Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Mastery

(Thanks for the inspiration Paul)

An interesting conversation yesterday on the subject of mastery.  It was prompted by an FB post I shared of Guro Dan Inosanto with a caption that read "The goal of the Martial Arts is not for the destruction of an opponent, but rather for self-growth and self-perfection."  My friend called out that it is really only martial artists that are so vocal over the aspect of "non-violence" in their practice of something with to the general public looks designed specifically for violent applications.  He said "you don't see gymnasts or marathon runners or piano players touting about how their goals of self-growth and self-perfection are non-violent, do you?"  Point made.  He further asked "Can you acquire self-growth and self-perfection ( whatever that entails ... ) without hitting people ?"


One of the many things I love about Kali Majapahit is that we express our Southeast Asian martial arts through a very Chinese lens.  That is, our practice places strong emphasis on health and longevity.  We learn about the body, mind and spirit (through martial arts) with a desire to understand its inner workings, specifically with respect to our connection to other people.  The mastery of Kali Majapahit is a mastery of ourselves, and with it freedom from fear and limitation (physical, mental and spiritual).

This is completely consistent with the origins of martial arts as practiced by monks in India and China, where health was a principal goal of the training.  This was deeply connected to their spiritual practice and combined with yoga and meditation to create an integrated well-being.  Yes, acupuncture and other traditional healing arts are a core part of this.  In Kali Majapahit, it is our study of Hilot, traditional Filipino homeopathy, and practice of Kali Majapahit becomes very limited without this important aspect.

Could you achieve this self-growth and self-perfection only through meditation and yoga?  YES
However, this is not for everyone.  The spiritual path is formless, and there are no longer many teachers who can teach it properly.  It also requires a level of patience most modern people find difficult. The study is easier when it has context, and this is something martial arts can and should provide.

Using the context of martial arts as a vehicle for spiritual growth is not new at all.
The relationship between Japanese swordsmanship and Buddhism is a particularly deep spiritual connection - anchored on an understanding of the impermanence of this world and the importance of all living things.  For warriors whose life revolved around death, this insight and awareness was profound.  There are many practical lessons for us in these modern times as well.

Many books on sports fitness also emphasize the spiritual side of training.  They talk about "runner's high" or discuss breathing and its relevance to training.  For reference, meditation elevates the consciousness firstly through three factors: deep breathing, proper posture and muscle relaxation.  Most sports focus on these as well.

I would go even further to say that "The Way" can be anything we choose it to be.  The only prerequisite being that through the practice we are able to willfully elevate our awareness and understanding to connect to our SOUL and hear that "inner voice".  There is no single "Way" and martial arts is only one path to the Truth.

I quote "Hagakure" (hidden leaves) which is one of the most widely read texts on Bushido, wherein Tsunetomo Yamamoto writes:

"It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all Ways and be more and more in accord with his own."

This strongly suggests that what is important is a commitment to your own "Way" and the awareness to use other "ways" to improve your understanding of your own.  Of course, to Buddhists this makes perfect sense, since we are taught that duality does not exist and all things are connected.

In another post I wrote about the rule of 10,000, which suggests that 10,000 hours of practice is the basic requirement for mastery of any skill.  However, on further examination, this is not enough.  While practice can develop skill, practice alone does not automatically yield mastery in the sense that we seek in martial arts.  We must have a willful desire to use this training for its higher purpose - connection to the SOUL.  Otherwise, we simply learn to move the body without gaining the benefit of enlightenment.  In this example, a master piano player could be skillful at playing pieces they are given, but never achieve the freedom of just playing free-flow or writing their own music.  Connection to the soul yields spiritual freedom, and this is the ultimate goal of martial arts training when we say "self-growth and self-perfection".  We must learn to think beyond what we can see, the physical body, to the true self - The SOUL.  It is the soul which we must grow and perfect, not the physical body.

OK, this post has been a bit top-heavy on the spiritual side (especially for writing it at 7:43 am).
Don't despair.  Trust your training and keep moving forward every day, step-by-step.

I wish you every success, whatever Way you choose.

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