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#267398 - 06/30/06 11:30 PM Re: Zen Not a Martial Philosophy [Re: wristtwister]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
how 'bout that...I think we agree on something! (and it's not exactly a trivial topic either...) I think there are probably layers deep depending on how far you want to get into it. with Zen-like talk, the surface level is about all my brain can handle.

harlan, it's all speculation.

#267399 - 06/30/06 11:35 PM Re: Zen Not a Martial Philosophy [Re: Ed_Morris]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6665
Loc: Amherst, MA
Except for those who know.

#267400 - 07/01/06 10:30 AM Re: Zen Not a Martial Philosophy [Re: Ed_Morris]
wristtwister Offline
like a chiropractor, only evil

Registered: 02/14/06
Posts: 2210
Loc: South Carolina
the pattern of practice is like a style in karate. There are different methods using the same exercises, different results using the same techniques, but its all mental and there's no measured success except success or failure. Either you reach your goal of a clear mind, or you don't.

The idea of "no goals" is put in place to stop you from concentrating on the goal of having no goal. By concentrating on the technique rather than the goal, you get closer to it...

Hey, that's just like martial arts practice. it's just done inside your head...

What man is a man that does not make the world a better place?... from "Kingdom of Heaven"

#267401 - 07/06/06 09:02 AM Re: Zen Not a Martial Philosophy [Re: wristtwister]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6665
Loc: Amherst, MA
Touching on the topic, a review of 'Zen at War'.

And since speaking of Zen, we are really talking about the (Buddhist) ethic of non-violence:

#267402 - 07/06/06 12:37 PM Re: Zen Not a Martial Philosophy [Re: harlan]
wristtwister Offline
like a chiropractor, only evil

Registered: 02/14/06
Posts: 2210
Loc: South Carolina
Pretty good articles, but they seem to more address the institutional zen practice and ethical side of it (or it's failures) in connection with nationalism and propogating war.

"Institutional" zen is more attuned to "group mentality" of a particular group, rather than the actual practice of zen by it's members. That particular "type" of zen is more like a political philosophy than true zen practice, and it makes it confusing to people who don't understand zen practices in the first place.

I've had the debate many times about the differences between zen practices and the actual differences between Christianity and Bhuddism with regards to personal behavior. Both religions require personal introspection, and the method of using or not using zen to accomplish that aim is a great debate, but not for this forum.

The idea of zen as a martial philosophy is more the application of "zen" to the philosophy of a group that has a martial philosophy. Again, "now" is "now", and it has no philosophy, tenats of conduct, or anything... except practices.

I'm sure that simplified it...

What man is a man that does not make the world a better place?... from "Kingdom of Heaven"

#267403 - 07/06/06 02:45 PM Re: Zen Not a Martial Philosophy [Re: wristtwister]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
good observation WT. following that thought (or I could be just repeating it), on an even more subtle level is 'way of life' group mentality framed within a philosophic practice. The larger the group, the stronger the mentality and more justified they feel their way is....which is why they want you to 'join' them....for your own good of course.

Zen doesn't work that way, or shouldn't have to. but it is often used that way. not so much brainwashing - I wouldn't go that far; but it's often about narrowing the path.

There are a range of opinions about that. some might say limiting a path helps a person by lessening the confusing choices along the way...others might say that learning to navigate the choices is part of the way.

#267404 - 07/06/06 04:01 PM Re: Zen Not a Martial Philosophy [Re: Ed_Morris]
wristtwister Offline
like a chiropractor, only evil

Registered: 02/14/06
Posts: 2210
Loc: South Carolina
Maybe the best "instruction" I ever got at a seminar was from the zen master who accompanied some Kodokan judo players who gave a demonstration in Winston-Salem, NC in 1965 (I think that date's correct). I spent most of my time talking to his interpreter and taking notes on his information.

He taught me that "zen" is what you're doing... it can be, as the books have been written, "zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance", or "zen and the art of archery", or "zen and the art of fishing"... but the "practice" of zen is applicable to any activity. It is "mental focus" on the activity, much like "thinking on something" relates to analysis of a problem.

Maybe the best explanation is "you can have rocket science without rockets, but you cannot have rockets without rocket science". Where the "potential" is always available, it is only "true" when the "practical" is added, and it is only true at the moment it does whatever it does.

That is why "practicing zen" is always connected with an activity, and even if it is as simple as the "zazen" activity, it is still a practice connected to an activity. The "zen moment" of that activity is when it's potential is realized, whether it's total calm from mental practice, a punch from martial practice, or simply "being" as in the rocket's flight.

Here's my best "zen position"...

What man is a man that does not make the world a better place?... from "Kingdom of Heaven"

#267405 - 07/07/06 01:43 AM Re: Zen Not a Martial Philosophy [Re: wristtwister]
Mr_Heretik Offline

Registered: 05/20/05
Posts: 1074
Loc: Bronx NY, USA
Well done wristtwister!

#267406 - 07/13/06 11:24 PM Re: Zen Not a Martial Philosophy [Re: Mr_Heretik]
Dauragon c mikado Offline

Registered: 12/09/04
Posts: 1246
Loc: Oxford, England
Good WT!

Personally I always find myself practicing zen or MA in some form or another, somethimes both, but I also find it always starts of as an idea.

For example when me and my uncle talk the subject of MA nearly always comes up and he often tells me how MA and his trade (carpentry) are related in a big way on the principles and mental attitude (though he does not practice MA).

He tells me that a martial artist and a caprenter are the same in terms of they are both on an endless journey of constant learning and perfection of their art/trade, and as soon as they cease learning, thats them done for (in metaphorical terms I think he meant).
And after he explains that to me, I tell him of how MA and fishing (uncles hobby) are also they same in terms of principles and practice , because in fishing you must watch the line and hook the fish at the right moment, once the fish is hooked you must then have a physical battle with the fish, watching it's every movement making sure it stays in your site and in a place where it is advantagous to you (fish often try to hide in deep reeds where the line often snags then breaks, thus you lose the fish), and then when the fish is worn down enough and ready to be caught you then net it (metaphoricly = the final blow) and so you win the battle.

But I always notice how zen is also involved with the two, sometimes in the same things, for example in carpentry AND zen you must always keep an open mind so you can find new possibilities of how to do things and how to think in in times of difficulity (some carpentry jobs are really hard) perservering through hardships an challenges you may encounter along the way.

And fishing, zen also applies to that to, but form me personally the most zen period of fishing is waiting for the bite, you may even say this period resembles meditation for some, the way you focus only on the float, waiting for the moment in which you pull on the line to catch the fish, ignoring all outside distractions, only waiting...and waiting...

But I do this type of thing with nearly everything, I suppose its kinda easy if you know what to find and compare.

Maybe I'm just addicted to Zen and MA...

The way of the warrior is a resolute acceptance of death. -Musashi

#267407 - 07/14/06 04:12 AM Re: Zen Not a Martial Philosophy [Re: Dauragon c mikado]
ButterflyPalm Offline

Registered: 08/26/04
Posts: 2637
Loc: Malaysia
I am a Buddhist; I hesitate to add 'practising' because I am not sure what that really means. Perhaps it is a 'western' derivative where one has to 'do' something, like perhaps attending a religious place of worship at certain days of the week to qualify as 'practising'

The drift I get from all the above posts is that the link between Buddism/Taoism and eastern MA is more artificial than actual, and this enforced tenous connection gave rise to all sorts of philosophical/semantic difficulties. For myself, I prefer to say the link is more 'accidental' than artificial. Let me explain.

First, the difficulties stem from calling/treating Buddhism/Taoism as religions. There are not religions. There are just structured physical/meditative methods having the ultimate goal of transforming the mind to a state whereby it liberates itself from the confines of the physical body and thereafter becomes a Buddha or a Taoist immortal, existing in multiferous dimensions forever. It has nothing to do with MA at all, unless you really twist it and say that while in these multiferous dimensions you get caught up in the eternal fight with some unkillable primodial evil, which actually is strewn all over traditional Buddhist/Taoist folklore and literature, ala the 8 Immortals.

The temples with incense burning to statues/idols are historical/human corruption and should have no place at all in the practice of Buddhist or Taoist meditiation. Much like the rosary, which is just a physical aid to counting cycles of prayers, to becoming a religious object in itself, sometimes imbued with supernatural powers.

Once Buddhism/Taoism is stripped of all religious connotations, and seen as mere mental training for selfish personal cultivation, the accidental connection is easy to grasp, for me at least.

Like many MA practitioner of the old school, I started, as children, with the usual 'hard/external' MA styles. The only 'religion' involved is burning incense to long dead ancestors or the founders of a particular system. It is not a religious act, but a historical extension of a Confucian edict of worshipping your ancestors who are to be revered, almosts as 'gods', because without the ancestors, there would literally be no us.

Having no idea then of the internal systems, there was no need to talk about any connection with Buddhism/Taoism.

Many years later, when the training of internal strength (neigong, now more popularly called chigong) became part of the regime to attain a higher (not different) level, meditation (both sitted, with and without specific postures, and moving) was seen as just another MA method without any religious connotations; any mention of the teachings of the historical Buddha or Lao Tse was more for the uplifting of one's moral character; non-violence and to do good with your MA abilities, that sort of thing.

The so-called Zen Buddhism, though with Chinese historical origins (and hardly practiced there, then or now) was seen as a typically Japanese thing which has so much Shintoism and the Japanese love for minimalism grafted onto it that it is not easy to separate the two; much like the Christmas tree and jingle bells having anything to do with Christianity.

So the accidental connection between Buddhist/Taoist meditative practices and the physical side of eastern MA becomes clear when internal energy (which in a remote superstitious age was seen as almost god-like powers) cultivated through these 'religious' meditative practices, was used to enhance one's combative abilities, whether in attaining an absolute focused clarity of mind and thus readily anticipating your enemies' every move or the use of the cultivated chi for muscular/tendon development to gain the so-called whole body power.

It was, and perhaps still is, convenient and altogether natural to claim divine assistance when asked to explain the then unexplainable; it was no easy thing, then and now, to explain something that was felt rather than seen.

Coming to Bodhidarma, the Indian monk who through force of circumstances happened to spend some quality time in an existing Buddhist temple, my view is that when he taught some meditative techniques to those lazy monks (which had to be Yogic in nature having came from India or thereabouts) he had no idea or intention that is has any use in enhancing combative abilities. As someone who has gone through using meditative techniques for MA training, I could see how the link could have been made, sooner or later.

There is a limit to how strong an arm acting in isolation can be, and sooner or later the use of meditation (especially the moving variety which multiplies many fold enhanced introspection) which gave conscious access to the internal struture of one's body, force can be concentrated and applied by the body as a whole and not as an isolated action of a single arm; meaning that excessive tension is not necessary and without needing excessive tension to generate power and having an almost 'relaxed Tai Chi state of mind' being 'in the zone' is easier to attain and your opponent's actions seem to slow down and thereby giving you an anticipatory edge.

So, yes, Bodhidarma taught meditation; No, he did not (and couldn't possibly have) taught the use of meditation for combat application. It would be like crediting your personal gym trainer as your MA sifu.
I'll rather be happy than right, anytime.

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