Martial Arts all share basically the same idea,
– that is, to either defend yourself from someone, or physically attack that person.
… and many of them have no connection to any kind of meditation practice.
In the West however, we tend to think of martial arts as being those that originated and were developed in the East.
Many of which DO have some kind of meditation as part of their systems.
In other parts of the world however, there are forms of ‘Martial Arts’ that we would almost want to give another name to – for example –
Capoeira – which is an almost vicious form of attack and defense that requires a great deal of flexibility and endurance, and originated in Brazil.
Another similar Brazilian one is Jiu Jitsu, which has its original roots in Japanese Karate.
Kapap – which is a form of fierce close combat developed for the Israeli Special Armed Forces.
San Chou – which is a similar system used by the Chinese armed forces.
Loosely then, we could argue that most forms of fighting, – boxing, wrestling, fencing, archery and so on, are all forms of ‘Martial Arts.’
However, they do not use meditation – as such – in their training.
Therefore, as far as we are concerned, with our interest and connection with meditation,
… we shall only be talking more about the Eastern Martial Art systems that do use meditation as part of their training.
There are several that more or less all use similar techniques -using the hands, elbows, shoulders, feet, knees, hips and head – as tools for punching, kicking, throwing, pinning or joint locking techniques.
These would include;- Kung Fu, Karate, Judo, Tae-Kwando, Aikido, Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing), and a few other similar but less well known styles.
These more traditional forms all use some type of meditation in their practice.
In previous times they also taught things such as bone setting, acupuncture, acupressure, and elements of traditional Chinese Medicine – but this is becoming less common than before.
However, they all still are very much involved in teaching a correct ‘code of behavior’ – and improving self confidence, mental discipline, development of character and suppression of aggression.
(If you see any of the “Karate Kid” movies, this is emphasized very well).
A few of the Eastern Martial Arts use separate things as weapons, other than just the body like in Judo – for example Kendo, Ninjutsu and Kenjutsu – it is interesting to consider how some of these originated –
The Origins of the Eastern Martial Arts
In ancient times, in the era of the Samurai warriors (as shown in the picture on the left), – for some considerable time – it was forbidden for the ordinary people to carry ‘weapons’ of any kind.
Obviously they were not happy with this, so three things followed as a result.
The first was that the ordinary people, who were for the most part farmers or manual workers,
– began to develop techniques of attack and defense.
– using their ordinary, everyday ‘tools of the trade,’
– for example, sickles, soybean flails, bullwhips, fans, walking sticks and so on.
They slowly developed very efficient fighting skills, in effect – Martial Arts – using their bodies and these everyday objects,
… which of course they could not be prevented from using as they were the ‘tools of the trade !
Over time there were enough skilled fighters using each type of tool that they developed secret schools to pass their knowledge along to others.
– In an effort to defend themselves against either the (often hated) Samurai, or else the Warlords.
These secret schools slowly developed into the different martial art systems that we have today !
Secondly – Another input to this knowledge was from the Samurai themselves.
Occasionally it would occur that a Samurai lost favor with the particular Warlord or Shogun who was employing him.
… and if he was unable to get a job with another Warlord,
… then it sometimes happened that he would teach his Samurai skills to anyone who would pay him to do so.
So these skills were also added to the ordinary peoples’ armory.
And thirdly, another kind of fighting skill developed, about in the 14th century,
….from rebel groups of ordinary people, or sometimes criminals, who for some reason or another, were being hunted by the Samurai.
They knew that if they were caught they would be instantly killed.
Therefore they formed groups and hid, and slowly discovered very clever ways of camouflage and concealment.
– and became experts at disguise and stealth, and also how to carry specially designed weapons that were easy to hide under their clothes.
You probably guessed by now that I am talking about the Ninjas,
(their Martial Art system is called Ninjutsu),
… and although to begin with they were formed to fight against the Samurai,
… after a time they became almost like small mercenary armies that could also be hired by the Samurai.
They were hired to carry out one or more of the following –
… to act as scouts or reconnaissance units,
… to perform sabotage,
… or to be used as assassins – killing by very stealthy means that included poisons and very specialized weapons.
Some of the Ninjutsu techniques are still being taught to Special Forces and Special Operations Groups that many countries have today.
The Ninjas also developed a very clever and unique form of communication.
They carried grains of uncooked rice of different colors, where each combination of colors had a different message.
(For example one green, one red and one black grain together could mean – ‘Retreat quietly and reform at the base camp’)
These messages could be either handed from one Ninja to another when absolute silence was essential,
… or else left in a prominent spot so the Ninjas who were following could see them and understand the message.
The original Ninjutsu as such, although it is still being taught, has not got the popularity of many of the other Martial Arts.
( Ninja Turtles don’t count !!!)
Popularity of Martial Arts
Similarly, talking about the popularity of martial arts, it is as well to realize that part of the decline in use and popularity of martial arts – results from the weakening in their usefulness as a fighting method.
In a war nowadays, people are much more likely to face a ‘long distance’ weapon such as a gun, rather than be involved in close combat – as was the case previously in history.
Therefore the main use nowadays, especially in the West, is as a system of mental and physical training.
Martial arts have become a sport, or method of general fitness training.
As we now see – many types are now included as suitable for inclusion as events in the Olympic Games.
(Traditionally, in Ancient Greece – wrestling was always included as a very important sport in the Olympic Games)
All of the Eastern martial art forms stress a strict moral code, high physical fitness and mental calmness as parts of their teaching, with the actual aspects of its use in war being of less importance nowadays.
For these reasons, a lot of martial art forms that were in use in the past in history, have been lost – as they are no longer relevant in our modern world – with ‘death from a distance.’
Meditation and Martial Arts
So, rather as we saw with the previous page where we talked about Yoga,
… the Active Physical Activity of each martial art is carried out at the same time as the particular Meditation that is associated with it.
This is often in the form of breathing meditations, where a punch or a kick is delivered with a strong sudden breath out, often with a sound in the form of a shout.
Sometimes this is also coupled with visualizations of all of the energy of the body being concentrated at the point of contact.
This has the effect of directing all the available force into the punch or kick or whatever, so that the power behind it can be magnified many times.
We all have seen examples on T.V. where a Karate master – or someone similar – breaks through 10 bricks with one chop of his hand !
This martial art’s ability probably is not very valuable anymore in time of war – but still has great importance as a way of developing self discipline, physical fitness and mental calm.
Most martial arts systems train using a standard set of exercises that are repeated daily. These have different names depending on the particular style – for example KATA, FORM, KUEN and so on.
Usually these training forms are performed alone, but in some systems they are done with a partner.
As was the case with Yoga, in martial arts it is difficult to separate the meditation from the exercise – they are both taught as a unit together, so in the same way as with yoga it is impossible to give you an online demonstration.
You would have to do that with a teacher (called a Sifu or Guru or Sensei or some other name depending on the kind of martial art considered).
As there are so many different schools worldwide nowadays, it is very easy to go to one and observe what it is all about – they all welcome visitors.
Therefore, instead of an online meditation example, I have decided to share something else with you that has been a part of the Aikido system – although it is not from the ‘mainstream’ martial arts typical teachings.
(The symbol on the left means AIKIDO in Chinese Kanji script)
This is from a more advanced sub-branch, that is more ‘esoteric’ in nature,
…(‘esoteric’ meaning confidential or secret or sometimes meaning theoretical – but without obvious practical application).
This is called ‘Energy Scanning’ and can be quite a difficult technique for many people, especially those who are not vegetarians.
This is because meat and fish are both very Yang foods (see Yin and Yang later in the section about Tai Chi), and such foods tend to make people that eat them be less aware of subtle energy differences.
Let’s give it a try anyway, and see if it works for you ! If you cannot get results with it, then try again a few times, and make your attempts at times when –
….1. You are not tired,
….2. When you have not had any alcohol or drugs of any kind for at least eight hours beforehand,
… and 3. You are not full with food – it will work much better on an empty stomach than a full one !
O.K. – the First part— let’s start !
(It doesn’t matter if you are sitting or standing, in fact it is usually done standing)
Place your hands in front of you, with your arms bent, your hands facing each other, and about body width apart – palm to palm – and fingers outstretched – almost in the same position you would use when you are describing to someone how big the fish you caught was ! –
…..Then…briskly rub your hands together for a few minutes – palm to palm.
…..now put your hands back to the position (palm to palm – about 12 inches apart) that we placed them first of all….
Then gently close your eyes…..try to relax as much as you can…..take about 10 very slow, very deep breaths
….and then…very very slowly….bring your hands towards each other…keeping them parallel to each other…and focus your attention on – ‘the space between your hands’ –
slowly slowly bring them together….and all the time concentrating on the space between them
….and when they are somewhere between 3 to 1 inches apart, you may notice a difference in the ‘feel’ of the space between them….it is almost as if the space suddenly becomes more dense or something –
Move them further apart a little, and then slowly back together again to the same position….to make sure of what you were feeling, and where it is with regards to the distance of the separation between your hands –
Do this several times, until you are sure of what you are feeling….play around with it a bit…try it with different parts of your body…and maybe try it with a partner…to see where you can feel it in relation to their hands –
…Notice that the distance varies sometimes between one person and another
… Do this at least once daily, for at least five days, until you are quite comfortable with it, before moving on to the next step below.
Try this using a book or a piece of wood instead of one of your hands, so that you are bringing the other one hand towards it in the same way…you cannot feel this energy difference !
Similarly, heat a piece of wood or something ( maybe in a microwave oven for about 20 seconds), let it cool until it is about the same as skin temperature, and try again…you cannot feel it in the same way !
So it is not just the heat we are feeling.
What you are feeling here is the ‘Energy Field’ that surrounds every one of us.
Try this using a book instead of one of your hands, or a piece of wood…what do you feel? Nothing !!
This energy field can be detected and measured by using an electrical instrument called a Galvanometer, which finds the same things,
– and also that this field is stronger in some people than others,
… especially people who are physically and mentally strong and fit, and/or who are spiritually advanced.
This energy field actually extends out from our bodies a long way, but rather like light or heat, it rapidly becomes weaker and weaker the further away from the body it is.
However, if you do the above exercise with your hands for a few days, then the palms of the hands become much more sensitive to this energy – and can ‘pick it up’ even at a distance.
To demonstrate this, in the Second Part of this exercise, you need a partner to work with.
Explain to your partner in advance what you are trying to do –
…. in a room that is as empty of furniture as possible, your partner is to go to anywhere that they choose in the room, and just stand there as quietly as possible.
Meanwhile, just outside the room, and with the door closed, put on a pair of headphones or ear plugs or something, so that you cannot hear anything – and wear an eye shield or blindfold, so that you cannot see anything.
Just stand and relax for a few moments, taking deep slow breaths…. and briskly rub the palms of your hands together…then, when you feel ready…open the door and stop just inside the room..and close the door behind you…turn and face the room and then –
….hold your hands open at chest height, with both palms facing straight ahead away from you, fingers pointing upwards, and arms comfortably bent at the elbows
….and slowly swing your body to your left..then slowly all around to your right
…and imagine that the palms of your hands both together are acting like a searchlight… that is shining straight ahead to wherever you are facing –
….try to see if any one place ‘feels different’ from the others…. swing slowly back and forth from left to right several times, each time more slowly….then if you are convinced that you feel a difference in one particular place…then take off your blindfold !
Lo and behold ! ….more often than not, you will be pointing straight at your partner !
Because you were blindfolded and your ears blocked – you could not have seen or heard them….the only other explanation is that you ‘Sensed their Energy.’
If this doesn’t work for you the first time, don’t give up. The first time that I was taught this, many years ago – it took me about 5 times before I was able to do it with any accuracy.
As long as the first part – feeling the energy between your hands – works for you…then the second part will also work for you with a bit of practice.
Neat Eh ?!! Not really of a lot of practical use to us, but an interesting experiment all the same, don’t you agree ?
Now that we have pretty well covered all of the martial arts, we will move on to Active Meditation #3 that looks at those forms that use dancing, walking or running as a tool.
I hope that you found the experiment above interesting…but as I tried to stress to you… do not be at all concerned if you didn’t get results
….this was NOT meditation and not really mainstream martial arts, it was just an interesting experiment for you to try along the way !
Click to go to Yoga and Meditation – Active Meditation 1
Click to go to Meditation and Dance – Active Meditation 3
Click to go to Pain and Meditation – Active Meditation 4
Click to go to Buddhism – Passive Meditation 1
Click to go to Tibetan Buddhism and Tantra – Passive meditation 2
Click to go to Zen Meditation – Passive Meditation 3
Click to go to Jainism and meditation – Passive meditation 4
Click to go to Other Religions and Meditation – Passive Meditation 5
Click to go to Mantras – Passive Meditation 6
Click to go to Mandalas – Passive Meditation 7
Click to go to Tai Chi and Chi Gung – In Between Meditations 1
Click to go to Taoism – In Between Meditations 2
Click to go to Sounds and Meditation – Sounds 1