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Martial Arts and Buddhism - Is it acceptable?

BenjaminBenjamin England Explorer

I am new to Buddhism and consider myself Buddhist, particularly Therevada. I have a large interest in Martial Arts. Would it be acceptable for a Buddhist to take up the practice of Martial Arts with the purpose to use it for self discipline, learning a new skill, a hobby and using it in an emergency/self defence situation?

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Comments

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited June 2016

    There are lots of examples of martial arts in Buddhism, perhaps the most famous being the Shaolin Monks from the Chan ("Zen") Monastery of the same name. They train in Shaolin Kung-fu, the introduction of which is usually credited to Bodhidharma, the first patriarch of zen, although that story may be discredited. Anyway there is a long tradition of martial arts there. So I doubt whether Mahayana Buddhists would object.

    What other streams of Buddhism think of it I am not sure, perhaps others can chime in with more knowledge? As long as you don't violate the precept on killing I doubt there would be a major problem.

    lobsterBenjaminpersonyagr
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    But also, does the practice of martial arts lead to the increase or decrease of vigour, proper conduct, patience, endurance and determination?

    BenjaminRatBoyRuddyDuck9
  • BenjaminBenjamin England Explorer

    Thank you for your comments, it helps a lot. Would a Buddhist of Therevada be able to practice a martial art such as Shaolin Kung Fu?

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @Benjamin said:
    Thank you for your comments, it helps a lot. Would a Buddhist of Therevada be able to practice a martial art such as Shaolin Kung Fu?

    Yes of course.

    At my local Theravadin temple, temporary monks exist, who kick bags quite ruthlessly. They are muay thai practitioners, another martial tradition.

    Zen has a long tradition of training the warrior classes.

    http://opcoa.st/0jymG

    Benjamin
  • BenjaminBenjamin England Explorer

    @lobster
    Thanks for getting in touch!
    Your information has been a great help in guiding me in the right direction.
    Kind Regards,
    Benjamin.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    But also, does the practice of martial arts lead to the increase or decrease of vigour, proper conduct, patience, endurance and determination?

    And does it help to develop the Mahayana perfections?
    http://buddhism.about.com/od/Paramitas/a/The-Six-Perfections.htm

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @lobster said:
    At my local Theravadin temple, temporary monks exist, who kick bags quite ruthlessly. They are muay thai practitioners, another martial tradition.

    Really? And what factor of the 8-fold path are they practising by kicking the shit out of bags? Right Frustration-venting? :p
    They might do better punching meditation cushions.

    how
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @lobster said:> Zen has a long tradition of training the warrior classes.

    What you mean is that the samurai class dabbled in Zen, in between chopping the heads of peasants and later on being kamikaze pilots. :p

    how
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Benjamin said:...using it in an emergency/self defence situation?

    For that to be effective you have to be prepared to do somebody physical harm, and that involves a certain state of mind. This is particularly true of "hard" martial arts like karate and ju jitsu, where controlled aggression is often involved. Perhaps it's less the case with softer martial arts like aikido which are more defensive, but even with those you can do serious damage. A better option might be tai chi, it's very difficult to hurt anyone unless they are moving in slow motion. ;)
    I've practised all of these at various times, so I speak from experience.

  • Steve_BSteve_B Far southwest corner of Indiana, USA Veteran

    To me, Buddhism and violence are antithetical.

    howRuddyDuck9
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @genkaku said: There are martial artists who practice in order to kick the shit out of others.

    The fact remains that martial arts came from a warlike culture, and they are specifically designed to cause physical harm. If people want to get fit or develop discipline or whatever, there are plenty of other options.

    how
  • BenjaminBenjamin England Explorer

    By self defence/emergency situation, I don't mean finding an excuse to harm somebody back in retaliation but in fact defending myself from serious injury or worse. I would never want to use violence against anybody, especially unnecessarily as violence breeds violence, I would just rather that if I was in a situation where somebody was really harming me to a level where I would be easing for serious injury, I would like to be able to have to ability to use some sort of defence to protect myself.

    Any thoughts to this?

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Benjamin said:... I would just rather that if I was in a situation where somebody was really harming me to a level where I would be easing for serious injury, I would like to be able to have to ability to use some sort of defence to protect myself.

    What is the likelihood of this actually happening? Basic instruction in a martial art probably wouldn't be much use in a situation like this anyway.

  • BenjaminBenjamin England Explorer

    @SpinyNorman
    Okay, thank you. Further appreciation for your contribution to this discussion.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @Benjamin said:...using it in an emergency/self defence situation?

    For that to be effective you have to be prepared to do somebody physical harm, and that involves a certain state of mind. This is particularly true of "hard" martial arts like karate and ju jitsu, where controlled aggression is often involved. Perhaps it's less the case with softer martial arts like aikido which are more defensive, but even with those you can do serious damage. A better option might be tai chi, it's very difficult to hurt anyone unless they are moving in slow motion. ;)
    I've practised all of these at various times, so I speak from experience.

    Tai Chi is taught slow but it is fluid and can be quite deadly when sped up.

    You don't have to intend on doing any harm as the idea is to keep you out of harms way.

    Bruce Lee said he never felt remorse because it was their own attack that defeated his foe, not him.

    I let 2 Korean Grand Masters stay with me in exchange for training. One in Tae Kwon Do and one in Gumdo. They had a friend that taught Tai Chi he even used a sword in many of his demonstrations.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @Kerome said:
    But also, does the practice of martial arts lead to the increase or decrease of vigour, proper conduct, patience, endurance and determination?

    And does it help to develop the Mahayana perfections?
    http://buddhism.about.com/od/Paramitas/a/The-Six-Perfections.htm

    That is what I was getting at - those six factors are lifted directly from the ten Theravada parami or perfections. I think it is clear that martial arts can help develop a range of beneficial traits for the perfections, and that from that perspective it is worthwhile to pursue it.

    But as soon as you put it into practice it is in conflict with the edicts against violence. So that is to be avoided, the question is where do you draw the line? From Thich Nhat Hanh's 5 mindfulness trainings, which are usually quite strict, it is clear the prohibition is against killing and destruction, and you could argue that mastery of martial arts is useful training for overcoming for example anger.

    http://plumvillage.org/mindfulness-practice/the-5-mindfulness-trainings/

    So there is a question that remains about the morality of hurting other people in tournaments or during sparring. I think as long as it is done in the spirit of training and the pursuit of excellence, then it may be ok. Doing mixed martial arts cage fights for money would be straying from the path.

    Davidperson
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @David said: You don't have to intend on doing any harm as the idea is to keep you out of harms way.

    This doesn't make sense to me. "Keeping out of harms way" would mean defending yourself and very likely causing harm to somebody else in the process.
    It reminds me of the arguments people make for carrying a firearm.

    Steve_B
  • yagryagr Veteran

    The purpose of eating is to sustain life. There are many examples of people using food for other, less skillful purposes. One example might be a person eating to stuff and not feel their feelings. Doesn't make eating wrong.

    If I were interested in practicing a form of the martial arts, I would do so and pay very close attention to what arises.

    KeromenakazcidBenjaminsilver
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @David said: You don't have to intend on doing any harm as the idea is to keep you out of harms way.

    This doesn't make sense to me. "Keeping out of harms way" would mean defending yourself and very likely causing harm to somebody else in the process.

    I don't see it that way. It would be their own actions that led to them being hurt and to follow the path of least intended harm is to stop them from doing the same thing to the next person.

    Besides, if I get angry, hit a tree and the bark cuts me but leaves the tree unscathed should I blame the tree for causing me pain or my own actions?

    I am not responsible if somebody tries to hurt me but gets hurt instead.

    It reminds me of the arguments people make for carrying a firearm.

    Yes but you also seem to equate Shaolin to the Samurai but they are not even close.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @lobster said:
    At my local Theravadin temple, temporary monks exist, who kick bags quite ruthlessly. They are muay thai practitioners, another martial tradition.

    Really? And what factor of the 8-fold path are they practising by kicking the shit out of bags?

    Yes, really.

    • right mindfulness: never be absent minded, conscious of what one is doing
    • right samadhi (concentration)

    They might do better punching meditation cushions.

    Indeed.
    That is part of their monk training whilst at the temple.

    [Deleted User]
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited June 2016

    Defending yourself isn't about winning or losing though.

    Keeping our composure and having compassion for all, we can hardly take joy in violence but if we are trained we can better control our anger and limit our blows.

    personVastmindBrownbuddha
  • NamadaNamada Veteran
    edited June 2016

    Iam training JiuJitsu...Its social and fun just like any other sport.
    I dont see any harm in it, only if you dont give up when you should, you can get injured or choked out.
    Its not room for a big ego in material art or jiu jitsu, most of the big egos will give up fast, because they will be submited many times by smaler and younger practitioners, which can be embarassing.

    Anyway if you smile and talk to people in a good way you will never end up in a fight, thats the best way to defend yourself and your friends. Material art is really the last option.

    silver
  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran

    @David said

    if we are trained we can better control our anger and limit our blows.

    A good point - martial arts is not just about delivering blows, but also about skillfully eluding blows that are aimed at us. It seems as though it can be used truly defensively, without any aggressive component.

    personRatBoy[Deleted User]
  • GrooverGroover England. Explorer

    I feel the post writer has answered their own question. The motive for doing anything is paramount.

    RatBoyBrownbuddha
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @Fosdick said:
    @David said

    if we are trained we can better control our anger and limit our blows.

    A good point - martial arts is not just about delivering blows, but also about skillfully eluding blows that are aimed at us. It seems as though it can be used truly defensively, without any aggressive component.

    That too but what I meant is that an untrained person can be more dangerous than a trained one when pushed into a corner.

    When I say we can limit our blows I don't mean we can avoid taking hits (though that's obviously the best). What I mean is we can deliver blows in a way that does the least amount of damage with most effect.

    An untrained person could get carried away and turn self defense into a venting of pent up rage and keep hitting when the need has passed.

    FosdickpersonRuddyDuck9
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    This info and the section on chan meditation might prove helpful
    http://opcoa.st/0jDhq

    Natural combat has nothing to do with fighting, and yet as a response to violence it brings peace to the world. The true mind reflects all karmically created phenomena clearly and the body is in exactly the correct position for an immediate and effective response. There is no anger, aggression or fear in the enlightened state. There is no such thing as ‘fighting’ between different individuals as all duality is transcended. There is only empty movement appearing within the mind and all contradictions are resolved. Martial arts in this state become an advanced re-balancing technique that removes all dualistic attributes appearing within the mind and body environment. Violence can not occur, as the conditions do not arise that would allow it to manifest. The body and mind moves in a relaxed and uncontrived manner, creating the appropriate martial shapes as they are required. There is only a sense of profound peace even within the midst of intense combat.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @Fosdick said:> A good point - martial arts is not just about delivering blows, but also about skillfully eluding blows that are aimed at us. It seems as though it can be used truly defensively, without any aggressive component.

    I think this is a rather romanticised view of martial arts, and in a real fight things get dirty. If somebody is launching a serious physical attack on you the aim is to put them down as quickly as possible.
    It reminds me of people who say "Oh, why can't the police shoot to disable instead of kill?" Real life just isn't like that.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @Namada said:> Iam training JiuJitsu...Its social and fun just like any other sport.
    I dont see any harm in it...

    People do get injured in martial arts. I got used to the bruises, but one time I got thrown into a wall and cracked my heel bone, that was quite unpleasant.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @Fosdick said: He said (paraphrasing) that if you get into an actual fight, you have already lost.

    Hmmm. So instead of just teaching people how to avoid fights and conflict we teach them some moves and give them a false sense of physical confidence?
    The reality is that most people who do martial arts wouldn't last 2 minutes in a street fight.
    Most people who do martial arts aren't at black belt level and haven't the experience required.

    RuddyDuck9
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @lobster said:

    • right mindfulness: never be absent minded, conscious of what one is doing
    • right samadhi (concentration)

    Walking meditation would be more effective on both counts, I still don't see why they need to kick the shit out of something.

  • gracklegrackle Veteran

    Many years ago my first teacher used to say that a man can walk away from insult with only a bruised sense of pride. But you cannot walk away from an attack that is meant to injure you.

    silverRuddyDuck9
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @SpinyNorman said:
    The reality is that most people who do martial arts wouldn't last 2 minutes in a street fight.

    That sounds silly and of course it is not true. Except the fight probably wouldn't last that long.

    If you believe that your training must have sucked.

    I understand you don't like fighting but uninformed comments and passive aggression won't stop an attacker.

    silver
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @yagr said:...there are many reasons to practice the martial arts that have nothing to do with fighting.

    Most forms of martial arts are "contact sports" and do involve fighting.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @seeker242 said:> There's nothing inherently wrong with martial arts. What makes it good or bad is how you hold your mind. :)

    What does that actually mean when you're learning how best to punch and kick somebody? What state of mind does that develop?

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @David said:

    @SpinyNorman said:
    The reality is that most people who do martial arts wouldn't last 2 minutes in a street fight.

    That sounds silly and of course it is not true. Except the fight probably wouldn't last that long.

    If you believe that your training must have sucked.

    I think you've been watching too many films. Most people who do martial arts are not black belts, and are not all that experienced. You seem to have a very romanticised view.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @David said:

    @SpinyNorman said:
    The reality is that most people who do martial arts wouldn't last 2 minutes in a street fight.

    That sounds silly and of course it is not true. Except the fight probably wouldn't last that long.

    If you believe that your training must have sucked.

    I think you've been watching too many films. Most people who do martial arts are not black belts, and are not all that experienced. You seem to have a very romanticised view.

    No offense but what do you know about most people that do martial arts?

    Many that I know have been doing it since they were little and even someone with but a years experience can easily put down an untrained upstart.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @David said: No offense but what do you know about most people that do martial arts?
    Many that I know have been doing it since they were little and even someone with but a years experience can easily put down an untrained upstart.

    I have had experience of karate, ju jitsu, aidido and tai chi. Somebody with a years experience might be able to handle somebody new to the dojo, but that is a whole different thing to being involved in a street fight where people fight dirty and don't play by your rules.
    I do think you have a romanticised view.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @SpinyNorman said:

    I have had experience of karate, ju jitsu, aidido and tai chi.

    And I have had experience in karate, hapkido, Kumdo, Tae Kwon Do, Tai Chi and a tiny bit of Jeet Kune Do.

    My grand master of Tae Kwon Do actually wanted me to train for the olympics.

    I guess you only had very little Tai Chi if you think it is harmless.

    Somebody with a years experience might be able to handle somebody new to the dojo, but that is a whole different thing to being involved in a street fight where people fight dirty and don't play by your rules.

    That sounds like a comment from somebody with no training whatsoever.

    Someone who is trained well for a year knows how to handle dirty fighters. At least the common type you find on the street.

    I do think you have a romanticised view.

    It's just how it is.

    I don't like fighting any more than you do and martial arts is about much much more than fighting.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    I don't have time for the martial arts now but when my daughter is old enough you can be sure Ill cheer if she enrolls.

    Not for the competition but for the discipline and confidence to dismay any would-be harrassers.

    The other benefits can be had through meditation as well but a good martial art is nothing more than a form of meditation.

    Some of the masters in their forms are breath taking.

    Brownbuddha
  • Steve_BSteve_B Far southwest corner of Indiana, USA Veteran

    Egos like this, and romanticized views of violence, are the problem. Martial arts per se are not the problem. They are merely the tools employed by the afflicted.

    Not easy to navigate your way out.

  • NamadaNamada Veteran
    edited June 2016

    @SpinyNorman The reality is that most people who do martial arts wouldn't last 2 minutes in a street fight.

    Krav Maga is the best material art suited for a real street fight, or in a war zone where pistols, knifs are common. In krav maga they mix up diffrent arts like thai boxing, jiujitsu and wrestling, and in krav maga kicking to the groin is a speciality.

    In a real street fight you need to know all the dirty tricks in the book, if you only know boxing and dont know how to fight on the ground you are in trouble if that happens.

    Street fight is very difficult best would be to use your legs and run

    RuddyDuck9rohit
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Namada said:

    @SpinyNorman The reality is that most people who do martial arts wouldn't last 2 minutes in a street fight.

    Krav Maga is the best material art suited for a real street fight, or in a war zone where pistols, knifs are common. In krav maga they mix up diffrent arts like thai boxing, jiujitsu and wrestling, and in krav maga kicking to the groin is a speciality.

    In a real street fight you need to know all the dirty tricks in the book, if you only know boxing and dont know how to fight on the ground you are in trouble if that happens.

    Street fight is very difficult best would be to use your legs and run

    Yeah but krav maga as far as I know doesn't have many of the mental advantages that the more stylised eastern martial arts bring. Things like a meditative focus, a concept of honour, ethics, mastery of anger and negative emotions that happen in fighting seem more associated with gentler martial arts such as Tai Chi.

    I would have thought that the primary reason to learn a martial art is to have basic self defense, not to be an expert in street fighting. Once you set the bar there the temptation becomes very great to try it out, and then you are in serious danger of leaving the path.

    person
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    On a serious note, it's hard to find a style and teacher that is compatible with a Buddhist mindset where I am.

    It always turned out to be a philosophical or moral disagreement I couldn't see past. One said I was going to hell "100%" for not accepting Jesus as my savour, lol.

    That was kind of a drag as we'd been training for a few years at that point and I thought he was more accepting than that.

    Plus, If you get good, many masters won't let you do it for yourself anymore and pester you to prance around in a space they rented at the mall.

    Jeet Kune Do was gross and it was like they never cleaned the mat. Maybe it was incentive to stay on your feet but I couldn't get past it and after a month, I split. It kind of sucked because it was the only school that offered that style around. They also offered gun classes which was the deciding factor for me somehow.

    I don't like guns.

    So really, deep down I know @SpinyNorman is right on a few points however, I wouldn't trade my experiences in the martial arts for anything and I would use it if I had to.

    I figure I just had the wrong teachers but I want my daughter to be able defend herself and get the mental benefits.

    silverRuddyDuck9
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    I don't like guns.

    @David -- When my three kids were little, my younger son came to me quite seriously and said, "Papa, I want to build a gun." I knew instantly that he wasn't interested in shooting up his second-grade classroom, but rather wanted to know how a gun worked and how to make it work.

    This led me to pile all the kids in the car one afternoon and take them to a shooting range at a nearby Smith & Wesson factory. All the kids were excited to be going somewhere where they could actually shoot and actual gun. They chitter-chattered and laughed and preened a bit as we drove towards our adventure.

    When we got there, the very thing that I had wanted to have happen, happened: The gun range officer took the kids in tow and taught them what to do and what not to do. He was all business and, more important, he wasn't their father, a guy who might be nice and loving and all the yummy stuff. The kids listened and obeyed. Point the pistol down range. How to load a clip or cylinder. How to hold and aim. How to breathe. How to fire. How to retrieve the target. The choreography went on and on. The range master was not polite when they missed a step. I could see the kids slowing down from their chitter-chatter. Guns had a heft, kick, a loudness. It took time to reload. It wasn't easy to hit the target. First they shot at .22. Then we switched to a .38. As I recall, my daughter (the eldest) shot best. Her brothers were not disappointed.

    Needless to say, the ride home in the car was not what the ride down had been. The kids were still full of sass, but it was educated sass. They knew they were joking, but they knew guns were no joke.

    PS. Back on topic, perhaps: My Zen teacher, the abbot of a monastery in Japan, studied martial arts and told me that if he had to mix it up with anyone, he always had to attack first ... he was a little guy, and if he didn't attack first, he would get stomped.

    Davidsilver[Deleted User]
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @seeker242 said:> There's nothing inherently wrong with martial arts. What makes it good or bad is how you hold your mind. :)

    What does that actually mean when you're learning how best to punch and kick somebody? What state of mind does that develop?

    I did Akido and Tai chi for a little while. I never punched or kicked anyone!

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