Martial Arts and their Religious Philosphies

loki09789

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This idea of "Americanized" MA is what was one issue that I was discussing in the Marine Corps Martial arts thread in Gen Talk.

For some, the eastern philosophy is going to be the draw. Kind of a living metaphor of the thought. The better you do the art, the better your grasp of the mental and back and forth...

For some the "Americanization" of MA where the moves will be the same as eastern arts, or taken from other sources, but the moral structure will be neo military/character values could be a draw for those who want to, for themselves and their kids, get back to some basic personal values that they can recognize easily and clearly.

Paul M.
 

loki09789

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I find it ironic that Americans/Westerners can tune into 'eastern philosophy' and ignore a value structure that they only think they know because they 'grew up with it.' If they had spent as much time studying Judeo/Christian values and theology as they do exploring/studying Eastern philosophy - and with as open a mind - they would realize the "DOROTHY SYNDROME" applies here too. If you can't find it in your own backyard, it wasn't there to begin with.

Zen, Taoism, Buddhism all say basically the same thing about the discoveries being from within as well as without. Most of us form opinions about home values/Religions based on what we learn through folkish levels of learning more than formal learning. Not a bad way to go, but not the most thorough either.

Paul M
 

Rich Parsons

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loki09789 said:
I find it ironic that Americans/Westerners can tune into 'eastern philosophy' and ignore a value structure that they only think they know because they 'grew up with it.' If they had spent as much time studying Judeo/Christian values and theology as they do exploring/studying Eastern philosophy - and with as open a mind - they would realize the "DOROTHY SYNDROME" applies here too. If you can't find it in your own backyard, it wasn't there to begin with.

Zen, Taoism, Buddhism all say basically the same thing about the discoveries being from within as well as without. Most of us form opinions about home values/Religions based on what we learn through folkish levels of learning more than formal learning. Not a bad way to go, but not the most thorough either.

Paul M
Paul,

First I agree with you about most religions and or philosophies have teh same or similiar insights coming from within.

As to the eastern approach, it could be the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

It could also, be as simple as the do not know the negative history of the Eastern approaches and therefore can be open minded. As opposed to the Euro and MidEAST -centric approach, where many people and their families have lived the history.

There is no place like home. :)
 

loki09789

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If you want to look at the most 'Christian' of the Martial arts as far as I am concerned, look at Aikido. I am not talking about the 'Personal savior' issue with this, but the goal of peace and harmony with yourself and blending with your opponent. He/she will fall victim to his/her own momentum and intent. The artists movements and philosophy is to only do enough to avoid danger.... and it was developed by an old salty Japanese artist who, to the best of my knowledge, was not Christian.

Paul M
 
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ThuNder_FoOt

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loki09789 said:
If you want to look at the most 'Christian' of the Martial arts as far as I am concerned, look at Aikido. I am not talking about the 'Personal savior' issue with this, but the goal of peace and harmony with yourself and blending with your opponent. He/she will fall victim to his/her own momentum and intent. The artists movements and philosophy is to only do enough to avoid danger.... and it was developed by an old salty Japanese artist who, to the best of my knowledge, was not Christian.

Paul M

I understand your point, but I don't believe it ties into my original question. How does this relate to the Martial Arts, and the religions they were based upon? :asian:
 
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MisterMike

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A good book on the roots of the martial arts is "Bodhisattva Warriors."

It looks at how the Martial Arts came from India, which was Buddhist! Yea, so throw out those ideas of peace and harmony when you think of that religion.

All those hand gestures you see in your forms/kata - yup - they go wayyyy back to the hand mudras of certain Buddhist sects. (So much for Christian Kenpo)

Here's a good place to get it:

The Bodhisattva Warriors: The Origin, Inner Philosophy, History and Symbolism of the Buddhist Martial Art Within India and China

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/t...f=sr_1_2/104-9068741-3245568?v=glance&s=books
 

tshadowchaser

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Thats a great book. A little heavy at times in the history but it cover some good materal. some might consider it heavy reading.
 

loki09789

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ThuNder_FoOt said:
I understand your point, but I don't believe it ties into my original question. How does this relate to the Martial Arts, and the religions they were based upon? :asian:

It does in a way because, conscious of it or not, the Judeo/Christian values at the root of the basic American culture will influence how those individual practitioners present their art, themselves and their techniques.

Their conceptual understandings of 'harmony' and 'peace' will be a synthesis of Western values/beliefs and Eastern.

The basic beliefs in what a 'fit' person looks/moves like will shift the center of gravity slightly. The dietary likes/dislikes, which are living expressions of the values of a persons lifestyle, will influence their physiological strengths and weaknesses.

The culturally created value of 'manly' movement and behavior will influence what is acceptable 'gracefulness' and therefore influence the ability/fluidity of students to perform the basic artistic movements.

All that said, I think that an art/techniques have to be modified in teaching approach and movement to a degree when it meets a new culture, on a small or large scale.
 
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ThuNder_FoOt

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loki09789 said:
It does in a way because, conscious of it or not, the Judeo/Christian values at the root of the basic American culture will influence how those individual practitioners present their art, themselves and their techniques.

Their conceptual understandings of 'harmony' and 'peace' will be a synthesis of Western values/beliefs and Eastern.

The basic beliefs in what a 'fit' person looks/moves like will shift the center of gravity slightly. The dietary likes/dislikes, which are living expressions of the values of a persons lifestyle, will influence their physiological strengths and weaknesses.

The culturally created value of 'manly' movement and behavior will influence what is acceptable 'gracefulness' and therefore influence the ability/fluidity of students to perform the basic artistic movements.

All that said, I think that an art/techniques have to be modified in teaching approach and movement to a degree when it meets a new culture, on a small or large scale.

Ok, now i see the point of view you presented. I can understand that religion may effect the way one trains and gathers knowledge, but how would one go about "modifying" the techniques, and priciples those techniques are based on, without completely changing the art? I've often sat and thought about this many times, but I always seem to come to the same conclusion... that it can't be done. I hope to get a better understanding from someone whom has a different opinion than my own. I will use the principle of Chi as an example once again. Some Gung Fu systems are based upon the principle of striking the vital points in the Chi vascular system, known as Meridians. If one doesn't believe in the Buddhist (other religions may share the Chi principle as well) theology of Chi, then what would be the point of using such techniques? And how could one truly understand a given technique without first accepting the Buddhist Faith (as an example) either partially or completely?

:asian:
 

loki09789

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ThuNder_FoOt said:
Ok, now i see the point of view you presented. I can understand that religion may effect the way one trains and gathers knowledge, but how would one go about "modifying" the techniques, and priciples those techniques are based on, without completely changing the art? I've often sat and thought about this many times, but I always seem to come to the same conclusion... that it can't be done. I hope to get a better understanding from someone whom has a different opinion than my own. I will use the principle of Chi as an example once again. Some Gung Fu systems are based upon the principle of striking the vital points in the Chi vascular system, known as Meridians. If one doesn't believe in the Buddhist (other religions may share the Chi principle as well) theology of Chi, then what would be the point of using such techniques? And how could one truly understand a given technique without first accepting the Buddhist Faith (as an example) either partially or completely?

:asian:

I agree that there can not be a 'pure' or 'universal' art that remains so regardless of the practitioner. That is reality. Even within an artistic practice there is in varying degrees personalization of definitions, stances, movements, intentions..... so it isn't possible for there to be 'one true art' that will remain intact exactly.

And according to Buddhist Philosophy, that impermanence is part of the process, so I don't think that any art based on that over ruling idea would even strive for that goal. We always leave our fingerprints on things culturally, individually...

Now as far as attacking meridians, I think that there are evidencial and scientific explanations that will satisfy practitioners who don't believe in the original ideology that 'this **** works' that will make the practice worthwhile. It might even act as 'wonders' or 'miracles' to win converts, if that is the intention, to the over ruling ideas because if this little thing can work what else in this stuff could be true as well?
 
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Kevin Walker

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Hi Guys,

Part of your martial art training experience should be the cultivation of wisdom, and, unfortunately, wisdom does come with age.

Yet, as the years go by and you find yourself suddenly becoming very proficient in your style, then you have to make serious decisions; such as: do I kill this guy or not in a very dangerous fight for your life?

Remember that the Buddhist Shaolin monks or the Taoist Wudang priests were men of the cloth first, warriors last, so they're decision has already been made up for them - never take a life.

Yet, as a layman who might potentially defend the life of your wife or children or even yourself, the decision not to kill the enemy during a brawl might not be so cut & dried.

So wisdom is relative to any situation, especially to the martial artist who is trained to kill, hurt, maim, and generally manhandle another human being. That's why it is important for the responsible martial artist to study philosophy and literature, to enable them to make 'wise' and informed decisions, and to justify - not rationalize - their actions. By studying the martial arts you put yourself in a worldly position where you have to reflect on you behavior.

I just keep all my martial arts enthusiasm strictly in a self-defense mode, thereby retaining the moral highground if I ever need to apply my training. But the martial arts have caused me to reflect on life, the universe, and everything on more than one occasion, and this is a good thing - though you might be considered as a moody person by others. They just probably don't know a wise individual when they see one.
 

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ThuNder_FoOt said:
This is true, but what of the principles of a said Martial Art? For example, Shaolin Long Fist (along with alot of others) is based of the principles of Chi. The vital points struck, and power gained is based on this principle. If one were to change the spirituality of the art, don't you change the art itself? How can... say a "Christian or Catholic " know of said principles? I don't believe the art would be as effective in that sense.

I as a Christian would have to do one of two things either
1) Rationalize it someway to where it wouldn't come in conflict of my religious beliefs. Now in the the USA this might not be to big of a problem because I don't know if your going to really get that much into the spiritual aspect of the system. However this might be different if I was studying this in China.

2) Find another system.

Number one seems to be the thing that most people do, they rationalize the conflict away. I once went to a pressure point seminar and the instructor stated he was a deacon in his church (Southern Baptist I believe). Being a Christian I asked him if this conflicted with his religious views (I did this after the seminar of course), he told me no and then he explained to me his fatih and et.c etc. and in due corse told me what books to buy to continue my research and study with the pressure point material.

I did this and consequently bought the books he suggested on the meridians, these were full of eastern thought on chi, the concepts of the elements etc. etc. and I was rationizing myself away thinking this is OK the baptist deacon recommended it. Till a close Christian friend took a look at what I was studying and we discussed it in light of the bible and such and I was convicted to put it away.

And so I choose option #2.

Which coming from a Christian point of view I think a person must do, if it conflicts with your belief about God, than how can you not put it away without making it your god?

Mark
 
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Denton Hines

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[. I will use the principle of Chi as an example once again. Some Gung Fu systems are based upon the principle of striking the vital points in the Chi vascular system, known as Meridians. If one doesn't believe in the Buddhist (other religions may share the Chi principle as well) theology of Chi, then what would be the point of using such techniques? And how could one truly understand a given technique without first accepting the Buddhist Faith (as an example) either partially or completely?


I'll try to answer this with what little understanding I have. Okay on a spiritual note, If you believe in Chi/Ki it is a powerful force that abides within each of us. It can only be truly realized through deep meditation and training. Let's say you're a Christian (which I am) and don't believe in eastern religion but you do believe in Ki because you experience it in your training. I don't believe you have to practice zen Buddhism to understand your internal force. I was created by God therefore I believe that my Ki/Chi (whatever) was placed there by him for me to discover by meditating on HIS word and principles through physical as well as devotional training.

Okay, let's say it's not a spiritual force but a truly physical one. It is believed to be located somewhere about 2 inches below your navel in the center of your body. Which just so happens to be exactly where your center of gravity is when your in a balanced stance. When you move, it gets moved around inside and outside of your body. Let's take Aikido for example: spiritually you absorb your opponent's Ki combine it with yours and then let it loose back through your opponent to send him on his merry way. On a physical note: using the same example you strike your training partner while pulling them off balance placing ther center somewhere outside of there body.
you absorb that energy and either send them away or apply equal yet opposite force to stop part of there body while the rest continues in motion.
That's pure physics.

But however you believe, whether spiritual or physical, you can apply your on religious beliefs to any form or style. Although I do believe that the human body is capable of a lot more than science has realized thus far.
 
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Denton Hines

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In the first paragraph of my last reply, I was trying to quote Thunder_foot. That was pulled directly out of one of his replies. Sorry for the confusion.
 
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ThuNder_FoOt

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Denton,

I see. That is a unique way to apply your belief system to various arts. I do have one question though. Even though you would be modifying the Chi principle to your Christian beliefs, per your example, would that not be accepting the Eastern religious principles partially? Despite the fact that the belief is customized to agree with that of your own, the principle itself wasn't part of the Christian belief system. And this is what I'm addressing. It seems as though most all Martial Artists whom have a religion different than that their Martial Art was based upon, must conform partially or completely to that of the said Art.
 
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MisterMike

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Studying an art which was practiced by people of a different faith/philosophy does not mean you have to conform or practice it yourself. I may read books on Buddhism, but am not a Buddhist.

As for arts that emphasize Chi or Ki, practitioners who do not follow or believe in these principles may not fully understand their art's applications. They may stay at a more physical/self-defense level of understanding of the art.

So I think a) you do not have to change your beliefs or rationalize if b) you do not practice it that way or internalize the meanings of the practice the same way as the early practitioners did.
 
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ThuNder_FoOt

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MisterMike said:
Studying an art which was practiced by people of a different faith/philosophy does not mean you have to conform or practice it yourself. I may read books on Buddhism, but am not a Buddhist.

As for arts that emphasize Chi or Ki, practitioners who do not follow or believe in these principles may not fully understand their art's applications. They may stay at a more physical/self-defense level of understanding of the art.

So I think a) you do not have to change your beliefs or rationalize if b) you do not practice it that way or internalize the meanings of the practice the same way as the early practitioners did.

Very good points you bring forth. Can you give an example of how one can "internalize the meanings of the practice the same way as the early practitioners did", as you put it?

As far as the Buddhism, I would say that it depends on your personal defnition.
 

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Dennis_Mahon said:
You haven't given this much thought, have you? "I know I am doing right for me because I feel I am doing right" isn't a reason, it's an excuse. You could use that to justify the worst human behavior.

Given that the discussion is supposed to revolve around whether or not a philosophy empowers, disempowers or is neutral in the learning and application a given fighting technique, is this tangent supposed to be relevant at all?

You are talking about morality in general, which doesn't automatically come attached with learning, training or applying a MA. So questioning someone's training just for saying that they approach their learning of a MA with an open mind regarding technique (which is what Lee meant, and shouldn't be difficult to figure out given the context of the thread regardless) is boorish in the extreme.

Back on topic, I think that in a lot of cases, the teachings or beliefs were used as analogies to help transfer the principles of the system quicker. If better analogies exist within the modern culture that don't hinge upon these teachings, then there's no real loss to the technique's effectiveness or to the information transfer required to impart knowledge of the given technique. Does calling Qi something like, biomechanics really change the underlying principles? Not really IMO. In a lot of cases the argument could be made that people better understand and trust the scientifically derived explanations and that by demystifying the technique and the underlying principle, it becomes easier for the student to learn and in turn apply and transmit the technique.
 
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ThuNder_FoOt

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Marginal said:
Back on topic, I think that in a lot of cases, the teachings or beliefs were used as analogies to help transfer the principles of the system quicker. If better analogies exist within the modern culture that don't hinge upon these teachings, then there's no real loss to the technique's effectiveness or to the information transfer required to impart knowledge of the given technique. Does calling Qi something like, biomechanics really change the underlying principles? Not really IMO. In a lot of cases the argument could be made that people better understand and trust the scientifically derived explanations and that by demystifying the technique and the underlying principle, it becomes easier for the student to learn and in turn apply and transmit the technique.

Very good point Marginal. I have personally pondered on that aspect of the Martial teachings myself. However, I found that the religion of the Artist comes into play when this question is asked. The analogy that you put forth works in the case that the practioner is either a Scientologist or an Athiest, but let us not forget other religions that exists. Even though the Chi/Ki (lets just use this example once again) can be explained in Scientific terms, would it still not have its religious properties? Would that not be just another way of explaining the same religious principles? IMO, despite what the principles are referred as, they will still be apparent and needed in the understanding of techniques based upon them. Whether partially or whole, I personally have not seen an example where a student is able to learn a said technique without some level of conformation. And it is this that I am trying to understand.
 

Marginal

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ThuNder_FoOt said:
Very good point Marginal. I have personally pondered on that aspect of the Martial teachings myself. However, I found that the religion of the Artist comes into play when this question is asked. The analogy that you put forth works in the case that the practioner is either a Scientologist or an Athiest, but let us not forget other religions that exists. Even though the Chi/Ki (lets just use this example once again) can be explained in Scientific terms, would it still not have its religious properties? Would that not be just another way of explaining the same religious principles? IMO, despite what the principles are referred as, they will still be apparent and needed in the understanding of techniques based upon them.

I would say no. If you're taught principles that operate the same as chi but you're taught through neutral labels, I don't see how that could conflict with a religion or impact one's beliefs. Take the focus point below the navel. Boxing employs a similar principle when a trainer mentions Center of Mass/using the hips/not throwing an "arm punch". Is there automatic Sinofication built into any technique that employs a similar concept? Are all boxers subtly Bhuddist?

No. It's merely a biomechanical fact. You generate more power by taking advantage of your center of mass. It's not a religious principle at all on its core. No technique works with its physical component removed. Cloud it with mysticism, use it as proof of God's brilliant design, whatever, there's nothing there that requires a change of attitude in the student provided they're capable of looking at what they're learning objectively, and not apporaching in fear of being changed or losing their faith by moving from their center, or something equally mechanically neutral like moving their hands in a circle to break a hold. (Otherwise, you'd also have to shun geometry lest it corrupt your faith, as it subtly bends you towards the beliefs of the ancient Greeks etc, and Pythagoras was a religious nutter so that can't possibly be desierable.) Ki,chi,qui, God's Love enabling a muscleman to break handcuffs (actually saw an infomercial featuring that stunt. Dude also ripped a phone book in half due to "the power of Christian prayer", which is an iffy conclusion since there's a simple mechanical trick that'll allow anyone of sufficient strength to rip a phonebook in half.)

Regardless, religion is itself amorphous. It cannot encounter an outside influence without having to react to it either by incorperating elements or attacking them. The only way to avoid alteration in this way would be to set yourself up in a closested community with no further contact from the outside world--Ever. Things changed to keep the religion relevant to the population it caters to. The Bible tossed out God's wife, added the concept of angels, heaven and hell, messianic figures, the apocalypse etc all from running into other religions. If we were to be true to the root religion, we'd be engaged in a form of goofy ancestor worship.
 
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