Sunday, June 21, 2009

Going into Combat

Some time back a young rambunctious hard stylist asked me if I had ever used Taiji in a fight. While I am a big proponent of self defense, it is not my primary reason for practicing martial arts. I simply answered no. But in my mind I thought, yes. I have used Taiji and Aikido in fights, I do daily. I fight arthritis, hypoglycemia, carcinogens in our environment, the effects of a reckless young life, the creeping effects of approaching old age, the seeds of violence in us all, self-doubt, the metaphorical devil in all his tempting manifestations. Budo/Kung Fu is a disciplined system of self-improvement, self-actualization. It is in a word a fight. It is easier to have a gluttonous, lazy, spiritually empty life. Or is it? Actually I think following a disciplined system is far easier and more rewarding in the long run than the alternative.

This reflects a split in the martial arts community, and the misunderstanding that many non-martial artists have. There is a difference between Bujitsu and Budo. These are Japanese terms, the former is martial art the latter is martial way. The do in Budo is derived from the Chinese Dao, or Way. This gives it a spiritual connotation. In the Chinese Internal Martial Arts, this is taken for granted. Internal Kung Fu is grounded in Qigong, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Buddhism, Daoism, and the combat arts. The way of the warrior is a complete discipline encompassing much more than the ability to fight. In our modern society these other aspects take on a more important function, as the need for combat is not what it was in ancient times. Consequently, the health and spiritual aspects leave the practitioner with a more peaceful orientation further to the original intent of the arts. The more people there are with peaceful orientations, the more peace there is in the world. The defining of all martial arts as combat arts premised on violence is misplaced and unfortunate. O-Sensei maintained that Aikido is the ultimate art of peace. From the outside that may be confusing. But once one has practiced for some time the definition makes sense. It accordingly applies to many of the “do” arts of Asia, those premised on The Dao.