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Martial arts, rock climbing, Buddhism

Does anyone here practise martial arts alongside Buddhism? I seem to remember @lobster mentioning this at some point. There’s a long history of combining the two. See Shaolin Temple and the myth of Bodhidharma inventing Kung Fu:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaolin_Kung_Fu

I “practise” rock climbing, at an indoor wall for convenience and then outdoors whenever I can. I feel it commends itself pretty well as a mindfulness practise, if one chooses to perform it mindfully. I suppose the same can be said for all walks of life, but there’s something in the careful and considered movement of climbing, the edge of risk which keeps the mind centred, and the necessity of working with one’s fear. I’ve often wondered if these qualities are shared with martial arts. If so, they might explain the latter’s traditional association with Buddhism.

There is the further focus in martial arts, however, of self-defence and the prevention of violence, which I feel all genuinely wise traditions have emphasised.

So, do you practise martial arts? How does it contribute to your Buddhist practice?

Comments

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I did Tai Chi for a while, as a meditative movement form and so not so much as a martial art. I thought it was pretty complementary, it was somewhat akin to walking meditation in how it’s approached, but a little more complex in the mind because you have to keep the flow of motions in mind which in walking meditation has become an automatism.

    I’ve also done a week’s course in Kyudo, Japanese Zen archery, and that also has strong links with meditation. The archer gains a sort of whole-body awareness and a seeing of the target in the mind’s eye. It’s much more about silence and stillness at the point of aiming, the movements are quite ritualised and stylised.

    I have also done Judo but that was a long time ago. What I remember from it is that a lot of the movements are triggered by reads from the opponent. In that way most martial arts are different from walking meditation, in the presence of an opponent to whose moves you respond.

    It’s interesting to contrast for example martial arts with its channeled development of a physical discipline with meditation. I think if you have a lot of aggression and physical energy martial arts can be a good step to meditation, but most forms of martial arts can impose forms of mental discipline which may become a barrier in deeper levels of meditation.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    _First there is a rock, then there is a mountain and then there is a mole hill again ... _

    Being in the zone, mindfulness or the flow state is experienced in many activities. It is beneficial and useful.

    AlexFosdick
  • LincLinc Community Instigator Detroit Moderator

    @Kerome said:
    I did Tai Chi for a while, as a meditative movement form and so not so much as a martial art.

    I'd perhaps call it a martial art whose primary aim is not martial application. :) My understanding is that many techniques in the forms are quite effective if done at full speed. And if its breathing practices are done correctly, they can strengthen any other martial art, which often times under-emphasize the breath's importance.

    David
  • ajhayesajhayes Northern Michigan Veteran
    edited July 8

    I practice Taekwondo and Muay Thai. I am also a pro wrestler.

    The discipline involved in them is really nice and they help me blow off steam.

    When I was stationed in South Korea I got to do Taekwondo for the "Warrior Olympics" (A competition between the 2nd Infantry Division and the Republic of Korea Army) and that was a really good time. I also studied TKD for my year there. It really helped me to absorb myself in the culture.

    I took a semester of Judo in college, which was just really fun.

    And, of course, nothing says "I'm mindful and filled with loving-kindness" like getting hit with a chair or giving someone "Da Claw!" Actually, on that topic, I read an article about Buddhism and Pro Wrestling that was really fascinating (to me).

    https://highexistence.com/unexpected-reality-pro-wrestling-turned-buddhist/

  • rocalarocala Explorer

    Did Jiu Jitsu for a while. A very tough club in East London.

    I Was attacked in a pub by a younger, bigger man and (wow) I finished him. The downside is I did not see his furious friend come at me from behind. He got me with an arm around the throat and dragged me to the street. I was unconscious by the time he dropped me, probably only a few seconds. The first thing I remember is lying on the ground watching him move in to kick me.

    I was incredibly calm, as he kicked, I punched his shin, rather spoiling his day. This went on until pub staff , hearing police sirens broke it up.

    It was only after that adrenaline and shock kicked in. I have never forgotten that other, totally focused, incredibly calm me.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited July 8

    @Linc said:

    @Kerome said:
    I did Tai Chi for a while, as a meditative movement form and so not so much as a martial art.

    I'd perhaps call it a martial art whose primary aim is not martial application. :) My understanding is that many techniques in the forms are quite effective if done at full speed. And if its breathing practices are done correctly, they can strengthen any other martial art, which often times under-emphasize the breath's importance.

    Quite right.

    Some find it surprising to find there is even sword use in Tai Chi. It isn't just retirees stretching on the lawn, lol.

    adamcrossley
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran
    edited July 10

    I was listening to Sharon Salzberg's podcast today. The archetype of the spiritual warrior came up. The image is that of standing straight with a firm back and an open heart. The context was that in the spiritual world many often find the open heart relatively easier and the firm back can be neglected to the detriment of individuals and institutions.

    So I see the practice of martial arts, in a spiritual context, as a way to develop that firm back.

    adamcrossley
  • @person, you’re comment reminds me of a talk I heard at Gaia House, from Yanai Postelnik. He spoke about this mudra, which the Buddha is often depicted using:

    The left hand is offered gently, as a symbol of the open heart, while the right hand is held firmly in the “stop” or “no” position.

    Yanai said this combination was essential. Being open hearted must be tempered with the firmness and the resolution to know when to say, “Stop, no more.” And equally, being firm can itself be an act of great compassion. Yanai talked about the wisdom of knowing what’s worth defending in this world, and the compassion of stepping up to defend it. Incidentally, his talk regularly came back to the topic of climate change.

    I’ve garbled his exact teachings, but you can hear the whole talk here:

    https://dharmaseed.org/teacher/193/talk/56671/

    Jeffrey
  • I had to use my firm back today to break up a fight at the school where I work. One boy was on the floor and another was really going for him. I can sympathise with others who’ve posted here that have been involved in violence in the past. Obviously I didn’t hurt the attacking child, but I had to use force, and all adults in UK schools are permitted to do this if a child is in danger.

    I had some training in using physical restraint in February, as some of the children I work with occasionally require it. However, it has never really helped in the moment. Perhaps martial arts would, I don’t know. The holds we’re taught are not as effective on a kicking child as they are on a placid adult in the training centre. Most of all, I think my Buddhist practice has helped. I’ve sometimes found myself restraining a child for half a minute or so, using a lot of strength but speaking calmly and trying to soothe at the same time.

    Shoshin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I hope the matter was resolved to everyone's benefit... Well done, @adamcrossley ...

  • @federica Hmm... nothing seems to be to everyone’s benefit in a primary school. But thank you for your saying that :)

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