Thursday, January 28, 2016

Traditional Martial Arts - A Path of Peace

Training in traditional martial arts can provide individuals with self-confidence when taught correctly. In this photo,
school teachers train in traditional martial arts while taking turns practicing technique. In this particular technique,
known as empi-uchi (elbow strike) found in some kata (forms), teaches the defender to block an attack, and follow
with a grab to the back of the head with the blocking hand and finishing with an elbow strike to the chin of the attacker. 
Students are also taught that this is used only for extreme self-defense when a person's life is in danger, and that they 
should avoid conflicts at all costs, if possible.
When training students (senpai and kohai) in traditional martial arts, the instructor (sensei) hopes they learn humility, self-respect, respect for others, along with powerful self-defense techniques (wazawhile benefiting from mushin, meditation, and physical and mental exercise that traditional martial arts provides. The sensei of a traditional martial arts school becomes a head of a family of the martial arts students, worries about each student, and prays each will carry their lessons in a very positive and respectful manner for the rest of their lives. The sensei prays each student will keep in contact and update their sensei in their life endeavors. Disappointment (just like an aunt or uncle) fills the mind of a sensei, when students move on and are are not heard from again. But those that keep in touch, a traditional sensei rejoices in their successes in life. This relationship is not as profound in the sport martial arts, where students and teachers do not form close bonds. It is much like the relationships so well portrayed between Miyagi-san and Daniel san vs the Cobra Kai thugs in the 1984 Karate Kid. In traditional martial arts schools, it is expected students keep in touch with their sensei, no matter where they move to, or what they do. As they would for their aunts and uncles, students are expected to keep in touch with their sensei - the sensei should become and be recognized as part of the student's surrogate family.

Traditional martial arts provide a path for its students. But which path the
student takes, is ultimately up to them.
Much like a Christian Church, traditional martial arts schools teach students to be ethical, honest and have concern for others, as they walk the path of the 'way'. This is why many traditional martial arts end with the suffix 'do', which in Japanese implies 'path', such as Aikido, Kyudo, Kobudo, Judo, Kendo, Iaido, Budo, and even Karatedo. Some may ponder judo - judo was originally practiced like most traditional martial arts similar to traditional jujutsu, before much of it became an Olympic sport. Then, of course, there are many martial arts that end in the suffix 'jutsu'. Many of these are considered combat arts, and many do not practice kata in their art, and the very traditional jutsu arts do not compete.

It is competition that mainly sets traditional martial arts apart from sport arts, but as with anything that is similar, there are no definite boundaries to easily define "traditional" vs. "sport" martial arts anymore. A gradation began to blur the difference in about 1964, when most judo became an olympic sport. Today, one can differentiate the extreme end-point martial arts from one another, but there is now everything in between - much like in politics.

The 1984 Karate Kid
Martial arts are not associated with any particular religion, although one can see influence of Buddhism and even Shinto in a dojo (karate school). And in some areas of North and South America and Europe, one can now see evidence of the influence of Christianity on martial arts or vise versa, particularly where churches have included martial arts as a unique ministry to attract members. But, just like any type of discipline, there are those who argue against teaching martial arts to church members, because they feel mediation, or imagined mystic qualities, make it antipathetic to Christianity. Personally, I feel most of these people have little understanding of traditional martial arts, and it is likely they once observed or trained in sport martial arts, watched too many movies, or have little to no expertise in traditional martial arts and speak with lack of understanding. But, each individual must decide for themselves through prayer and education. And so, what is the difference between teaching martial arts to church members, or teaching tennis to church members - in most situations, there is no difference - it depends on the individual and the teacher.
Our daughters and sons should have an ability
to defend themselves if necessary. There are too
many trials in life to leave them unprotected.

In parts of the Middle East, Christian, Jewish and Muslim influence can be seen in some martial arts groups - but I suspect those who train in martial arts can more easily resolve differences in their religion by having common ground of the traditional martial arts bond, except for extremists, whose minds are closed to everything. In India, the original source of martial art, there is influence of religion on martial arts. But this may be because many of the goals in traditional martial arts match many goals in non-violent religions. But no matter what we think, there is evil everywhere in this world, just as there is good. So, it is the individual who brings good or bad to religion, or to martial arts. In the end, we are all judged by what we have done or accomplished.There are aspects of traditional martial arts that one can continue to learn their entire life.

There is no end to learning in the martial arts. Thus, the more one trains in martial art, the more one begins to see various applications of kata and technique. Karate employs forms know as kata. The more a person trains in kata, the more they begin to understand the hidden techniques that were unknown to them during their previous year of training. Kata also teaches proper breathing, movement, balance and with the assistance of a qualified instructor, it will teach speed, power and focus. After the movements in a kata are mastered, each part can be broken down into bunkai (self-defense applications) and each part can have many different applications that include the obvious, the not so obvious, and then the hidden. It takes understanding and creativity to truly master bunkai, because one must learn to react without thinking, react with lightning fast speed, learn to react with maximum power, remain in balance, have proper distance, and understand the many different modifications.
Training in kobudo is nothing more than an extension of karate. This art
uses the same stances, same hand movements, and kicks as karate - but
teaches the student to use a weapon, whether it is a traditional martial
arts weapon, or a modern tool. For example, one can use bo (6-foot stick)
as shown here, or than can use a different modern tool - shovel, rake, hoe.

As students progress and understand kata imi (the meaning of kata) they progressively are taught other kuden (secrets) of martial arts that include hitotsuki hitogeri (one strike knock downs), kote kitae (extreme body hardening) and trusted students may be taught okurasu goroshi (dim mak). Thus one of the primary differences in traditional vs. sport martial arts is the focus on the understanding of kata and how to use this understanding in self-defense.

But, when it comes down to employing traditional karate in a self-defense situation - whether it is the defense of oneself, or of another, women can defend as effectively as any man - but they must train hard in a dojo. Traditional martial arts can lead one to peace of mind and even to a path of peace.

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