Discussion in 'The Library' started by PhotonGuy, Jul 10, 2016.
Living The Martial Way by Forrest E Morgan, I find it to be a good read.
Er… okay… anything in particular you found "good" about it? What does it address? Perhaps a more detailed/informative review could be more useful…?
I like how the book talks about philosophy and how it applies to the martial arts and especially how it separates martial arts from religion. All too often people think of martial arts as a religion or at least that it has something to do with religion. Morgan makes the distinction between religion and the martial arts. For a more complete review Living the Martial Way Quotes by Forrest E. Morgan
And also this Interview: Forrest Morgan, Author “Living the Martial Way” (Part 1)
However religion and martial arts are not separated for many people. It doesn't mean that martial arts are a religion but for many their religion is such an integral part of their lives that it touches everything they do and say. The idea that religion is in a separate box brought out for Sundays is a very Western idea, in the East there is much less separation which I think confuses many Westerners. The book is only one man's ideas and thoughts, it doesn't make it the truth.
I read "Living The Martial Way by Forrest E Morgan" many years ago, about 20 years ago actually. As I remember, I liked the book. I shall have to see if I still have it and possibly give it a reread. However I do not remember a discussion on religion and martial arts as being a major part of the book, but then it was 20 years ago so I may have forgotten
Well sure a religion might borrow a martial art or arts but that doesn't mean that just because you train in a martial art or arts that you're following any specific religion.
It's nothing to do with a religion 'borrowing' a martial art at all. Many people believe that their belief is part of everything they do and every action they perform ( in life not just martial arts) is an act of worship. Hindus for example believe the correct action in accordance with dharma is also understood as service to humanity and to God, this will also inform their martial arts practice. Eastern beliefs such as Shinto and Buddhism are much more a way of life than the Western Christianity, so involves everything that believers do including martial arts so there is no separation of their every day actions and their beliefs.
Many in the east, particularly China do not compartmentalize things like we do in the west. But on the flip side of that they do not tend to emphasize things either.
Well what Im saying is this, lets say there's a shintoist who trains in a martial art and as you put it, they believe that everything they do including their training in a martial art they are doing as part of their religion of Shintoism. Now lets say I train in a martial art and it can even be the same martial art that this particular shintoist trains in, that does not make me a shintoist too and it does not mean that by training in the martial art that I am engaging in a shintoist practice even if this other practitioner is using it as such.
Nope, still not got it.
You stated that it separates arts from religion as if martial arts is a religion, it isn't, no one thinks it is, what they do however is bring their beliefs into everything they do including martial arts, as XS says they don't compartmentalise. Then you say that people think of martial arts as a religion....no one does as far as I've seen. You also say they think of it as something to do with religion, again no. Then you say that Morgan makes the distinction between religion and martial arts only no one really believes that martial arts of any type is a religion.
What you are don't get is that many people's beliefs and their everyday actions are bound together, they don't do martial arts as a religious practice at all, but will perform their martial arts actions in a way that confirms their beliefs as they will do in everything from making a meal, to washing their clothes, to doing their everyday jobs.
Cool, thanks for that. My main point was that "it was good" isn't much of a conversation starter… this is much better.
I'm not going to comment much on your take on the book, but will ask if the idea that "all too often people think of martial arts as a religion or at least that it has something to do with religion" was something that you thought, or you took from the book (and Morgan's take on things).
Okay… when I asked for a more detailed review, I meant from you, not a link to others. I was curious as to what was important in the book to you, partially as insight into the book, and partially as insight into your thought process and value system (just something I do, really…). That said, the links were interesting… going beyond them, personally, I'm not sure I'd like the book that much… Morgan strikes me as someone (in the book, at least…) who is a bit too enamoured with an overly romanticised view of martial arts, warriorship, and the history found therein. I tend to prefer to listen to people who have a wider understanding.
We'll get to this, but it really will depend on what art you're talking about (which is part of what I mean when I say Morgan doesn't have a wide enough view to be of much interest to me).
Interesting example, as I can't see any way that it can work in that direction… however, the opposite can certainly be true…
If the practice is based in (or is specifically related to) Shinto practices, then yes, you are engaging in a Shinto practice… even if you're largely unaware of it. And, if you're in anyway experienced or exposed to classical Japanese arts, there's a good chance you've engaged in Shinto practice in some way already…
To be fair, Tez, he's not that far off… what he's discussing is just not as applicable in Western religious contexts… of course, I get the feeling that you're talking at crossed purposes, mainly due to a potential confusion in PhotonGuy's initial phrasing of his comments…
Now, that's not strictly true at all, really. Shaolin Monks are going to be the go-to for many people (although there are both religious and secular monks, with the secular usually just there for the martial arts side of things, and the religious ones there for both)… however, I personally would look to systems such as Shorinji Kenpo, developed by Doshin So as a way of spreading his particular take on Buddhism, to the point that all practice is considered a religious act, and their form of rehearsed "fights" being described as a form of prayer, or offering in a very religious sense… then we have many classical systems, such as Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu (who go so far as to have Shinto in their name… it translates (loosely, but accurately) as "The Truly and Correctly Transmitted From Heaven System of Shinto Martial Arts of the Katori Shrine"). Shinto Ryu (it's proper shortened name… it happens to be the Shinto Ryu associated with the Katori Shrine, as opposed to the Kashima Shinto Ryu, or other Shinto systems) is filled with religious (Shinto) aspects… some of the Iai, for example, are actually used in Shinto exorcisms and spell castings. Musashi Miyamoto once wrote "Pay respect to Buddha and the Gods, but do not rely on them" with regard to religion in martial arts… however his devotion to Buddhism late in his life means that it's said that you cannot truly and fully understand his writings (such as the Gorin no Sho) without a deep knowledge of the Buddhist Sutras (one reason some were written in hiragana, rather than kanji).
In Japan, Embu (martial demonstrations) are often done at shrines and temples… not because they're very pretty places, but because it's quite literally a form of offering to the deities/spirits etc who inhabit such places. Weapons are left as votive offerings (many examples of over-sized weapons, initially thought to have been actually used, were in reality simply offerings to shrines and such… weapons of that stature would be impractical, at the least, to actually wield). For this reason, embu are done in "your Sunday best"… and often start (and end) with religious ceremonies. The following clip shows incredibly well the level that religious ceremonies and aspect are integrated into such an event, showing the opening prayer/purification ceremony (note the double clap, a very Shinto thing to do, and something found in many classical Japanese arts). The gent in white with the sword at the beginning and end is not performing Iaido… it's a ceremonial/religious offering centred in Shinto practice. And, of course, the rest of the embu is just great to watch...
Then we get systems such as SandanChris' here… his very Christian Kempo fellowship (seems to be something that crops up in the US, Christian Martial Arts…) is highly based in his religious understanding and ideals….
Now, none of these make the art itself a religion (well… the Bujinkan was nearly made into a religion, largely for tax purposes, a few years back…), but the arts are a religious expression in many cases… which does make that martial art at least part of a religion and it's approach to interacting with it's followers. It's the same way a Church or Synagogue isn't a religion… nor are the rituals found, followed, and engaged in there… but they are part of the expression of the religion itself.
"They"? People? Xue was speaking specifically (and generally, which is a cool trick when you can do it) about Asian cultures there… as a juxtaposition to Western ideals and focus'. For Westerners, it's far more common to compartmentalise… which means that here, I am a religious person, there, I am a husband/father/son/daughter/wife/mother, there I am a worker, there I am a student, there I am a martial artist, and so on. Now, when there is a high value set of priorities (commonly an uncompromising set at that) that over-rules all others, that's when you get people (Westerners) "bring(ing) their beliefs into everything they do"… and we tend to call them extremists when it gets too carried away… balance is important...
With PhotonGuy's seeming inability to separate his own thoughts from those that he's read/seen/heard expressed by others, I'm not so sure he wasn't more quoting Morgan there… I'm waiting to hear on that…
See above… some specifically are…
True for some, not for all…
Personally, I find it rather ironic that Morgan is apparently taking such pains to separate them… while at the same time, the entire tome reads like a sermon, a religious gospel on "real martial arts"… an almost evangelical dictate on what people have to do to live up to his ideal of what a "warrior" is, and how to be one… honestly, in the book he largely appears to make warriorship and martial arts into his personal religion… and is wanting to sway others to his cause. But you know what they say, there is no zealot like a convert… which Morgan certainly was…
Not sure what you are saying here in reference to "which is a cool trick when you can do it" but what I am trying to say here is that many, (and yes I am talking mostly about the Chinese side of things) do not go to martial arts for religion in China nor do they expect religion. Shaolin is a bit different, but yet one can study at Shaolin and not be a Buddhist and one can be a full blown monk from Shaolin and you can train with him and he will not teach Buddhism, same can be said of Wudang and Taoism, but yet, it can be said that Buddhism and Taoism are in everything that shifu does
However in the west, and much of this is based on a translation error, (or misunderstanding) many people tend to go to CMA looking for spirituality and/or Buddhism or Taoism and your average Shifu is not there to be your religious or spiritual guide. Been in CMA for over 20 years and trained with multiple teachers form China and I have yet to find one who discusses anything like spirituality, had one laugh about it once when students got into a discussion about it, but never has one attempted to teach, or discuss it. Not even in Taijiquan. The issue comes from the translation of 'Shen' which translates as Spirit and that gets changed to Spirituality in the West. However to the Chinese 'Shen' is mind which is talking about mental health, and mental focus, not spirituality.
But as for the "I am a religious person, there, I am a husband/father/son/daughter/wife/mother, there I am a worker, there I am a student, there I am a martial artist"...exactly, Yin and Yang are equal and all part of the same thing, neither has dominion over the other nor is one more important than the other. It is just what you are. Its like I have a Circulatory system, a Digestive system, a Lymphatic system, a Muscular system, a Nervous system, etc. It is all the same body and as long as it is healthy its all good.
Chris I would have been much more specific but frankly that's a waste of time because the OP can't or won't take what others say as being anywhere near the truth if it contradicts what he says hence my generalistions. I'm Jewish, everything I do in my everyday is what some might call 'religious' including martial arts, it's about how one acts and behaves all the time. Everyday life for a Jew is hardly the stuff of extremists. When I say no one believes martial arts are a religion I mean that no-one worships martial arts, no one prays to karate or Judo, says prayers of thanks to TKD or prays that JKD send money. Martial arts may be a religious act or an expression of religion but they aren't worshipped or deified in themselves which is how I would define a religion.
Yeah, I followed (and completely agree with your explanation, obviously!). What I was referring to when I said "cool trick when you can do it" was to speak both specifically and generally about something at the one time… paradoxes are just fun!
Yeah, I got that as well… but this is me, after all, and any excuse to trot out one of these videos (or offer clarification of some of the lesser-realised aspects of my arts), and I'm going to take it! I agree that PhotonGuy doesn't really seem able to differentiate between sources, and once an idea is there, it's hard to dislodge it… which is why I think some of his ideas expressed in the thread are more simply his recitation of what he remembers from the book itself.
I took it from the book.
I like how Morgan differentiates between martial arts and religion and the overall philosophy he presents such as to live every day as if its your last. I also like his description of shugyo and its a practice I sometimes take on. There is many other stuff I like about the book but that's what I can think of offhand. To mention all the other stuff I would have to reread the book.
So if somebody were to train in American boxing would they necessarily be engaged in Christian practices somehow? Since American boxing originated in the USA and Christianity is the main religion in the USA.
Lets say I throw a sidekick, by doing so, by making such a move with my body and foot am I somehow paying tribute to a Shinto god or engaging in some kind of Shinto practice?
Morgan is aware that people sometimes mix religion with the martial arts and he mentions that in his book and he's against that. According to Morgan, religion and martial arts should be kept separate. Also Morgan claims that martial arts originated not as religious practices but as methods of warfare. Even those martial arts that originated in temples he says originated for warfare and defense since temples were also political centers and that many of the political functions went on in the temples including the formation and training of the military. Those are Morgan's claims not mine.
American boxing? So how's that different from 'boxing' then?
Argh. I told you so...................... I knew this was going to be said. I have no words, Chris, all yours.
I like Morgan rum but Pussers is better.
Okay. Can you tell me your view, then? Do you agree? If so, why? If not, why not?
Which is kinda like differentiating between chocolate ice-cream and cats… I mean… I like them both, but that doesn't mean they have much in common… or have any real relationship…
I've come across that idea a fair bit, and, honestly, that's what I mean when I talk about overly romanticising the ideas of warriorship… as, while it's one interpretation, it's not really what Yamamoto was talking about in Hagakure… although it is a common misinterpretation of it….
I've seen a couple of accounts of his take on "shugyo"… what can you say about what his description is, as it doesn't match my understanding of the term?
Er… no. Not at all, in fact. Now, if the Marquis of Queensbury, when coming up with the rules that form the basis of modern boxing, formulated them incorporating Christian iconography, ritual, and so on, sure… but that's not what you describe, nor is it the reality.
Huh? I'm not sure you quite get what is meant by a Shinto practice here… cause, gotta say, this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. There is no individual action that is "Shinto" or not… but a particular action can used as part of a Shinto ritual.
I'll put it this way. Kneeling, clapping, and bowing are single actions by themselves. None of them are one religion or another… but, at the start of many classical Japanese martial arts, there is an opening ceremony (and sometimes also used as a "closing" one), whereby the practitioners kneel, hold their hands together, and clap twice, then bow, raise up, clap again, and bow again (this is one form, there are variations depending on the system itself).
This ritual is often done simply as a "this is how we start a class" ceremony, used as a gateway to get into the mindset of training… which is fine… but it's really a Shinto ritual designed to scare away dangerous (evil) spirits (the first two claps), and awaken the protective ones (the last clap). And that's the thing… a religious ritual is not based on the movements, but on the intention and purpose of the actions themselves.
So no, simply throwing a side kick is not anything like "paying tribute to a Shinto god" (hmm… they're not really "gods", more spirits of nature around you), as it's got no purpose or intention related to it.
Why? I'm genuinely curious as to why that would be a bad thing… if it helps someone in their training, or in their day-to-day approach to life, what's the downside? And, more importantly, what do you think? Are you against it (if it actually happens the way Morgan presents it)? Why or why not?
Bear in mind, I'm not asking to frustrate you, I'm genuinely wanting to know what you think… not what you read and regurgitated.
That will depend entirely on both the art and the practitioner, I feel… but what do you think? Should they necessarily be kept separate in all ways, or can they live side by side happily in some way?
Again, it depends entirely on the art. The aforementioned Shorinji Kenpo was very much designed from the get-go as religious expression. Bagua was designed to be an expression of the I-Ching (if you want to think of that in religious terms… although it's real far more philosophical than religious, particularly from a Western perspective).
And there is some basis for that in Japanese historical arts, but it's not the case across the board… and Morgan would do well to remember that. To be honest, his background is not that significant, nor is his reading or research… his book is largely based on his personal views, rather than properly researched historical records… as he tends to rely on singular sources, and take much of what he hears on face value. That doesn't mean his views aren't valid, but there's a fair bit more to it than he realises…
I do. What I do is inexorably interwoven in Buddhist precepts. The only difference being my founder was not too keen on priests as like many religions there are many bigots that do not practice what they preach.
I tried explaining this to PG before and the bit you quoted from him is what he replied. It's not just martial arts some beliefs are interwoven with, it's all aspects of life but he thinks religions 'borrow' martial arts.
Well religion gives us a set of ground rules in life. Some are great until you add the twisted human element.
To quote my founder in translation I did: As long as we have our lives and we are on this earth we have to try and create for ourselves a wonderful peaceful life. In order to do that we must have peace of mind and a strong sense of morality. But considering the history of morality we also need great strength. We therefore train in a martial way for the security and peace of our countries.
The maxim of practice is based on: The sword is the heart. If the heart is not correct our sword is not right either. If one wishes to learn the sword one must study the matters of our heart first.123
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