Archive for budo

Wishful Warrior

Posted in Buddhism, Fighting, martial arts, Mysticism, Reality Bites, Religion, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2008 by wizardsmoke

This whole ideal of Budo, that martial arts practice brings enlightenment — what is it referring to? What is enlightenment via martial arts? Well, provided it actually exists I’ll say it could be one of three things:

  1. Achievement of an adept, deeply intuitive level of martial skill in which one’s psyche has assimilated into the nature of physical combat and such movements (the complete naturalization of one’s being with one’s practice)
  2. Deep awareness of what the martial arts actually are and overcoming any romantic delusions about them, as well as transcending the notion of fear, especially with regards to physical threats
  3. Total, full-blown Nirvana/Nibbana, in which all ignorance and illusion is dispelled

Number one, if I were to dissect that, I’d say it could refer to any practice in which one completely dedicates themselves. Like that tacky book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” — practicing one thing can lead to a deeper awareness of everything. Practicing a musical instrument one’s whole life leads to a complete intuitive awareness of the music, which transcends any technical knowledge — just look at the training regimen of Indian classical musicians or Japanese Bunraku puppeteers. It’s nothing new — way old Chinese and Greek philosophy.

In such cases it seems like the individual becomes a holy patron of the tradition or idea in question; one becomes like a god of music, war, love, etc. through diligent one-pointed mastery of the subject. Many adept martial artists then fall into the camp of simply being elite killing machines. Is this enlightened? Not in any traditional religious sense. Ha! But what does that mean? Not much.

As for possibility number two, I am reminded of William Blake’s famous phrase: “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” Or as Spare would say, by exhausting our desire or obsession with something we come to realize what it actually means to us. After years of practice, one learns how important or useless the martial arts they practice actually are. And in realizing the ultimate potential or value of something, it becomes easier or natural to relinquish.

But here the situation can only apply to people who are initially obsessed with violence or fear violence. They’re people who want to be involved in it or get over their fear of it. In the modern population, the majority of people don’t care enough about violence to pursue martial arts. Almost everyone would be going against their natural tendencies or interests, even though violence is always floating around in our heads; (like sex) we know it’s not functional to obsess over it.

And also, it seems like a cop-out to say a person is enlightened because they’re so good at inflicting violence that they no longer perceive it as a threat from others. This is more like an arms race or a typical tough-guy routine. It’s easy not to fight when no one else stands a chance against you.

In the last scenario, which just generalizes that full-blown enlightenment is achieved through martial arts, I would say it is a questionable association because so many terrible people have become efficient martial artists and did not achieve enlightenment, while a lot of people have become enlightened who never had anything to do with martial arts or violence. If people become enlightened through the martial arts, it’s possible that they were going to become so anyway and they happened to spend their time doing these things.

Man, I’m asking a lot of dumb questions here. Basically, most martial artists are not any more enlightened (in the cosmic sense) than anyone else. Martial artists are just on top of some of the subtlest aspects of the physical and athletic experience.

More to come…

Dragon’s tears

Posted in Buddhism, Cults, Doom and Evil, Fighting, martial arts, Reality Bites, Religion, Stayin' Alive, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , on November 14, 2008 by wizardsmoke

You know, practicing the martial arts always make me want to cry. I feel like a little kid every time I think about it. Because although the stuff is there to make you stronger or more self-sufficient (supposedly!), the teaching method is so harsh at the end of the day. Sure, maybe we’re all friends, or brothers, or whatever else, but I still feel like the opera kids in the classic modern Chinese film, Farewell My Concubine. The ones who are horribly beaten into submission by their master. But that agony makes them into the most amazing, beautiful performers in existence: true national treasures.

One character sees adults performing an opera and cries: “how many beatings does it take to become a star?” In other words, how much pain does it take, how much suffering must be transformed, in order to become great, appreciated, brilliant or realized? And how many people are destroyed or stray on that path? Too many!

But if something happens to you in a fight, in the world, in martial arts, in anything at all, the underlying conclusion a person has to understand is: it’s your problem. It may not be your fault per se, but you are the one who has to deal with it — alone. And this is where the idea of modern (post-pagan) religion has stepped in, to provide answers for this, to provide practice strategies to deal with the mental agony of it all, or maybe just comfort and a shoulder to cry on.

I suppose if religions or martial arts are actually creating positive habits in our “spirit,” they do so in the way phrased in Buddhism: a person cannot remove physical pain, but a person can remove the mental association or attachment with that pain. When a person is hurt or harmed, the real pain comes from the concept of being harmed, that another person could do such a thing to another. If you actually think about it, it really is a horrible idea. As soon as you empathize with someone being tortured or maimed or killed, it becomes impossible to do it to anyone else.

And yet in some twisted, sick way, in studying fighting we learn to hurt others without thinking really empathizing with their pain. What a disturbing thing. Someone once pointed out to me, there are three lessons in fighting: (1) Being seriously injured; (2) Injuring someone else and (3) you’ll find out!

Rungs of Violence

Posted in Buddhism, Cults, Fighting, martial arts, Reality Bites, Uncategorized, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , on October 19, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I’ve noticed that a lot of young men waste their time trying to be tough. Yet obsession with fighting and toughness and all that junk is actually holding you back from moving up (or surviving) in modern society. All the time spent learning to fight, all the nightly training — how much better would it be to simply learn some lucrative skill? A rhetorical question, because it would be much better.

Yet those folks who are not inherently aggressive psycho assholes, how could they possibly expect to climb over the mountain of bodies that leads to the ivory tower of success? No, it takes an aggressive character to do that. So those of us who are naturally less aggressive might need some direct exposure violence in order to co-exist with the turbulence caused by ambitious egos. Or to meet our social needs.

At our (MA) school, the sparring situation is a purposefully intense experience. We do a month or so every year of extremely intense, full-contact fighting. To some degree, the most violence me and my classmates will ever experience happens in that class. And compared to other schools we’ve seen or invited to train with us, our training is pretty rough. So it makes me think that this isn’t even just training for a violent confrontation, but that our training itself is a violent confrontation. It isn’t training for the real thing, but it actually is the real thing.* And while that seems insane initially, like we’re just some stupid fight club (and maybe we are!), that’s how all skills should be practiced.

With practicing this stuff, I’ve come to be somewhat skeptical of romantic ideas about martial enlightenment, Budo and so forth. The whole imagery of the valiant samurai and so forth — it’s mostly a romantic fantasy. It’s like talking about policemen or military men romantically. They’re just doing their job and a lot of the time it sucks and they’re just as weak and easily corrupted as any other group of humans. While some people may happen to become “enlightened” by martial arts practice, the martial arts are so easily and constantly perverted by aggressive macho nonsense. You could even say that’s what has propagated the arts. And so it makes me wonder whether I’m not just another nutcase who secretly loves the lifestyle.

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* Yes, I know all about how martial arts don’t prepare you for the street and how it’s a foolish mistake to think the dojo/dojang/daoshang is at all like a real-life confrontation. I’m only illustrating that we take training seriously.

Fortune favors the bold (and all that good stuff)

Posted in death, Fighting, karma, Mysticism, Paganism, Philosophy, society, Uncategorized, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2008 by wizardsmoke

No matter whether life is painful, pleasurable, boring,or exciting, one idea that has always stood out to me goes something like this: “a man not sacrificed is a worthless man.” It’s an idea that strikes me as being somewhat “pagan” in its grasp, this idea that one’s self-sacrifice is one’s greatest reason to live. In pagan cultures it seems like people are/were the children/food for their gods, and so their self-sacrifice is a completely natural goal. It is a foreign concept to us, as it does tread on all of these sensitive boundaries of self-righteousness and crazed self-attachment which most contemporary people abide by. Yet in nature, isn’t the male the one who is only temporarily necessary (via fertilization) for life to go on?

It’s a bit cheesy to be specific like this, but sometimes it’s all as Ogami Itto says at the end of one of the Lone Wolf & Cub films: [the purpose of a samurai’s life is] “to live to die.” Cheesy and extreme, but that’s kind of it, really. What right do the living have to be alive if they are not willing to give their lives? Another conundrum of the ego: one lives to give one’s life. One seeks to escape oneself but lives in fear of doing so. I think the message is a good one, though the application in traditional samurai-era budo is rather… dramatic.

A while back I mentioned an interview with the Japanese film director, Masahiro Shinoda, where he explains his perspective that the real losers in war are those survivors who have to go on living with blood on their hands. It’s an interesting world-view in the modern world. In embracing war (and life, and romance, and sex, and violence, and everything) comes a deluded, necessary sense of purpose or finality. It is frightening, because often one’s purpose, particularly in war, actually has nothing to do with survival. Often people who are devoid of a purpose, or are continually enamored of one, have not sacrificed themselves for something any greater than their fleeting personal desires. And that brings to mind some things I’m always thinking, like how it is sometimes more painful to live in shame than mere physical pain. Goals and living are not necessarily synonymous.

These ideas are not particularly lucrative in a free-market economic system. But honestly, if the more common denominators of the populace could handle considering these things more often, maybe our common goals would be more meaningful. Not necessarily more organized or efficient — that’s what crazy fat-cats are already trying to achieve. But I mean to say, by living with a willingness to die, some of the important things in life reveal themselves.

It’s funny. In a country like China, those top-dogs for the AIG and all those morgage firms — those guys who almost single-handedly destroyed the world economy through their cult-like, childish, Ayn-Randian arrogance — they probably would’ve been shot in a show of public faith and party-line routine. I’m not a party-line proponent, but I don’t know if that would be horribly extreme given their criminal goals. After all, if someone beats another person nearly to death, don’t they go to jail for 5+ years in the USA? Might it not be worse to financially ruin millions of people because of your own deliriously sick private interests? Indeed, only the rich misunderstand these things. “He who has been harmed by you, knows you.”

Because their acts were so shameful, it would be deceitful to demand of them to go on living in the aftermath of their actions. Truly, their shame should have gotten the best of them. They are the losers of their own hand and should be punished by that. And yet, not only is there no punishment for them, they fail to be consciously affected by the ugly shame they’ll live with from now on. The emptiness that comes from greed seems to render one impervious to shame.