What are the spiritual aspects of your practice?

What are the spiritual aspects of your practice?

Question by Tomodachi: What are the spiritual aspects of your practice?
Understanding that martial arts are more than merely physical movements and physical fighting skills, that the most important aspect of the way is the spiritual dimension that leads one to unity with the “breath of the universe” or ki / chi / qi / prana that leads to awakening so as to lead a life that is beneficial to all others and to ones self, what are the spiritual practices you were taught in your style / school / way of martial art?

Do you also impart this knowledge and practice to your students if you are a teacher? Are your students receptive to the same?

This one understands that in the west, many do not practice such and many teachers do not impart such to their students (including Asian martial teachers who often express that it has been their experience that westerners are not open to such) however, ones study and practice is not complete without the same.

In this ones own practice, the spiritual aspects have become the most important aspects and some of his students have laughingly commented that he now spends more time talking about such than working on technique and movement…. When this one was younger (much younger…LOL!) the opposite seems to have been true and this one only cared for the physical skills.

Thank you for your sincere comments and reflections. There is no correct or incorrect answer to this as it will reflect your personal journey and the present level of your art and understanding. You may not even care in regards to the spiritual dimension…and so it goes.

Be well
For those who do not seem to understand, spirituality does not imply religious practices or a religious faith system with deities and rituals…

The very “ways” many in this forum profess to practice have an inherent spiritual dimension and to reject such is not fully practice the “way” that some here are supposedly “masters” of…
Spiritualism and spirituality are not the same. this one did not realize that so many here practiced English as a second language…wakarimasu?
Spiritualism and spirituality are not the same. this one did not realize that so many here practiced English as a second language…wakarimasu?

Best answer:

Answer by possum
I don’t subscribe to the concepts of ki, etc, nor do I teach it. I tend to reject anyone who teaches it to me. It isn’t that I think it’s against my religion, it’s just that I prefer a more scientific approach.

Also, when I want spiritual development, I will seek guidance from my pastor. And when I want martial development, I will seek guidance from my martial arts instructor. For me, ne’er the two shall meet.

I’ve had bad experiences of bringing religion and spiritualism into the dojang, and I will never do it again. Too many conflicts developed for me, not just in spiritual context, but also in techniques.

Please forgive the analogy, but going to martial arts schools and getting spiritual and martial development is like getting a pocket knife with too many features, and its many features detracts from each that are present.

I do not consider the absence of spiritualism in my martial arts as making my training incomplete. In fact, its presence bloats it for me. Others may feel differently, but I reject it entirely.

EDIT: Spiritualism means different things to different people. To me, it is everything religious in nature. It may not represent Asian philosophy, or yours, or anyone else’s. But that is irrelevant to me: I do not find its relevance to my martial training. One minute taken out of class to discuss something spiritual (using anyone’s definition) means taking a minute away the training for which I came to learn. And it wasn’t to learn or engage in anything “spiritual”. My act of just being there may be what some might describe as “spiritual”, though I do not.

I do care only for the physical aspects. If you meant something other than physical, but not theological, then I don’t know what you mean. Having a large Native American influence in my life meant that even “journey” has a religious (read: theological) context. For me, even ki / chi has a religious context.

When in the discussions of “the way”, I fully realize the Asians meant something other than what I interpret to mean “method”. I choose to disregard anything more than just “method” because anything more means something that conflicts with my beliefs – scientific or theological.

I know that martial arts is a way of life. It is always described that way. But so is burglary, fatalism, pessimism, and politics. Being a chef. Being in the military. Being in school. Each define how you run and explain your life.

That “way of life” is revealed by the instructor through his or her own interpretations, and the choice to ignore it, accept it, adopt it, or reject it is the students’.

And for me, when the instructor reveals his or her “way of life” – even if congruent with my own beliefs – I ignore it. I have no time for it.

Give your answer to this question below!

  1. Frank the tankJun 14, 2013

    Non-existent.

  2. MarkJun 14, 2013

    Pretty much of a mind with possum. I’m utterly pragmatic. I have no illusions of character development or spiritual practice or any other such thing in regards to martial arts.
    Practical fighting methods I can employ for self-defense. Period.

    I understand that a great deal of various forms of martial art are steeped in Buddhism. The Japanese styles in particular, those that have the “do” suffix, are oriented towards helping the student achieve Zen Buddhist enlightenment. This may not be apparent to most Western students, but it is in fact the case.

    Still, I don’t study any of those styles….

  3. JamesJun 14, 2013

    It actually does work psychologically. It clears your mind and relaxes you and enables you to focus better. It only works if you genuinely believe it will, then it will.

  4. LIONDANCERJun 14, 2013

    I think you need to be more specific on what you call spirituality. I met too many teachers who focus too much on spirituality and think the physical can be achieved by mostly training in your mind. Every one that I met who thought this way was honestly plainly lazy. They thought that if they can only figure out how to make those chi balls and project them they do not need the physical training. They were arrogant thinking that they were smarter than everybody else and better and could tap into a mystical internal power that automatically made them better. I would not say these things had I seen not even beautiful but just effective martial arts from just one of these guys or just effortless movement in their forms. But I did see beautiful and effortless movement and very effective martial arts from those who have trained physically 8 hours every day for 20-30 years.
    However, if you think that Asian philosophies and ways of thinking are spiritual then I agree they are necessary. For example, martial arts takes balance and you have to understand the concept for the higher techniques. The Asians teach that concept with yin and yang but you could teach it with mathematic equations too. If your opponent gives you this much power you have to match it with this much to make the technique. Too much will make both of you off balance, not enough will render that you can not apply the technique.
    I also think that if you learn how to injure you should learn how to heal. You can tell everybody that this too is part of opposites yin and yang or christian compassion or simply human and sets you apart from the bully because it is the right thing to do. Does it really matter in which sense you teach this concept?
    Is ‘mushin’ (empty mind) a spiritual concept for you? It can be but does not have to be. It can simply be not thinking of anything, not anticipating anything and not contemplating anything but to just let things happen and reacting to it without thinking about it. It does not have to have a religious connotation at all.
    The concept of breathing is not spiritual.
    Should you take care of the earth? I think you should. It is a simple matter of respect and appreciation and also responsibility to not leave your kids and grand kids with an environmental mess that they can not fix and will make them sick. I would not like it if someone left this for me to deal with. It does not have to have anything to do with religion and creation.
    Should I light incense so my prayers will reach heaven? That’s spiritual and has no martial value.
    Should I pray and how should I pray? That’s spiritual and has no martial value.
    Which God do I pray to or do I just worship nature? That’s spiritual and has no martial value.
    If spiritualism in martial art mattered then only the ones with the right religion would be good martial artists, right? I don’t think so.
    I could go on and on with many of these things. It is a misconception that all asian martial arts masters teach spirituality with their martial arts. Some may but generally they don’t and it’s not because we are not receptive. One of my very well known asian martial arts teachers was laughing his head off (he is not a rude person but the explanation was so ridiculous yet very common among westerners it was impossible to keep a straight face) at one of his western student’s explanation of chi. Now they will teach philosophies like yin and yang to explain concepts but that is not spirituality. Philosophies are not spirituality.

  5. Man of faithJun 14, 2013

    I agree with LIONDANCER. The thing is, everyone’s definition of spirituality may !3e something different. I see it two different ways.

    Those who say they are spiritual, and are not a part of any religion.

    Or, those who are religious.

    You said, ” spirituality does not imply religious practices or a religious faith system with deities and rituals…” !3ut for some it does. That is why the some people’s answer vary so greatly.

    For me, martial arts have a strong mental, physical, and traditional/philosophical impact on me.

    My Christianity seeps over into my martial arts, as in, I !3elieve I am doing them for a purpose, and I have a God given desire to do them.

    I have God as my main priority in life, nothing !3efore Him, and nothing as important. However, my martial arts is just another aspect of my life. Although important, and although I love them, for me, they always are, and always will !3e !3elow my faith.

    Sorry, my !3 key is !3roken. !3e well.

    EDIT: Nice perspective from Cecil. I do agree.

  6. Cecil Ryu Martial ArtsJun 14, 2013

    Uniting with chi and prana is fine, but in my opinion it does not lead to real spirituality because you do not have to change your character to tap that energy. Spiritual development should affect your character for the better. For that, I think it is best to seek a pastor, church, religion, etc.

  7. SiFu frankJun 14, 2013

    I never impose any particular dogma on my students. Well one exception is that they can always be a little better than they are right now.

    My personal experience with Martial arts has brought me to realize there is a real connection between the body mind and spirit. By pushing yourself to your absolute limit you can find that inner spirit, that connection if you will. Well it is that way for me. Self discipline of the kind required to be your personal absolute best mentally and physical will bring a person to discover their spiritual side.

    I believe it will make you a better person regardless of your faith. If you are a person of faith it will deepen it.

  8. BenJun 14, 2013

    Is not meditation a valid part of Martial Arts training? When you are being attacked, be it in training, sparring or in real life, is the training not to watch for the best opportunities to strike and the “in’s” that your opponent leaves you to counter attack? Is it not fair to say that peace whilst in the midst of an attack is practiced through spiritual meditation?

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