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Thread: Buddhism and Martial Arts

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  1. #1

    Buddhism and Martial Arts

    What's the connection? Is there one?

    Jundo mentioned a couple of times that his wife is an Aikido instructor, and I remember a few people in the Introductions thread saying that they were very into some martial art.

    Did studying martial arts get you interested in Asian culture and serve as a jumping off point for sitting zazen?

    I heard somewhere that Bodhidharma introduced martial arts to China from India. But I've also heard that his legs and arms atrophied and withered away during his years in the cave. Which leaves me with the mental image of Monty Python's Black Knight bellowing "Come back you yellow bastard, I'll bite your legs off!"

    Come on, does this look like a kung-fu master to you?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Shawn's Avatar
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    thought I would pull out this old thread from the archive. I am going to my first introductory Karate class this Tuesday night. I have wanted to try martial arts for the past decade..and finally at 29..im going for it. Has anyone else tried or practice Karate? Any advice? Is it at all complimentary to your practice? Sorry of this belongs in the all of life forum...but zazen is where I found it.


    Gassho

    Shawn

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zen_rook View Post
    thought I would pull out this old thread from the archive. I am going to my first introductory Karate class this Tuesday night. I have wanted to try martial arts for the past decade..and finally at 29..im going for it. Has anyone else tried or practice Karate? Any advice? Is it at all complimentary to your practice? Sorry of this belongs in the all of life forum...but zazen is where I found it.

    Hi Shawn!

    Since I was a teenager I had been on martial arts on and off. Shotokan Karate-Do was my way of life for 7 years. Sensei was from Korea and he was a Buddhist. He used to tell me stories about the Buddha and Bodhidharma, plus the philosophy and history behind Karate-Do. It was my first approach to Buddhism and from there I started to read and research.

    When I got into the University I had to stop Karate, but as soon as I could I returned to martial arts. I took Aikido for 7 years (again that number!) until I became poor and I couldn't afford it anymore. Anyway, Aikido is beautiful because of all the philosophy involved that pretty much applies to all martial arts.

    My advice is: no matter how hard Karate seems to be, let you mind ease into it. You'll find that whatever it is your body learn in the dojo, your mind will start using it on your daily life as a philosophy. Respect your sensei and your classmates. But most important: respect the martial art and treat it like a jewel.

    I'm sure you'll do well.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  4. #4
    Stay relaxed, pay attention, focus on breathing, do stretching exercises, bulk up your chest shoulder and arm muscles, learn basic boxing self defense techniques before any serious competition.

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    A strong and trained body supports many hours on the cushion. There are many legends about how certain martial arts (Karate in particular) originated with Bodhidharma, Traveling Buddhist Monks, etc. The closed gate position in particular is symbolic of many postures that are "hidden" in statues and icons. I find many of the stories to be folklore, as these (martial) traditions are largely oral. But the junction of Buddhism and Martial Arts is fascinating - in China and Japan.

    Following a period (years) of physical training and technique, two person sets, sparring, etc., Zazen really enhances my ability to pay attention to the energy and intentions of others before things get anywhere near physical. One's ability to direct potential confrontation into peaceful resolution and/or disengagement is enhanced. The maxim often heard in the old Taiji writings "last to depart, first to arrive" is very true.

    I agree with Rich's remark re: breathing. When you learn breathing and rhythm you can dictate tempo (I'm not talking about forceful robotic exhalation - this has its place in training but one day you move beyond it) - good boxing coaches teach this. Very few Karate teachers do.

    What style will you be studying? Bear in mind that tournament styles and fighting styles are very different. What works in a well-lit dojo while warmed up and wearing loose trousers is may not work in a dark street while wearing skinny jeans. Always kick below the knees. The French knew what they were doing in putting Savate together, the Russians moving that forward with Sambo.

    Gassho
    Yugen
    Last edited by Yugen; 08-05-2013 at 04:35 AM.
    -----------------------------------------------------------
    Please take all my comments with a grain of salt - I am a novice priest and anything I say is to be taken with a good dose of skepticism - Shodo Yugen

  6. #6
    I practice long fist Kung fu and it did help me make the jump to zen practice. The first thing my instructor Steve said to the class was "the first thing that dies in Kung fu is the ego". Which has to be the case if you don't want to be miserable in the class. There is no belt system there is only student, advanced student, and teachers. So you're in a class with people who have been doing Kung fu for ten years and it can be easy to compare yourself to them, just like here!

    Just have fun with it. I don't know too much about karate other than the differences in falling and blocking techniques from Kung fu. The best advice I can give is to have fun and work on leg strength.

    Gassho
    Joe

  7. #7
    Senior Member Shawn's Avatar
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    Is Karate-do a style? Im not exactly sure Yugen. Ill PM you the link to the website to see for yourself.

    The dojo has been around for many decades in my area.

    Thanks Joe, I am completely new to martial arts...and I think ego will be the biggest barrier here.

    Gassho

    Shawn

  8. #8
    Hi guys,

    Iaido and Kendo for 8 years here Paige. Zen was/is strongly connected to Samurai culture where the unfettered mind is very important. Practice with the aim of cultivating courage and a contempt for death was encouraged for obvious reasons. In sword fighting, movement without hesitation or "no mind" is the key to effectiveness. Hesitate or concentrate on one point in time and space and you already have lost. Think fear and you will die. My former master explained this with a statue of Shiva once ( picture below). If she focuses attention to one of the many arms or a hand, all others become useless and everything freezes helplessly. When spontaneous movement with no mind is there, all flows naturally and great things are accomplished. This can only be accomplished by endless hours of practice until one is no longer preoccupied with technique ( much like our own practice). They say it takes doing something a 1000 times before it becomes second nature. As for my own experiences, the best matches are the ones where one just goes for it and think afterwards about what happened. Someone else usually helps by watching the match, observing to tell you about it later. You only know the outcome since you were full of emptiness at the time. While in the match everything comes from a "different place". This is visible in a fighter and is called Zanmay or "to be in the moment". It is a certain bearing or quality that is sensed and projected rather then seen and can make people very uncomfortable without them knowing why. Much like great Zen masters have this aura so to speak. it is not an intellectual perception but an instinctive one.

    Maybe this is why in my personal practice I tend to look for "moving zen" in daily life. Much like Kung Fu is not only about fighting and Kenjutsu is not only about sword fighting but ways of life. Takuan Soho wrote The Unfettered Mind and sword master Masana Myamoto Musashi tried to express this in words in The Book of Five rings (Zen especially in the last chapter). That book is pretty much the bible of swordsmanship and every time you read it, new things fall into place.

    My Katana is on a display permanently now. I gave up fighting but not the sword. It is a symbol for a way of life, the samurai soul of never giving up and always being ready to serve. The Zen trackless path hoping to find that gateless gate someday.



    Gassho

    Enkyo

  9. #9
    Hey there Shawn,

    For me, I started practicing Aikikai Aikido in 1992 with Inaba Shihan. He too was a Soto Zen Buddhist and encouraged us to practice the art of Aikido with a true and open heart. He taught us that we no longer live in a world where we need to hurt people, but rather, to understand and accept people.

    A few years ago I attended a seminar with Takeda Shihan ... on lunch break a group of us went to a local bistro to grab a bit. Takeda told us when he was younger no one wanted to practice with him because he had too much ego and was too hard on his uke's. He said, "have great respect for your uke, without him or her, you cannot practice the beauty of Aikido".

    Gassho
    Shingen
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  10. #10
    Hello everyone,

    there are many threads about the relation between martial arts, violence and how this relates to one's dharma practise.

    On a more practical and subjective note I'd say that it really is important to ask oneself about the importance of realistic self defense elements (or lack thereof) within one's chosen style (and I echo Yugen's comments).

    If it has to be Karate, Shotokan offers a very safe environment (but doesn't feature any ground skills or Ukemi - Ukemi is one of the most important skills that can save your ass from falling, breaking bones etc. in the long run...) but is far from being a particularly realistic style.

    Kyokushinkai is a Karate style for those who want to go real bad-ass in an amazingly disciplined and painful way.

    If it is self defense skills you are looking for, you should look for a proper Krav Maga instructor and stick with that for a while. As Yugen Mentioned, Sambo is hard but excellent as well for proper combat skills. Jeet Kune Do can be very good as well, but depends heavily on the instructor (due to loose curriculum). Brazilian Jui Jitsu is wonderful and effective in one-on-one scenarios but not a good style IMHO if you have no other stand up skills. Try lying on the ground and doing your thing when two other guys are around....

    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen
    Chudo Mongen, Ordained Novice Priest-in-Training

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