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irick
01-29-2014, 07:36 AM
I have been a martial artist ever since I can remember. It has always fascinated me and it has always been an intimate part of my personal culture. The first form I learned i entered when I was six or seven at a local community center in Atlanta Georgia. It was a Korean art called Tang Soo Do: Way of the Chinese Fist.

At my young age I did not gain much insight into the principles or philosophies that guided the development of the art, nor did I know the history of the style or its influences. These sort of questions would later fascinate me, but in the moment as a child I took three things away from my experience: The concept of respect, the concept of brotherhood and finally the Big Head mode cheat in N64 GoldenEye 007.

I never did well with public school, later on in life I would be diagnosed with a developmental disorder (PDD-NOS/ADHD). As far as I am concerned this diagnosis represents more the sad state of public schooling at the time rather than any serious handycap on my part. I learned differently, and that grinds the teachers who feel nothing for their art enough to complain. As a result, I was always an outcast, especially as I started to excel in classes despite my 'problems with a classroom environment'. The kids and the teachers rarely were interested in the subjects, so my willingness to learn seemed to throw me into a more and more lonely niche. I do note that there were notable exceptions, but in general this was the rule.

This was never the case in the dojo. The people there were there to learn and the teachers were passionate about their art. This made all of the difference when I was growing up. My peers were martial artists, we had mutual respect and comradely. I remained a member of that Tang Soo Doo dojo until the day we moved. Though I did not realize it at the time, I had started to understand the Way.

My parents moved to Tennessee on my tenth birthday. My father had just finished residency for Cardio Thoracic surgery and a major business opportunity arose. When we moved it felt sudden, but I like to think I took it well for a ten year old. When we got to Tennessee, it was nearly immediately back to the public school system. From my experience transferring public schools (which I have done many times now) I have found that very few teachers in it understand the Way as it applies to their discipline. I did not know the words at the time, but it was easy for me to identify the teachers who did not care: they felt fake, they read from the textbook with no adulation, and they recommended my parents put me on drugs. I do not know if was caused by or if it caused my dislike for authority, at least as it is represented by our governmental institutions. What I do know is the drugs made school a blur.

I did not have a dojo yet, but I did ride the bus. Four hours after my mid-day doping was usually when I got home, I never made friends with my classmates but those who I got off the bus with got to saw fleeting moments of my own personality bubble up through the fading haze of amphetamines and SSRI. One such individual was my next door neighbor. We hit it off, as children tend to do, and 'lo and behold he mentioned that he took karate lessons! This was a huge deal to me even then. I remembered back to my Tang Soo Doo sensei and the students there. I craved more than anything that feeling again.

So he invited me to one of their classes. I was thrilled, absolutely giddy to get back to that environment. Now, I will not say that the experience was unpleasant but it did throw me into a crisis. This was not a dojo. This was daycare. I do not know if the instructors understood the Way, they never taught. They sat us in front of a television screen and had us watch TMNT. They gave us foam swords to play with. They had us play at wrestling, and they had us hit pre-broken boards (or styrofoam if you were too young). It was baby food, and I hungered for steak. I had a taste of what a martial arts dojo was in that community center in Atlanta, with that rare sensei who treated his young students as students rather than children. I do not truly know if it was the disappointment felt there or some chemical imbalance from the cocktail of psychiatric meds, but when I got home from that I was in tears.

My father was home, something quite rare (this may be understood by others with parents in the medical profession). Though embarrassing, this small fact turned out to be a very good thing for me. My father has never been one to suffer weakness in others, so naturally he confronted me about my emotional breakdown. I do not remember what I said, but know now what I meant. The school was fake, some empty shell of what I needed. Even if they taught me techniques I knew that they were empty motions, they did not have the understanding that I sought. I am lucky that my father is an intelligent man, because he understood what I was looking for and he was willing to sacrifice his limited free time to ensure that I found it.

My father and I now share one style of martial arts, we have sense deviated but in the years we practiced in Tennessee that was our style:

Isshin-ryu Karate. An Okinawan style, taught to us by a N-th generation American out of a small room covered in mirrors. Our Dojo had four members, my father, myself, the instructor, and an Okinawan exchange student. It was small, but I found what I was looking for again. I still did not know the Way, but I could understand it was there.

I practiced hard, I achieved the rank of second kyu and my father and I took the podium in multiple events in the Okinawan Martial Arts Tournament in Tennessee. He was a better fighter than I, he took first place in the sparing event in his age group, even against some of the lower dan rank participants. I took first in bo-kata. We got a slurry of seconds and thirds and I got one fourth. I remember, because I thought it was strange the distinguished looking plaque was such a low placement item. The trophies all looked ridiculous. The second place ones were over half my height. The other student, Luke, took first in nearly everything he participated in. He was a high dan rank.

I enjoyed this, because all of these men I trained with were martial artists. The dojo was not traditional, with mirrors and crash matts everywhere. It was a room out of a small gym, but these people I trained with were the best. That is how my father defined authenticity, and I will not deny that their skill made me feel like it was real. However, they did not teach me of the Way.

Eventually my father's practice made him a partner and his time ended up being eaten by managerial tasks. I was too young to drive, and Luke had gone home to Okinawa. I stopped practicing martial arts in a dojo. It wasn't until about three years down the line that I picked it back up.

Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū: A Japanese sword art. Weapons forms were not unfamiliar to me, I had trained extensively with the bo against simplified mock sword techniques, but this was something different. Iaido and Battodo were not something I could apply in a modern-day self defense scenario. It's simply not realistic to carry a Daisho in Tennessee, none the less I was interested. I rather quickly advanced through the lower kyu ranks and I thoroughly enjoyed it. On the very first day I was introduced to the concept of Zanshin. My sensei would say "Maintain Zanshin through the chiburi and noto." I replied "What is Zanshin?" To which he explained "Zanshin is the ready mind. It is maintaining awareness of your surroundings and the readiness to reverse your noto into an attack-defense should the need arise." He would go on to say "Achieving the ready mind is a stepping stone to achieving Mushin. When you execute a form with Mushin, you have mastered it." I then asked "What is Mushin?" to which he replied "Mushin is the mind-of-no-mind. When it is achieved action flows." I did not understand this. When it came time to test for 3rd kyu I was assigned a reading from the school's philosophical teachings and required to do an essay on it. This was entirely new to me, and I loved it.

All of my previous sensei had told me that martial arts were a way of self-improvement. I took this to mean the obvious: my body was being trained. However, here was something new. I was training my mind as well. From the philosophies of Katori Shinto-ryu I then moved to those of Miyamoto Musashi, then to Yagyu Munenori, Issai Chozanshi, Sun Tzu all the way back to Laozi. There was something deeper in the martial arts. It was something I had felt from a young age, something that extended beyond our limited scope. In practicing martial arts I was following the Way, and in studying the Way I was coming to understand myself. This was some pretty heavy stuff for a fifteen year old.

Since that day I have studied Eishin-ryu and Toyama-ryu Battodo as well as western sport and historical fencing. I have also studied Taekwondo and I am starting to study Wah Lum Pai Tam Tui Northern Praying Mantis style kung fu as well as Tai Chi Chuan. My exposure to the martial arts has spurred on my love for philosophy, the sciences and art. Even though I have moved more times than I care to count, I have always had a family with the martial arts community. These days I love hearing about all philosophies of martial arts. The technical theory behind fencing. Bruce Lee's style-of-no-style. The holy warriors of Islam. These traditions and theories provide a fascinating view into the cultures that created them, and it is through the lens of martial arts that I have come to know concepts both familiar and alien to my own culture.

For me, Martial arts have come to be a way for me to express myself and understand the world around me. Through motion, I have come to understand stillness. I have flowed from Georga, to Tennessee, to Kyoto Prefecture and finally to Florida. Each step has been with a fluid and adaptable mind. Martial arts means I cultivate these values to understand my oneness with all cultures.

So, That is why I am guided by the Way of Martial Arts. I would love to hear your own stories or interesting philosophies you have hard or cultivated through your own journeys! What styles do you practice? Do you even believe in styles? What does Martial Arts mean to you?

rorick
01-29-2014, 09:34 AM
I, sadly, am not a martial artist. My dad practiced Kung-Fu when he was younger, and Jiu-Jitsu if I remember correctly. But that was many years ago, when he wasn't so broken from doing sports.

Being someone so ingrained within the martial arts community, I have a question for you. What would you suggest to someone who's looking into starting martial arts, but has no idea where to start beyond researching styles? For instance, how would you tell a newbie, such as myself, how to distinguish between a good dojo/teacher and one of the, as I've heard them called, McDojo's who are only in it for profit? Thanks.

irick
01-29-2014, 09:58 AM
I, sadly, am not a martial artist. My dad practiced Kung-Fu when he was younger, and Jiu-Jitsu if I remember correctly. But that was many years ago, when he wasn't so broken from doing sports.

Being someone so ingrained within the martial arts community, I have a question for you. What would you suggest to someone who's looking into starting martial arts, but has no idea where to start beyond researching styles? For instance, how would you tell a newbie, such as myself, how to distinguish between a good dojo/teacher and one of the, as I've heard them called, McDojo's who are only in it for profit? Thanks.

It is difficult to prescribe a formula, but if your father practiced Kung-Fu you have probably seen the look of someone who was serious and enjoyed Martial Arts. In general, the McDojo's tend to be large, and they tend to advertise themselves as Karate Schools, UFC schools, or Taikwando schools. There is nothing wrong with learning from a McDojo, but they will very rarely give you much of a glimpse into the depths of material available in a style.

Accreditation varies from school or school, In general you want to know what organization the head teacher is certified in or who will be available to advance you. When I first learned KSR iaido I learned under a high dan level student who had not passed the exam required to advance others in the school. I instead tested for rank with another instructor who visited our dojo occasionally. Both of them where accredited by the US Federation of Batto Do, and my advancing instructor was accredited by the KSR.

This does not mean that there are not good unaccredited Dojos, there are. However, as a general rule of thumb you want a reputable party to vouch for the teacher.

The truly best Dojos usually have some sort of presence with the community at large. If you find that a school regularly hosts teachers from out of the state or country, or that the instructors regularly organize trips to a sister dojo then you have found a truly special pillar dojo of a style.

Lucy Bones
01-29-2014, 12:19 PM
Martial arts I've given a lot of time to include Tae Kwan Do and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

Other arts I've dabbled in include Muay Thai, some basic Karate, and parts of Jeet Kun Do to help my fighting style.

I was training as an MMA fighter for around 12-13 years before I decided pacifism was more the route for me. I may be a black belt, but just because I can fight someone doesn't mean I want to.

irick
01-29-2014, 02:23 PM
Martial arts I've given a lot of time to include Tae Kwan Do and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

Other arts I've dabbled in include Muay Thai, some basic Karate, and parts of Jeet Kun Do to help my fighting style.

I was training as an MMA fighter for around 12-13 years before I decided pacifism was more the route for me. I may be a black belt, but just because I can fight someone doesn't mean I want to.

I have briefly studied b-jj under the Gracie family. it mostly consisted of workshops when I used to attend karate college, but that got expensive quick. I find it a very interesting style to study: seeing how it has split and shifted from judo is truly fascinating. unfortunately here in the states it is most commonly practiced in a gym environment and that really doesn't cultivate the sort of discussion I enjoy.

I absolutely love talking with the old jeet kun do guys. they usually have a great grounding in classical philosophy as well as some esoteric insights. I've read Lee's Dao of Jeet kun do a few times and its a great look into the martial philosophy of the man. its mostly unstructured, but then again all great dao are :3

I am not a pasivist, though I do follow the principle of non-agression. I will try to de-escilate a situation first and foremost. however, I have no problem ethicly in using deadly force to defend myself or others. I instead put upon myself the moral imparitive to never instigate violence, both physical and otherwise.

Bri Mercedes
01-29-2014, 03:14 PM
I'm a first degree black belt in a mixed martial arts style, my dojo is a family business and they are amazing people and great family friends. The head instructor is like a father to me. Unfortunately due to my work schedule I have been unable to attend classes recently. They integrate a bunch of stuff into the curriculum: a lot of Tae Kwon Do, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, etc. It's very practical and there is a lot of self-discipline involved.

Lucy Bones
01-29-2014, 03:23 PM
I like studying Jeet Kun Do along with the execution of Tae Kwan Do. These two styles are like a match made in heaven. The deliberate attacks of TKD mixed with the flowing style of JKD is like art.

Rory
01-29-2014, 03:27 PM
Fascinating read, thank you for writing down all of that. I dealt with similar things like you as a kid: family moving around, being "diagnosed" with ADHD and getting the pills shoved down, excelling in school despite the meds and craving "more"...

I'm curious if you know much about Zazen? I was fortunate to be able to sit Zazen for awhile (basically the heart of Buddhist practices), but it was also combined with a strengthening of one's physical self through Kenjutsu katas in suburi. We'd use different types of bokuto for the swings, though I wasn't able to stick with it too long due to heading off to college. We'd meet, just a few of us, in the unfinished basement of a church associated with the state university, and sit for about 45 minutes before going on to practice. Interestingly enough, the instructor's father was well acknowledged within the art of Kyudo as well as being a local professor, so I learned some of the basics of traditional archery along with the ever strengthening of the mind.

Also, I know a few simple things from Krav Maga, because it was very popular at my university. Heck, we had ex-IDF as students there.

irick
01-29-2014, 08:34 PM
Fascinating read, thank you for writing down all of that. I dealt with similar things like you as a kid: family moving around, being "diagnosed" with ADHD and getting the pills shoved down, excelling in school despite the meds and craving "more"...

I'm curious if you know much about Zazen? I was fortunate to be able to sit Zazen for awhile (basically the heart of Buddhist practices), but it was also combined with a strengthening of one's physical self through Kenjutsu katas in suburi. We'd use different types of bokuto for the swings, though I wasn't able to stick with it too long due to heading off to college. We'd meet, just a few of us, in the unfinished basement of a church associated with the state university, and sit for about 45 minutes before going on to practice. Interestingly enough, the instructor's father was well acknowledged within the art of Kyudo as well as being a local professor, so I learned some of the basics of traditional archery along with the ever strengthening of the mind.

Also, I know a few simple things from Krav Maga, because it was very popular at my university. Heck, we had ex-IDF as students there.

For the KSR traditions, we start the practice with a short amount of meditation in zazen before our stretching. I have also studied zazen meditation at the local temple, broken by kinhin to allow for better bloodflow.

I would not consider myself a Kyudoka, I am not very well trained in it and I still need prompting to tie my hakama in the proper way for the practice. The closest Kyudo group to me is also a rather large drive, so typically I only go when my dojo goes to visit them.

I unfortunetly am not familiar with Krav Maga at all! There are several schools around here, but I do not have any idea how to evaluate those schools.

rorick
01-30-2014, 12:38 AM
It is difficult to prescribe a formula, but if your father practiced Kung-Fu you have probably seen the look of someone who was serious and enjoyed Martial Arts. In general, the McDojo's tend to be large, and they tend to advertise themselves as Karate Schools, UFC schools, or Taikwando schools. There is nothing wrong with learning from a McDojo, but they will very rarely give you much of a glimpse into the depths of material available in a style.

Accreditation varies from school or school, In general you want to know what organization the head teacher is certified in or who will be available to advance you. When I first learned KSR iaido I learned under a high dan level student who had not passed the exam required to advance others in the school. I instead tested for rank with another instructor who visited our dojo occasionally. Both of them where accredited by the US Federation of Batto Do, and my advancing instructor was accredited by the KSR.

This does not mean that there are not good unaccredited Dojos, there are. However, as a general rule of thumb you want a reputable party to vouch for the teacher.

The truly best Dojos usually have some sort of presence with the community at large. If you find that a school regularly hosts teachers from out of the state or country, or that the instructors regularly organize trips to a sister dojo then you have found a truly special pillar dojo of a style.
He was done with martial arts before I was even born, sadly. He did, and still does, love the idea of practicing martial arts, but his weight, combined with the fact that both his knees are shot, means any chance of getting back in is a pipe dream.

Thanks for the info though. I've been wanting to get into Bujinkan ninjutsu, but I moved away from the dojo was was going to look into. Great thing about that style is that to be an official Bujinkan dojo, you have to be accredited, so no worries there.

I know styles tend to be a lot about personal tastes and attitudes, but, if asked based upon the styles you've studied, what would you say is the best style, provided a good teacher, for the beginner in martial arts?

irick
01-30-2014, 01:37 AM
He was done with martial arts before I was even born, sadly. He did, and still does, love the idea of practicing martial arts, but his weight, combined with the fact that both his knees are shot, means any chance of getting back in is a pipe dream.

Thanks for the info though. I've been wanting to get into Bujinkan ninjutsu, but I moved away from the dojo was was going to look into. Great thing about that style is that to be an official Bujinkan dojo, you have to be accredited, so no worries there.

I know styles tend to be a lot about personal tastes and attitudes, but, if asked based upon the styles you've studied, what would you say is the best style, provided a good teacher, for the beginner in martial arts?

Any style, all styles, no style.

If your aim is to practice the martial arts, there is no style that is better than the style you are most interested in. If your goal lies outside this, then you may wish to do more research.

Traditionally the Chinese categorize martial arts as either Hard or Soft styles, soft styles tend to be more difficult to grasp, but easier on the body where hard styles are much quicker to pick up on but will strain you. When you are young, a hard style is good. When you have matured in the martial arts, a soft style will allow you to continue to improve. This is the traditional thought.

A good teacher is the imperative thing. You need a teacher who will give you feed back, and one that understands how to safely address any shortcomings you may have. I see no reason for someone to use a style they have no interest in as a stepping stone to another style. One should decide on a style and from then on their only resolution should be to arrive and learn, no excuses and no want for an excuse.

In general, if you have no strong feeling for a martial art you should not pick one that is inconviniant to practice. In large cities this is rarely a problem, but for the rarer styles it will be scarce. Make sure that your commitment is something you can realistically keep up and if the distance makes you hesitate even briefly I would suggest to pass it on and try the next. In the end you may find that one Dojo is worth the trek for you, so even this is not a rule.

Choose a style that does not make you feel as if you are putting your health at risk. You know your body more than I. Pushing your limits is an admirable goal, but keep a level head about your abilities. In general this will not be a concern, but if a medical condition restricts your choices consult your doctor.

The Bujinkan Federation is an interesting collection of styles. From what I have seen in the few swordsmanship workshops where we have mingled their practitioners run the gambit from idiots who put gravel in their Saya to very serious practitioners who rank up with the best the ko-ryu have to offer. I have never had the chance to compare their Taijutsu with any of my open hand styles unfortunately. I consider them a very respectable martial art. Though their historical claims are a bit shaky. I think they are a bit more modern than they would like to let on :3

rorick
01-30-2014, 07:11 AM
Yeah, the Bujinkan itself is from the seventies, if memory serves correctly, though the founder says, in simple terms, that he basically blended different, ancient, forms of ninjutsu to create his school. One of the few claims by the federation that many are skeptical about. Whatever he did though, it's generally considered, amongst the serious practicioners, a fine form of ninjutsu to learn.

Rory
01-30-2014, 02:29 PM
For the KSR traditions, we start the practice with a short amount of meditation in zazen before our stretching. I have also studied zazen meditation at the local temple, broken by kinhin to allow for better bloodflow.

I would not consider myself a Kyudoka, I am not very well trained in it and I still need prompting to tie my hakama in the proper way for the practice. The closest Kyudo group to me is also a rather large drive, so typically I only go when my dojo goes to visit them.

I unfortunetly am not familiar with Krav Maga at all! There are several schools around here, but I do not have any idea how to evaluate those schools.

Oh wow, I've yet to meet another person who has sat zazen in all these years. I remember the calmness, but I also remember the pain of holding your position for 45 minutes! We followed the Rinzai school of thought of utilizing koans, though most of the time was a simple focus on breathing through the stomach properly. It would make sense that KSR traditions would include some form of meditation.

Krav Maga cannot be considered much of a "Way", as effective as it is as a martial art. It's purpose was solely for ending fights as fast as possible, with either you as the victor or allowing yourself to escape the situation. So, it's good to know for self-protection, but if someone is looking for a way to hone their body and mind through a Way and not just a style, the East has far more to offer.

irick
01-30-2014, 10:15 PM
Oh wow, I've yet to meet another person who has sat zazen in all these years. I remember the calmness, but I also remember the pain of holding your position for 45 minutes! We followed the Rinzai school of thought of utilizing koans, though most of the time was a simple focus on breathing through the stomach properly. It would make sense that KSR traditions would include some form of meditation.

Krav Maga cannot be considered much of a "Way", as effective as it is as a martial art. It's purpose was solely for ending fights as fast as possible, with either you as the victor or allowing yourself to escape the situation. So, it's good to know for self-protection, but if someone is looking for a way to hone their body and mind through a Way and not just a style, the East has far more to offer.

Well, Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū means the "Heavenly True, Correctly Transmitted Style of the Way of the God of Katori". The teachings the school keep tend to mix Buddhist and Shinto traditions into the day to day dojo ritual. Esshin Ryu also tends to start from zazen. In general when you practice Iaido or Battodo there is a lot of veneration of the spiritual beliefs of the past. Most of the ritual is around respecting the kami of the dojo and the spirit of your sword. Some schools will teach instead of kami we venerate the historic idea of the Shogun, it really depends. Though, about your point of meditation: Martial Arts are meditation to a follower of the Martial way. We seek to enact our kata with the mind-with-no-mind, realizing our oneness with the prescribed motions and in such realizing the oneness of ourselves with the Way of all things.

All things are a Way. There is a Way in pottery, in digital art, in cooking, in motorcycle maintenance. The Way is all things, and through realizing The Way in one you will come to recognize the Way in all. I just do not know enough of Krav Maga to really begin to comment on it as a contained style. I would also be careful in dismissing what non east-Asian styles have to offer. I adore fencing, both as sport and as a historic martial art. There is much to gain from it, as there is much to gain from Boxing. Their mythologies are simply modern, so they have yet to cultivate the mystery of the east-Asian traditional styles. Consider this passage from the Daemon's Sermon on the Martial Arts:


Man is a moving being. If he does not move to what is good, he will surely move to what is not. If this consciousness does not arise here, another consciousness will arise there. Man's mind goes through multifarious changes and never stops. If one is not deeply resolved and does not intently study the mind, he will never become enlightened to the essence of his own mind nor will he be able to directly follow his own nature, that decreed by heaven.

Therefore, the sages taught the beginning student only the six arts and first made him into a vessel. From this point, he would discipline himself and aim to search out a transmission of the Great Way. From the time of a man's youth when he studies the six arts, the mind was considered fundamental, and a base liking for words was put at a distance. The mind was not indulged with playthings or vacuous entertainments and the body was not endangered with recklessness and depravity.

On the outside, the bones and sinews were strengthened and disease was kept in check. On the inside, the provisions of the state were established and its prosperity was not taken lightly. When a man reached this point and made clear the study of the mind, he became an aid to the Great Way.

Though one art may seem trivial, one should not take it lightly. But again, do not make the mistake of considering that art to be The Way.


Yeah, the Bujinkan itself is from the seventies, if memory serves correctly, though the founder says, in simple terms, that he basically blended different, ancient, forms of ninjutsu to create his school. One of the few claims by the federation that many are skeptical about. Whatever he did though, it's generally considered, amongst the serious practicioners, a fine form of ninjutsu to learn.

We are generally skeptical on the claims of historic ninjustsu schools in general because it is hard if not impossible to trace the lineage of shinobi families. To practice ninjustsu was very taboo as society looked down upon the practice of deceitful techniques. Ninja were sometimes mercenaries, and sometimes Samurai who doned the garb in order to preserve their master's deniability of an act. I find that the practice of ninjustsu is a valid martial art, but as all studies it is dangerous. One must guard against the darkness it skirts so that one may still flow in the umbra of shadow. Once again, I find myself quoting from Issai Chozanshi.


One of the group asked, "Military science is the art of deceiving people by means of strategy. If I am mature in the study of this Way, will it not reinforce my superficial knowlege and damage my technique of the mind?"

The demon answered, "When the gentleman uses this, it is an instrument for the pacification of the state; when the man of little character uses it, it will become an instrument for damaging himself and hurting others. All things are like this. When you set your mind entirely on a Way, if it is not mixed in with self-interest, you could study the technique of being a burglar, but you would use it for the benefit of warding off burglars. This would cause no damage to your intentions. But if your intentions were devoted to passions, desires, greed, profit, and loss, you could study the books of the sages and only encourage your own superficial knowlege. Thus, establish your intentions with the Correct Way of former times, do not alter it, and afterwards study the Ten Thousand Things.

"If you study military techniques without making the Correct Way your mainstay, you will rejoice in clever words, move your mind in their direction, specialize in the skill of superficial knowlege, and make the mistake of considering these to be the Way of the gentleman.

"This is true for the person who studies swordsmanship as well. If a practitioner becomes mature in this art but uses it to try out new swords on passersby or to commit highway robbery, and thinks that this is the Way of a Man, the martial arts will-contrary to what he is thinking-beckon him toward disaster.

"This is not the fault of the martial arts. It is a flaw in one's intentions. Kumasaka and Benkei were both accomplished swordsmen, and both were very strong men endowed with courage and ingenuity. Benkei used these qualities to fight loyally for his master. Kumasaka used them to become a highwayman. Thus, strategy is not in the Way of the gentleman samurai, although using it to fight loyally is considered to be that Way. That Benkei struck Yoshitsune with a staff at Ataka Barrier in Kaga Province was not itself loyalty. It is considered loyalty because he did it in order to deliver his master from a calamity. One discusses this mater according to its results; it is ignorance to discuss it in terms of the action alone.

Rory
01-30-2014, 11:27 PM
Though, about your point of meditation: Martial Arts are meditation to a follower of the Martial way. We seek to enact our kata with the mind-with-no-mind, realizing our oneness with the prescribed motions and in such realizing the oneness of ourselves with the Way of all things.

All things are a Way. There is a Way in pottery, in digital art, in cooking, in motorcycle maintenance. The Way is all things, and through realizing The Way in one you will come to recognize the Way in all. I just do not know enough of Krav Maga to really begin to comment on it as a contained style. I would also be careful in dismissing what non east-Asian styles have to offer. I adore fencing, both as sport and as a historic martial art. There is much to gain from it, as there is much to gain from Boxing. Their mythologies are simply modern, so they have yet to cultivate the mystery of the east-Asian traditional styles.


Good point on the first part, sometimes it's easy to forget that when viewed from Western cultures.

As to the second part, to be fair I wasn't dismissive of all Western styles, not at all. Just, for the average citizen living in this hemisphere, we tend to look East for guidance on such topics. While we do have our own, they are far less prominent and require an already heightened sense of awareness to recognize. With Krav Maga, I suppose I just have trouble equating it as a Way when its sole purpose is to end a fight as fast as possible. There is a brutal "beauty" to it, that most people would equate with being "cheap", when in reality it simply aims for the most effective takedown, and it borrows from many varied disciplines all over the world. I guess not being able to see that is indicative of my inability to see any particular Way, which I'm fine with admitting.

irick
01-30-2014, 11:41 PM
Good point on the first part, sometimes it's easy to forget that when viewed from Western cultures.

As to the second part, to be fair I wasn't dismissive of all Western styles, not at all. Just, for the average citizen living in this hemisphere, we tend to look East for guidance on such topics. While we do have our own, they are far less prominent and require an already heightened sense of awareness to recognize. With Krav Maga, I suppose I just have trouble equating it as a Way when its sole purpose is to end a fight as fast as possible. There is a brutal "beauty" to it, that most people would equate with being "cheap", when in reality it simply aims for the most effective takedown, and it borrows from many varied disciplines all over the world. I guess not being able to see that is indicative of my inability to see any particular Way, which I'm fine with admitting.

Brutal beauty is a good way to describe all martial arts. The quickest way to end a fight is a common element in the practice of combat. In battodo we strive to end an opponent's life quickly, remove their blood from our blade and become still once more in a single motion. Bruce Lee eliminated the idea of blocking from his style, he instead adopted a concept from fencing: his defense was yet another attack. These principles are valuable.

A quick trip to wikipedia gives me some core principles from Krav Maga, and I did nearly laugh when I saw them:

Counter attacking as soon as possible (or attacking pre-emptively).

Targeting attacks to the body's most vulnerable points, such as: the eyes, neck/throat, face, solar plexus, groin, ribs, knee, foot, fingers, etc.

Maximum effectiveness and efficiency in order to neutralize the opponent as quickly as possible.

Maintaining awareness of surroundings while dealing with the threat in order to look for escape routes, further attackers, objects that could be used to defend or help attack, and so on.

This is a martial philosophy! The last statement is spookily close to the idea of zanshin in the east-Asian forms.

Rory
01-31-2014, 12:07 AM
Brutal beauty is a good way to describe all martial arts. The quickest way to end a fight is a common element in the practice of combat. In battodo we strive to end an opponent's life quickly, remove their blood from our blade and become still once more in a single motion. Bruce Lee eliminated the idea of blocking from his style, he instead adopted a concept from fencing: his defense was yet another attack. These principles are valuable.

A quick trip to wikipedia gives me some core principles from Krav Maga, and I did nearly laugh when I saw them:

Counter attacking as soon as possible (or attacking pre-emptively).

Targeting attacks to the body's most vulnerable points, such as: the eyes, neck/throat, face, solar plexus, groin, ribs, knee, foot, fingers, etc.

Maximum effectiveness and efficiency in order to neutralize the opponent as quickly as possible.

Maintaining awareness of surroundings while dealing with the threat in order to look for escape routes, further attackers, objects that could be used to defend or help attack, and so on.

This is a martial philosophy! The last statement is spookily close to the idea of zanshin in the east-Asian forms.

Again, I will cite my inability/inexperience as not being able to recognize the martial philosophy in Krav Maga, but I have an open mind. So, I will certainly reflect on this for a bit and maybe it'll help expand my perspective, which is never a bad thing. It's nice to have an enlightening (and I use that term very loosely considering subject matter) conversation on this, though. I appreciate reading your insight.

irick
01-31-2014, 01:01 AM
Again, I will cite my inability/inexperience as not being able to recognize the martial philosophy in Krav Maga, but I have an open mind. So, I will certainly reflect on this for a bit and maybe it'll help expand my perspective, which is never a bad thing. It's nice to have an enlightening (and I use that term very loosely considering subject matter) conversation on this, though. I appreciate reading your insight.

This is mostly just my philosophy on the subject. Within the martial arts communities you will get a lot of people who will say, only respect the old schools of the art and will frown on deviation or the modern ideas of mixing styles to one's own path. It is by no means a minority viewpoint in the world of traditional martial arts, but my experience has been such that I do not take that to heart. I thank you for having this conversation with me.

As part of following this Dao, I see the practice of martial arts as one of continuous growth. While the depths of the old schools are vast and perhaps even insurmountable: they are fixed. Their practitioners had many great philosophers and they wrote extensively on the philosophy of the times through the lens of their style. However, these philosophies are not dead and as such they must flow into the modern practice. Martial Arts are not born in a spirit of uselessness or antiquity, they are born as a knife in the flame of modern conflict. However, it is my belief that all martial arts share a Way.

It is an evolution. The schools may be simplified, because they are combative schools meant to be taught to enlisted men. The lens of the samurai and sohei are absent from this way of viewing martial arts. We instead have the lens of western enlightenment: the ideas born of technology and mass production. These styles are an embodiment of the zeitgeist in some way.

Consider how long it takes for a man to become a master of kung-fu. Decades. This is useless if the man will be fighting CQC in a year. He will not understand the style enough to use the nuanced ways to generate power, his strikes will be weak and he will stumble from the vastness of stances to flow between. We instead need something far more atomized. Modular. Something which can be taught as a cohesive system and dropped in with relative ease the same way that a gun may. Teachers need not know the system as a whole, they need only to master what is being taught when they teach like an assembly line. The product in the end is a soldier who can use a gun, a knife, his fists, or a rock at an acceptable level.

This is utilitarian, yes, but we will come to understand depth from its simplicity. View it as a framework: It brings you to a point where you are able to learn not just the motions but the theory. You know the points on the body to attack. You understand the pressure that can be exerted by a thumb. You understand the kinetics of the human body and of your common weapons. When faced with a combative situation, you have the critical thinking to use your surroundings as part of your fight.

In this, it trains the mind and body. It gives you a vocabulary to express yourself through motion. It provides a Way to understand the other Ways and to find this connection between the Ways. In this, it is a guide which may guide you to an understanding of Martial Arts.

FlynnCoyote
01-31-2014, 10:59 PM
I had a basic orange belt in karate when I was a small child like most children do when they think that shit's cool, but more recently I studied Kung Fu under a personal mentor/friend. He learned from his father since the age of about seven years old, and his father learned from the Shaolin Temples in China for three or four years. Both of them have a very martial mindset centred across several Eastern philosophies.

What struck me most about learning under these two rather than a dojo is how different the learning process is. A traditional dojo tends to teach in stages, with the later building upon the earlier lessons but with no explanation given beforehand.

Instead I was taught certain techniques and exercises while being made fully aware of what they would lead to. I was told they preferred to teach this way because it allowed for fewer mistakes. It taught me to finish a technique in a way that allowed for continuous flow rather than a definitive stop, something they wanted to make sure I knew was important from the very beginning. To be more adaptive was how it was described to me most often.

One thing I could never get my head around though was the philosophy. They would give me proverbs and riddles to try and decipher and I just couldn't. I was already far too ingrained in my own western way of thinking, specifically satanic doctrine. I was told this made me fluctuate between overly cautious or overly aggressive and to date I haven't really been able to change that.

irick
02-01-2014, 06:15 AM
I had a basic orange belt in karate when I was a small child like most children do when they think that shit's cool, but more recently I studied Kung Fu under a personal mentor/friend. He learned from his father since the age of about seven years old, and his father learned from the Shaolin Temples in China for three or four years. Both of them have a very martial mindset centred across several Eastern philosophies.

What struck me most about learning under these two rather than a dojo is how different the learning process is. A traditional dojo tends to teach in stages, with the later building upon the earlier lessons but with no explanation given beforehand.

Instead I was taught certain techniques and exercises while being made fully aware of what they would lead to. I was told they preferred to teach this way because it allowed for fewer mistakes. It taught me to finish a technique in a way that allowed for continuous flow rather than a definitive stop, something they wanted to make sure I knew was important from the very beginning. To be more adaptive was how it was described to me most often.

One thing I could never get my head around though was the philosophy. They would give me proverbs and riddles to try and decipher and I just couldn't. I was already far too ingrained in my own western way of thinking, specifically satanic doctrine. I was told this made me fluctuate between overly cautious or overly aggressive and to date I haven't really been able to change that.

In a lot of fighting forms that flow is indicitive of the understanding of the form, but I'm usually inclined to try and teach the steps without the flow and let the student find the flow. That flow is there because you know where your opponent is and where you need to be. The constant motion is very Chinese, Japanese arts tend to focus less on that. In T'ai chi ch'uan the fundamental principle is running water never goes stale, so the constant flow of motion is essential. In kung-fu that principle is still there, but breaks are more allowable.

It is so very hard to learn martial philosophy from someone who has internalised martial philosophy. Dao, Zen, etc are very difficult to wrap up in logic and most of the time you'll get someone who understand this mindset but can't speak to where you are in the learning process. I'll leave a couple of articles for you, they should be much easier to decipher than:
A monk asked Tozan, "What is Buddha?"
Tozan replied, "Masagin!"
:P
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/daoism/
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/japanese-zen/

Willow
02-01-2014, 12:12 PM
I've always wanted to learn some form of martial arts and there are a few places in my area that teach Tae Kwon Do if I'm not mistaken, however, I never had the money to do it and so I missed out.

irick
02-05-2014, 12:49 PM
I've always wanted to learn some form of martial arts and there are a few places in my area that teach Tae Kwon Do if I'm not mistaken, however, I never had the money to do it and so I missed out.

Not necessarily. There are ways to learn martial arts without being a member of a dojo. The most common way is to find a club. These can be independent or affiliated with a university or college. They are typically very cheap or free. The other way is to find a religious order who teaches martial arts as a method of meditation. This is very different, it will most likely be free but it will be in a religious context. This is a very difficult way to learn a martial art.

Willow
02-05-2014, 01:32 PM
Not necessarily. There are ways to learn martial arts without being a member of a dojo. The most common way is to find a club. These can be independent or affiliated with a university or college. They are typically very cheap or free. The other way is to find a religious order who teaches martial arts as a method of meditation. This is very different, it will most likely be free but it will be in a religious context. This is a very difficult way to learn a martial art.
I meant more that I missed out on doing it when I was younger and growing into it. Not so much that I just missed out on doing it period.

Lucy Bones
02-05-2014, 03:39 PM
If there is one thing I do miss about being involved in martial arts, it's teaching. When I wore my black belt with pride, my teacher would let me teach the whole class on days where I wanted to. I think being a teacher of Tae Kwon Do is even more rewarding than being taught it. You learn even more.

irick
02-05-2014, 11:17 PM
If there is one thing I do miss about being involved in martial arts, it's teaching. When I wore my black belt with pride, my teacher would let me teach the whole class on days where I wanted to. I think being a teacher of Tae Kwon Do is even more rewarding than being taught it. You learn even more.

In general, it's very difficult to have a whole understanding of anything without first walking someone else through it. The reminders of technique keep the school's teachings fresh in memory rather then fading from the reflexes we have developed. Teaching is truly the best way to progress your own understanding of any art once you have a base understanding.