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The Spiritual Aspect of the Martial Arts


The true value of the martial arts lies not in the learning of the martial art itself, but in the acquisition of certain internal qualities that are developed by the study and learning of the martial art. The great swordsman Myamoto Musashi was one of the early pioneers of this concept. He found, as other Japanese thinkers found, that the more he looking for proficiency and efficiency in his training with the sword the more he looked for proficiency and efficiency in all things. He began to look for the spirituality in everything that he did. When farming, he took land made useless by yearly floods and turned it into productive land by building his dikes and fields in the shape of the natural water flow. The farmers built a shrine in his honor for his concepts and prayed at that shrine daily. He found that every part of his life effected every other part of his life and he began to look for the spirituality in every part of his life.


We study the martial arts for many reasons. In the beginning for self defense usually, then later for other reasons. Sometimes we continue to study because we want to teach or we want power over others, or for other reasons, both good and bad. Seldom do we study the martial arts with the view that it will teach us internal ideas that will help us become spiritual in all other parts of our life. If, however, we do wish to discover the true spiritual aspect of the martial arts and thereafter apply that spirituality to all parts of our lives, we must strive for purity in the art that we study.


By purity, I do not mean perfection. For when we strive for perfection, we tend to eliminate much good from our lives. By purity I mean that in everything that we do we must identify a group of rules that we intend to follow when acting in a certain area. For example, in friendship we might develop a set of rules that might include being a truly honest, helpful supportive friend of someone without letting that person take advantage of us. This is a simple set of rules to write down but hard ones to follow. Friendship sometimes requires us to make difficult and unpopular decisions concerning a friend who is not acting maturely. This also applies to us if under the rules we are not acting maturely and we must apologize for a selfish act.


In any area of our lives that we adopt a set of rules in, whether or not it be work, play or study, if we are to trying to develop the spiritual aspect of that art we must not break the rules without recognizing that we have broken them.


Sometimes, we do not know what rules to follow and must depend on others to help us form our definition.


Life itself is divine and whether you want to be or not you are a divine creature and capable of a divine spirituality that will help you understand the world, other people, yourself and whatever gods that you choose to follow.


A great judoka, Cliff Norgard, said to me concerning rules to live by, "Hell, if you're not going to feel good about doing it then don't do it!". Think about it. How many times do we do something that we know we're not going to feel good about. We have a saying in table tennis, "If you want to win, you have to hit all of the easy ones and half of the hard ones". The same is true in life. If you want to win it is important to follow the rules on all of the easy decisions and at least half of the hard ones.


Karl E. Geis

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