The Zen in the Martial Arts

Earl Weiss

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One thing of import I think I recall from "Shotokan Secrets" (It may have been from somewhere else) was that in certain cultures the point of the story is more important than the accuracy of the story. Reading some comments I can't help but wonder how that would apply to "Zen in the Martial Arts."
 

Buka

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You know, this thread has made me want to read Joe Hyams' book again

Yeah, me too, haven't read it in a while.

Trippy thing happened to me with this book. I had read it a few times, used to buy a bunch of them and give them as gifts to my students.

I hadn't read it in years and was in South Africa, fighting in some competitions. Went to visit a bunch of dojos at the invitation of the folks who ran them. So I'm training in one dojo and was sitting down taking a break after some hard Shotokan sparring.
(I felt like I had been hit with rocks all over my body)

When I stand back up I turn around and read something on the wall. I was in Stan Schmidt's dojo, which is mentioned in the book. On the wall was the page mentioning it in Zen in the Martial Arts.
 

Xue Sheng

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Yeah, me too, haven't read it in a while.

Trippy thing happened to me with this book. I had read it a few times, used to buy a bunch of them and give them as gifts to my students.

I hadn't read it in years and was in South Africa, fighting in some competitions. Went to visit a bunch of dojos at the invitation of the folks who ran them. So I'm training in one dojo and was sitting down taking a break after some hard Shotokan sparring.
(I felt like I had been hit with rocks all over my body)

When I stand back up I turn around and read something on the wall. I was in Stan Schmidt's dojo, which is mentioned in the book. On the wall was the page mentioning it in Zen in the Martial Arts.

I so have to meet up with you to talk some day
 

Gyakuto

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for those interested a good read

THE UNFETTERED MIND

WRITINGS OF THE ZEN MASTER TO THE SWORD MASTER
Goodness, I struggled with this book from when I first picked as a young teen to very recently. It seemed very circuitous and rambling and repetitive. I think it was in part with the translation and repeated use of the word stopped with relation to the mind in combat. I just didnt get it and put the book away in frustration. Then I visited Yagyu no Sato, the village where Takuans temple is located and where his remains are interred.
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A very nice monk, instead used the word attached rather than stopped when explaining the ideas in Takuans book. Then it all fell into place and I realised his ideas were exactly the same as every other Zen text tackling the concept of attachment. Do not become attached to the idea of ones enemy or his descending sword, or your possible and imminent demise and instead maintain a state of unattached mushin so you have a chance to successfully react to the enemys actions. Stopped makes sense after this realisation, too.
 

mograph

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One thing of import I think I recall from "Shotokan Secrets" (It may have been from somewhere else) was that in certain cultures the point of the story is more important than the accuracy of the story. Reading some comments I can't help but wonder how that would apply to "Zen in the Martial Arts."
Absolutely. We need to be comfortable with historical ambiguity, and have enough life experience to learn what applies. But being comfortable with ambiguity requires that we exercise judgement, experience and wisdom ... as best we can.

A story doesn't have to be factual for it to be a metaphor that we can apply -- recognizing metaphor is an act of maturity, IMO. And if we're going to study this Eastern stuff, it would help to be comfortable with the concept of story as metaphor. It's been said that all ancient stories are metaphor (or allegory, etc.) more or less, and I find that idea useful.

(Of course, historical accuracy is still necessary in many contexts, particularly in understanding the present and predicting the future. Just thought I'd cover that.)
 

Gyakuto

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Absolutely. We need to be comfortable with historical ambiguity, and have enough life experience to learn what applies. But being comfortable with ambiguity requires that we exercise judgement, experience and wisdom ... as best we can.

A story doesn't have to be factual for it to be a metaphor that we can apply -- recognizing metaphor is an act of maturity, IMO. And if we're going to study this Eastern stuff, it would help to be comfortable with the concept of story as metaphor. It's been said that all ancient stories are metaphor (or allegory, etc.) more or less, and I find that idea useful.

(Of course, historical accuracy is still necessary in many contexts, particularly in understanding the present and predicting the future. Just thought I'd cover that.)
Then why not just dispense with the narrative and just state the take home message unambiguously?
 

isshinryuronin

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Then why not just dispense with the narrative and just state the take home message unambiguously?
The narrative helps in taking home the message. It provides context and stories are interactive, involving the reader/listener. The more involved the reader is, the better the message can be absorbed/visualized/ internalized, intersecting not only one's logic, but one's emotion and imagination as well. It makes the moral of the story much easier to swallow than just dry fact. Such stories have been around for millennia, from Greek mythology to the Bible, to Lao Tsu, to Aesop's Fables to MA myths and legends. How boring would things be otherwise? Learning and enlightenment can be fun. Consider it the scenic route to your destination.
 

Gyakuto

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The narrative helps in taking home the message. It provides context and stories are interactive, involving the reader/listener. The more involved the reader is, the better the message can be absorbed/visualized/ internalized, intersecting not only one's logic, but one's emotion and imagination as well. It makes the moral of the story much easier to swallow than just dry fact. Such stories have been around for millennia, from Greek mythology to the Bible, to Lao Tsu, to Aesop's Fables to MA myths and legends. How boring would things be otherwise? Learning and enlightenment can be fun. Consider it the scenic route to your destination.
They for thick people! Most of the people to whom these stories were aimed were uneducated and illiterate. By using allegory a difficult concept had a bit of a chance at getting through.

You can tell me and others on here not to engage with an emerging narrative during meditation. We will get that direct message - and in Zen directness is all important as we want to get on with it. But to some others you might need to talk about passing clouds drifting by or mists passing through a mountain village and dissolving in the morning suns rays
 

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Earl Weiss

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Then why not just dispense with the narrative and just state the take home message unambiguously?
A message stated unambiguously could be viewed in an extremely narrow context / application. As a metaphor the application might have much wider application. "Wax On Wax Off".
 

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I don't think of Buddhism as being inherent or integral in any martial art. While I am a Buddhist it has zero to do with the martial arts I've practiced. To eventually become a monk was a no-brainer since the cultures where the arts were born did have a religion of some sort.
 

isshinryuronin

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People portray early karate as "jitsu," a purer form of the science of fighting, and later karate as "do," following the way or path incorporating a more philosophic outlook on the art. I think karate always had both these two sides. But post WWII karate emphasized the do more as it decreased the jitsu as it spread to the general public.

I see do incorporating some Buddhist and Taoist flavor, but more than just that. For me, do represents a life- style that goes beyond philosophical thought: A commitment to physical fitness, study, perseverance in training, moral fortitude, etc.

This is a problem only when it overshadows karate jitsu, as it did after popularization and exportation to Japan and beyond. I think stress on the do part was to compensate for the loss of some of the jitsu elements and full understanding of kata. There is no reason both elements can't co-exist as long as karate jitsu is seen as the foundational part of the do.
 

mograph

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People portray early karate as "jitsu," a purer form of the science of fighting, and later karate as "do," following the way or path incorporating a more philosophic outlook on the art. I think karate always had both these two sides. But post WWII karate emphasized the do more as it decreased the jitsu as it spread to the general public.

I see do incorporating some Buddhist and Taoist flavor, but more than just that. For me, do represents a life- style that goes beyond philosophical thought: A commitment to physical fitness, study, perseverance in training, moral fortitude, etc.

This is a problem only when it overshadows karate jitsu, as it did after popularization and exportation to Japan and beyond. I think stress on the do part was to compensate for the loss of some of the jitsu elements and full understanding of kata. There is no reason both elements can't co-exist as long as karate jitsu is seen as the foundational part of the do.
Yes. I think an Easterner might see karate as "karate," and see no need to make a finer distinction between "jitsu" and "do."
 

Taiji Rebel

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Each culture applies their own philosophy to the practice. A lot of the warrior arts throughout the world had philosophical elements to balance out the physical side. The attitude of the teacher will influence the student. Some sensei encourage fighting, some focus on the spiritual aspects and many instructors like to blend the two. At the end of the day it is down to the student to decide on which approach suits them best.
 

Gyakuto

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Each culture applies their own philosophy to the practice. A lot of the warrior arts throughout the world had philosophical elements to balance out the physical side. The attitude of the teacher will influence the student. Some sensei encourage fighting, some focus on the spiritual aspects and many instructors like to blend the two. At the end of the day it is down to the student to decide on which approach suits them best.
Is it peculiar to Eastern warrior arts, I wonder? I dont recall any spiritual practised associated with Roman soldiers or Mongol warriors在eyond their usual religious rites. Perhaps they did and I wonder if it was a way of assuaging the guilt of the terrible things they had to do?
 

Xue Sheng

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Absolutely. We need to be comfortable with historical ambiguity, and have enough life experience to learn what applies. But being comfortable with ambiguity requires that we exercise judgement, experience and wisdom ... as best we can.

A story doesn't have to be factual for it to be a metaphor that we can apply -- recognizing metaphor is an act of maturity, IMO. And if we're going to study this Eastern stuff, it would help to be comfortable with the concept of story as metaphor. It's been said that all ancient stories are metaphor (or allegory, etc.) more or less, and I find that idea useful.

(Of course, historical accuracy is still necessary in many contexts, particularly in understanding the present and predicting the future. Just thought I'd cover that.)
Knowing Chinese metaphors can get you further if you train Chen style色匡in Gang Dao Dui any one
 

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