat Oct 10, 2020 11:57 pm I heard a youtube interview with a Shaolin monk that says he uses the martial arts as a Buddhist practice. He says he does not fight an external physical enemy, but rather, he fights solo, and fights extreme views and works towards the middle way. He says he always tries to "fight the final fight" which leads to the highest realization. I was very inspired by his powerful physical actions and words, but I am unsure of how he does this. I am beginner taking online martial arts class, but am not really interested in fighting a physical person. Has anyone challenged themselves in this way? Your thoughts?
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

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One piece of advice that made a big difference for me:

If you ever seek in person instruction, judge a place by how the people training there act overall. Look for places that feel welcoming, where people are allowed to laugh and have fun. A relaxed but genuinely respectful environment where the training is taken seriously, but the people don't take themselves too seriously, and are able to create some sense of community and enjoyment around what they are doing. Other than being healthy, this is also the most conducive environment to improvement.

If you walk into a dojo or gym and it looks like people are being tortured, have rigid attitudes, adhere so strictly to a particular style or school that they claim everything else is bad (though there's nothing wrong with focused training), stay away. Similarly, if you go to a place and the instructor or students bristle when you start asking reasonable questions about the style, school, or philosophy... it's a place to avoid. And naturally, stay away from any place that emphasizes an unhealthily competitive attitude. I might almost say to stay away from places that do competition period as a Buddhist, only you can learn real skills and benefit a lot from these places, as long as you are clear you are not there for competition but to learn their craft and challenge yourself. IMO competitiveness is probably the biggest factor that really makes people more aggressive in gyms and dojos. I go in with long term learning and progress as a goal, rather than winning or anything.

If you ever decide to try actual physical contact stuff, set your limits. For instance, I am fine doing grappling (which typically involves less injury risk with sane partners) and light to moderate sparring, but I don't do heavy stuff anymore, and I wouldn't participate in anything that involved trying to actively hurt someone else. So also pay close attention to the attitude around safety and long-term health in your prospective school. Don't go to a place that is going to ruin your body so that you can't do this stuff later in life.

I also (with a few exceptions) won't train with people who won't do whatever they are asking me to do, and I think that's a good rule. Exceptions of course for instructors past a certain age, and those with physical difficulties etc. I also don't ask my own students to do things I can't or won't do.

Again I'd emphasize here that the training environment and teacher is the biggest determinant of whether or not martial arts training will be beneficial or harmful to you and your Buddhist practice. I will tell you straight up though, I'm not blown away by the quality of most publicly taught martial arts, so always look carefully and with a discerning eye.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

Post by Shotenzenjin »

Karate ka here.

Nidan Japanese goju ryu karate do seiwa kai lineage Yamaguchi ha.

I'm also ranked In japan karate federation go ju kai.

Favourite Kata are saipai, seiunchin' suparunpai.

Also mudansha in musu jekiden eisshin ryu iaido. Favourite Kata oikaze'" tsuki ate

Been training since I was nine. But karate is my way.

Now being Deaf and going blind Kata has taken on deeper meaning which is hard to explain with words. I'm finding myself being one with Kata more. And less cerebral.

First encountered zen via karate. First encountered Nichiren via iado
Generation's shall pass, our determination shall grow, at the foot of Mount Fuji
Like smoke that reaches far beyond the clouds.--nichimoku shonin. Third high priest of Nichiren Shoshu

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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

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Shotenzenjin wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 7:29 pm Karate ka here.

Nidan Japanese goju ryu karate do seiwa kai lineage Yamaguchi ha.

I'm also ranked In japan karate federation go ju kai.

Favourite Kata are saipai, seiunchin' suparunpai.

Also mudansha in musu jekiden eisshin ryu iaido. Favourite Kata oikaze'" tsuki ate

Been training since I was nine. But karate is my way.

Now being Deaf and going blind Kata has taken on deeper meaning which is hard to explain with words. I'm finding myself being one with Kata more. And less cerebral.

First encountered zen via karate. First encountered Nichiren via iado
Cool, I'm an Okinawan Goju Ryu sandan, Shobu Shoreikan lineage originally. About 20 years into doing that and 10 plus in other stuff including other Karate. My favorite is Kururunfa, mostly. I really started getting into the meditative part of Kata into my 40's. It's really a surprisingly benefit, I've actually found that Kata prior to shamatha meditation increases my ability. I also was introduced to Buddhism through Karate, we always had the obligatory picture of Bodhidharma on the shomen wall-thingy. I also found the the mental states cultivated through Karate have helped me get through the hardest part of boxing. I can't imagine being able to do it at 44 without my Karate training.

I'm biased but as far as an emotionally healthy martial arts goes, I think traditional Karate is one of the best people can pursue. it's also built to age with you, and so many teachers stay exceptionally healthy into old age. Now, if you are more interested in the "martial' but the Karate world has some issues IMO, but as a lifetime martial arts pursuit, in a holistic sense I think it's tops.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

Post by Sentient Light »

I practice in a family lineage of martial arts called Vo Binh Dinh, passed down from my father. It is considered to be a Buddhist martial art, with swordsmanship and staff work as the primary weapons. Both of these play into Vietnamese Thien, as much of our qigong lineages derive from sword and staff forms, so it's definitely useful in that regard--manipulating the bodily energies, learning proper posture and bodily awareness. And, as mentioned, the likelihood of actually having to engage in swordsmanship or staff fighting is probably quite low. There is open hand fighting, and it ends up looking like sanshou in actual combat, but in general, I don't think it's particularly useful for actual combat.
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

Post by omph »

Johnny Dangerous wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 6:24 pm If you ever seek in person instruction, judge a place by how the people training there act overall. Look for places that feel welcoming, where people are allowed to laugh and have fun. A relaxed but genuinely respectful environment where the training is taken seriously, but the people don't take themselves too seriously, and are able to create some sense of community and enjoyment around what they are doing. Other than being healthy, this is also the most conducive environment to improvement.
Hi Again Zack, Good tip. I'm glad to get your viewpoint since you've been teaching so long. I REALLY appreciate you taking the time to talk me through this. I know I have lengthy responses. No expectation you can address it all.
if you go to a place and the instructor or students bristle when you start asking reasonable questions about the style, school, or philosophy... it's a place to avoid.


That's interesting - the few times (pre-covid) I've poked my head into a studio just to get info - "self-defense" is the first thing they talk about. When I said once I wasn't interested in self-defense, one person tried to convince me I should be.
If you ever decide to try actual physical contact stuff, set your limits.


I'm not very interested in physical contact arts (which is probably an odd way to enter martial arts) - I'm more interested in anything to do with sticks (and am willing to do stick fighting if required). There is a local Aikido studio holding stick classes in the park but they won't let me in unless I take a basic class :( They are trying to do a normally physical contact routine 10 feet apart (covid) but I'm still not interested. It looks like a lot of falling and rolling.
Again I'd emphasize here that the training environment and teacher is the biggest determinant of whether or not martial arts training will be beneficial or harmful to you and your Buddhist practice. I will tell you straight up though, I'm not blown away by the quality of most publicly taught martial arts, so always look carefully and with a discerning eye.
I really appreciate you saying that. I still feel I haven't found my door in - and I don't want to waste time going down the wrong road or being discouraged in the wrong environment.

btw-I’m so glad you posted those videos. The points he makes ring true to me, and he made me realize some of the things I 'already' do by habit, are actually better self defense than a martial art might be. I don’t walk around fearful of having to fight someone off. I just avoid situations like (even recently), a man carrying a metal pipe down the sidewalk and his eyes were darting side to side. My first reaction was not fear - but being aware of his body posture, his eyes, and my reaction is to just put distance between myself and him. "Being aware" is an underappreciated skill. We’ve had people robbed at gunpoint on our street because they were reading their cellphone.

The video also made a good point that you can practice martial arts for 30 years to prepare for that 'one' time someone attacks you - and your skills might not even be helpful in that situation because criminals don’t act like kickboxers, and that running fast is a better skill(!) And his points on legal issues, etc.

I think his information helped me eliminate 50% of the things I need to be concerned about with learning martial arts . I can take self defense off the table.

But now I’m left with questions like this:

Here is a (really advanced) example of the martial art style I am taking a beginner class in. My teacher uses words like “hit him in the head this way, then hit him in the crotch that way”. Usually this is practiced solo, so it’s confusing to me why it’s necessary to imagine hitting someone. The art uses a 4 foot stick and is part of the Kung fu family (called ‘Tongbei’ I think) and is translated as a "whip stick" but you may know better than I.

I’m not trying to overthink this or be hypersensitive about it - it’s just that I was first inspired to explore martial arts when I heard the interview with a Shaolin monk (who looked like an expert using a stick solo). And as mentioned in my first post, he talked about using fighting as a Buddhist practice to reduce extreme views, and that the ultimate self defense is self awareness.

I’m kind of stuck there. Trying to imagine hitting someone in the groin seem like a hard thing to combine with what the monk said.
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

Post by Shotenzenjin »

omph wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 8:54 pm
Johnny Dangerous wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 6:24 pm If you ever seek in person instruction, judge a place by how the people training there act overall. Look for places that feel welcoming, where people are allowed to laugh and have fun. A relaxed but genuinely respectful environment where the training is taken seriously, but the people don't take themselves too seriously, and are able to create some sense of community and enjoyment around what they are doing. Other than being healthy, this is also the most conducive environment to improvement.
Hi Again Zack, Good tip. I'm glad to get your viewpoint since you've been teaching so long. I REALLY appreciate you taking the time to talk me through this. I know I have lengthy responses. No expectation you can address it all.
if you go to a place and the instructor or students bristle when you start asking reasonable questions about the style, school, or philosophy... it's a place to avoid.


That's interesting - the few times (pre-covid) I've poked my head into a studio just to get info - "self-defense" is the first thing they talk about. When I said once I wasn't interested in self-defense, one person tried to convince me I should be.
If you ever decide to try actual physical contact stuff, set your limits.


I'm not very interested in physical contact arts (which is probably an odd way to enter martial arts) - I'm more interested in anything to do with sticks (and am willing to do stick fighting if required). There is a local Aikido studio holding stick classes in the park but they won't let me in unless I take a basic class :( They are trying to do a normally physical contact routine 10 feet apart (covid) but I'm still not interested. It looks like a lot of falling and rolling.
Again I'd emphasize here that the training environment and teacher is the biggest determinant of whether or not martial arts training will be beneficial or harmful to you and your Buddhist practice. I will tell you straight up though, I'm not blown away by the quality of most publicly taught martial arts, so always look carefully and with a discerning eye.
I really appreciate you saying that. I still feel I haven't found my door in - and I don't want to waste time going down the wrong road or being discouraged in the wrong environment.

btw-I’m so glad you posted those videos. The points he makes ring true to me, and he made me realize some of the things I 'already' do by habit, are actually better self defense than a martial art might be. I don’t walk around fearful of having to fight someone off. I just avoid situations like (even recently), a man carrying a metal pipe down the sidewalk and his eyes were darting side to side. My first reaction was not fear - but being aware of his body posture, his eyes, and my reaction is to just put distance between myself and him. "Being aware" is an underappreciated skill. We’ve had people robbed at gunpoint on our street because they were reading their cellphone.

The video also made a good point that you can practice martial arts for 30 years to prepare for that 'one' time someone attacks you - and your skills might not even be helpful in that situation because criminals don’t act like kickboxers, and that running fast is a better skill(!) And his points on legal issues, etc.

I think his information helped me eliminate 50% of the things I need to be concerned about with learning martial arts . I can take self defense off the table.

But now I’m left with questions like this:

Here is a (really advanced) example of the martial art style I am taking a beginner class in. My teacher uses words like “hit him in the head this way, then hit him in the crotch that way”. Usually this is practiced solo, so it’s confusing to me why it’s necessary to imagine hitting someone. The art uses a 4 foot stick and is part of the Kung fu family (called ‘Tongbei’ I think) and is translated as a "whip stick" but you may know better than I.

I’m not trying to overthink this or be hypersensitive about it - it’s just that I was first inspired to explore martial arts when I heard the interview with a Shaolin monk (who looked like an expert using a stick solo). And as mentioned in my first post, he talked about using fighting as a Buddhist practice to reduce extreme views, and that the ultimate self defense is self awareness.

I’m kind of stuck there. Trying to imagine hitting someone in the groin seem like a hard thing to combine with what the monk said.
If you like sticks find a kabudo dojo or a dojo that offers kabudo an Okinawan art you will learn Tonfa, Bo, nunchucks, Sai and kama and more

Or

Kali, escrima, Arnis, which is stick focused (Philippino)

If you want contact and like sticks, try kendo. (Japanese)

Akido also uses boken. (Wooden sword) and of course they have allot of falling and rolling but my experience with akido I found it spiritually focused) and non competitive
Which is an asset
Generation's shall pass, our determination shall grow, at the foot of Mount Fuji
Like smoke that reaches far beyond the clouds.--nichimoku shonin. Third high priest of Nichiren Shoshu

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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

omph wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 8:54 pm

That's interesting - the few times (pre-covid) I've poked my head into a studio just to get info - "self-defense" is the first thing they talk about. When I said once I wasn't interested in self-defense, one person tried to convince me I should be.
Yep. the irony there is that so much of the training out there is terrible in terms of self-protection anyway.
Here's something that might help, Iain Abernethy's Martial Map:
martial map.jpg
martial map.jpg (21.9 KiB) Viewed 645 times
Basically, if you pursue martial arts, it is one of these three categories, or a combination. Most martial arts people don't even think about this stuff, they act like it's all one thing, but it's vital to know what you are interested in. If you know that you are not interested in the self-protection or fighting aspects, what's left is history, meditation, movement, qigong type work. Also, I can tell you from experience that I and everyone I know has had our interests in these three areas shift back and forth over time. Since you know you are mainly interested in aesthetics/meditation/history, something like a Taiji school might be a wonderful fit for you. Taiji is a fantastic art with amazing health benefits, and while it is an actual martial art, it's almost never taught as one.

I'm not very interested in physical contact arts (which is probably an odd way to enter martial arts) - I'm more interested in anything to do with sticks (and am willing to do stick fighting if required). There is a local Aikido studio holding stick classes in the park but they won't let me in unless I take a basic class :( They are trying to do a normally physical contact routine 10 feet apart (covid) but I'm still not interested. It looks like a lot of falling and rolling.
I'm not a huge Aikido fan for reasons that probably aren't relevant here, but learning to roll and fall is a cool skill, it has actually saved me from injury a few times, completely unrel;ated to martial arts. If it doesn't float your boat though, I wouldn't bother. It has to look fun to you.
I really appreciate you saying that. I still feel I haven't found my door in - and I don't want to waste time going down the wrong road or being discouraged in the wrong environment.
Some amount of trial and error is natural, I wouldn't be hesitant about trying out a place if it's safe, etc. and there is no initial contract or commitment.
btw-I’m so glad you posted those videos. The points he makes ring true to me, and he made me realize some of the things I 'already' do by habit, are actually better self defense than a martial art might be. I don’t walk around fearful of having to fight someone off. I just avoid situations like (even recently), a man carrying a metal pipe down the sidewalk and his eyes were darting side to side. My first reaction was not fear - but being aware of his body posture, his eyes, and my reaction is to just put distance between myself and him. "Being aware" is an underappreciated skill. We’ve had people robbed at gunpoint on our street because they were reading their cellphone.
Yeah, that's actually covered in the "levels of awareness" taught in most self protection classes. Walking around with headphones or on a cellphone is the least aware you can be of your environment, and is dangerous behavior in the wrong place. It's also literally not being present, which has connotations in other areas of course.
The video also made a good point that you can practice martial arts for 30 years to prepare for that 'one' time someone attacks you - and your skills might not even be helpful in that situation because criminals don’t act like kickboxers, and that running fast is a better skill(!) And his points on legal issues, etc.
There are lots o real-life examples of this kind of thing, MMA fighters, boxers etc. who try to chase down and criminal and get killed or maimed, some of them pretty famous. Again, self-protection and consensual fighting are two very different areas, with a small area of crossover -as shown in the Martial Map.

But now I’m left with questions like this:

Here is a (really advanced) example of the martial art style I am taking a beginner class in. My teacher uses words like “hit him in the head this way, then hit him in the crotch that way”. Usually this is practiced solo, so it’s confusing to me why it’s necessary to imagine hitting someone. The art uses a 4 foot stick and is part of the Kung fu family (called ‘Tongbei’ I think) and is translated as a "whip stick" but you may know better than I.

I’m not trying to overthink this or be hypersensitive about it - it’s just that I was first inspired to explore martial arts when I heard the interview with a Shaolin monk (who looked like an expert using a stick solo). And as mentioned in my first post, he talked about using fighting as a Buddhist practice to reduce extreme views, and that the ultimate self defense is self awareness.

I’m kind of stuck there. Trying to imagine hitting someone in the groin seem like a hard thing to combine with what the monk said.
Yeah that's a tough one, only you can answer it. If you think getting involved would make you feel terrible, then I'd say go do yoga or a non-martial physical discipline instead. The best way for me to deal with that paradox was to learn everything I could about avoiding, de-escalating, or countering violence. Doing that actually made me less scared, and less aggressive. In addition, Karate has provided me with a lifetime of things to learn and improve, a lineage of teachers, something which allowed me to become part of multiple communities based on shared interest, and meet some great people. I also learned to meditate through it (short meditation periods are standard in some dojo), and it continues to be a practice that for me has many aspects completely unrelated to hurting another person. I have not had to do anything physical to another person since my 20's, when I lived a very different life, and as I mentioned earlier I have learned verbal-de escalation fairly well, and actually avoided multiple acts of violence through this kind of training.

I also feel that my martial arts and self protection training has made me generally a more decisive person, and helped me to navigate situations involving anger and displays of aggression much more calmly.

That said, learning martial arts is partially learning motions that can hurt other people, there is no getting away from it, and if you are too uncomfortable with it, they may not be for you. I have found that most (well, the sane ones) people involved in martial arts for the "martial" bit have good reason, and have enough exposure to violent or destructive behavior that it is, in a sense a kind of therapy for them. If that's not you, your results might very well be different.

I would go with your gut, if you feel it will be unhealthy, maybe see if they will just teach you some qigong or something, or find another physical pursuit that gives you similar satisfaction. If you feel like you can maintain a Buddhist mindset while practicing, I wouldn't worry about the paradox too much.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Shotenzenjin
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Re: Martial Arts & Buddhist Practice?

Post by Shotenzenjin »

Johnny Dangerous wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 7:50 pm
Shotenzenjin wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 7:29 pm Karate ka here.

Nidan Japanese goju ryu karate do seiwa kai lineage Yamaguchi ha.

I'm also ranked In japan karate federation go ju kai.

Favourite Kata are saipai, seiunchin' suparunpai.

Also mudansha in musu jekiden eisshin ryu iaido. Favourite Kata oikaze'" tsuki ate

Been training since I was nine. But karate is my way.

Now being Deaf and going blind Kata has taken on deeper meaning which is hard to explain with words. I'm finding myself being one with Kata more. And less cerebral.

First encountered zen via karate. First encountered Nichiren via iado
Cool, I'm an Okinawan Goju Ryu sandan, Shobu Shoreikan lineage originally. About 20 years into doing that and 10 plus in other stuff including other Karate. My favorite is Kururunfa, mostly. I really started getting into the meditative part of Kata into my 40's. It's really a surprisingly benefit, I've actually found that Kata prior to shamatha meditation increases my ability. I also was introduced to Buddhism through Karate, we always had the obligatory picture of Bodhidharma on the shomen wall-thingy. I also found the the mental states cultivated through Karate have helped me get through the hardest part of boxing. I can't imagine being able to do it at 44 without my Karate training.

I'm biased but as far as an emotionally healthy martial arts goes, I think traditional Karate is one of the best people can pursue. it's also built to age with you, and so many teachers stay exceptionally healthy into old age. Now, if you are more interested in the "martial' but the Karate world has some issues IMO, but as a lifetime martial arts pursuit, in a holistic sense I think it's tops.
Yes kururunfa is a great Kata. it was a close call between saipai and kururunfa for my list.

I like all our Kata. Japanese goju moves a bit differently then Okinawan.

I should mention sanchin and tensho. early on I got into the habit of sanchin to greet the morning sun and tensho to greet the moon. I find the Kata sanchin and tensho really good for meditation particularly when combined in sanchin-tensho combined Kata which isn't of the traditional 12 Kata of goju but combining the two works well

There is a rare style of goju which is done almost entirely in ju. And looks very taichi like. Rare style so haven't actually experienced it seito goju Ryu.
Last edited by Shotenzenjin on Tue Oct 13, 2020 9:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Generation's shall pass, our determination shall grow, at the foot of Mount Fuji
Like smoke that reaches far beyond the clouds.--nichimoku shonin. Third high priest of Nichiren Shoshu

Hokekko of true Buddhism https://nstny.org

Introduction to Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source= ... VKyEQ_cxK9
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