Some thoughts about martial arts

I love martial arts and I have a very deep connection to them. I have a green belt in Judo and a black belt in Hapkido. Due to my spiritual studies I have a different perspective on martial arts and I want to share some thoughts with you.

Martial arts were developed because of the need to defend yourself and beloved ones but also to fight in wars, to attack enemies. Originally martial arts came along with high requirements for the character of the student together with a spiritual training. Only those with self-control, reliability, respect, the will to sacrifice themselves, being fearless, willing to undergo a hard, demanding training, etc. were allowed to take part. We can say that only the best ones of the best were chosen for the highest arts. The “normal” ones were chosen for normal fight training for wars and defense. So the elite of students were initiated into the martial arts to grow in their personality, to grow in a spiritual way and to reach mastery in the end. At first they had to learn forms, techniques but as masters they have reached the formless arts, the perfection in fighting. We can use here the five elements key where the student learns techniques according to the four elements to reach in the end the fifth element, – Akasha, the source of all techniques. We can differentiate techniques in this way:

  • Fire element: Attack techniques, hard moves, deadly
  • Air element: Interaction, balancing, “fencing”, keeping on distance, speed
  • Water element: grabbing, receiving, answering techniques, soft
  • Earth element: Fixing techniques, also complete forms / actions, perfection
  • Akasha element: Perfect answers by direct understanding of the situation, no thinking, no forms, intuitive perfection, the master attitude, the top of the pyramid of the four elements and the origin of them

So the study of martial arts was at the same time a training of your personality and a spiritual path to mastery in many aspects.

By the passing of time a diversity of schools came into existence to emphasize different aspects of martial arts. So we can say that Karate has a focus on the fire element while Aikido is based on the water element. Wing Tsun has a focus on the air element. Traditional Kung Fu is focused on the earth element. And when we see old masters fighting with young students, then we can see the Akasha element in action.

Fighting itself was always something serious and often deadly, also nothing for philosophical questions but for quick solutions. In moments where your life is threatened you have no time to think much. Action is needed, automatic behavior.

Nevertheless because of the training situations with plenty of time and no major hurts or deadly threats, the trainers focused on creating well defined movements, techniques, etc. The raw killing / survival job became an art with specific details. “When you do a punch then you have to stand in this way, you have to hold your one hand in that way and the punch has to be done and this way and so on.” In result the whole technique looked nice but on the other hand, when you are in a deadly combat no one gives you standing ovations for the beauty of your techniques. Further on this setting of specific movements, techniques has been a process of conditioning, a conditioning of attacks and counter attacks. And so systems of interaction were born where a well-defined dynamic of the two fighters was established. The funny thing here is that the system works only well as long as both fighters follow it but as soon as one fighter behaves differently, maybe also not conditioned, the other fighter gets problems. For example one fighter wants to use a throwing technique and normally the other one would jump because of his conditioned behavior but now the other fighter does not care.

In conclusion this conditioning system together with the super specific definition of techniques in all details can be questioned regarding the original purpose of defense or attack.

For this reason later on simplified, “raw” techniques of defense and attacks were developed by the armies. These techniques are goal-oriented.

As a further new development martial arts has become sports. Sport is something which focuses only on certain results like getting points in a competition. This is far away from the original purpose and also from spiritual character development. It is also not about mastery.

Let´s imagine we would approach martial arts from the perspective of wisdom with respect to the original purpose of self-defense and if necessary ways to attack plus the training of personality and the realization of true mastery in the end. Let´s think about this:

The training of martial arts is perfect for the development of your personality, to learn to behave in a responsible, fearless, centered way, to follow high ideals and so on. So it is good to study martial arts. Further on you maintain your fitness, a good health, flexibility, etc.

It makes much sense to integrate techniques of all four elements into one universal martial art system. And it makes sense not to focus on complex und super detailed techniques which are hard to realize in reality but to keep it simple and effective with a focus on natural movement patterns. So indeed the natural movement patterns are a major key for the implementation of techniques instead of artificially created techniques from the intellect.

And then something “new” makes sense, – the real goal-orientation besides the military application of killing fast. We have indeed only a few situations which can occur and which we have to face successfully. And this is not a matter of nice training but of reality.

We have to face different kinds of opponents like thugs, trained criminals, professional fighters, killers, etc. And we have to face different situations, for example pure self-defense without hurting someone, then defanging the opponent, seriously hurting him or killing the opponent quickly. And at last it is a question of the number of opponents and the armament.

So indeed it makes sense to think about useful strategies for these single cases to realize quickly your aim.

In this context I find it very funny to see in movies how a good guy fights against a professional killer for an eternity to punch here and to kick there and to include some artistic moves and the killer gets up again and again and again until after “half an hour” the killer is lying numbed on the floor. This is entertainment. In fact if you have to face a professional killer then it makes sense to knock him out as fast as possible or to kill him directly.

In a different situation when you are at school and there is a bully it makes sense to give him a lesson without really causing any injuries.

At last I want to point at the superior body control of the Shaolin Monks, the original Kung Fu masters. A perfect body control would be certainly a desirable basis for a universal martial art system.

Maybe one day such a system is realized. I would love to take part in the process.