Vacation is a wonderful time to kick back and contemplate. I just returned from a rather enjoyable session this past week. Activities included hanging out in Miami enjoying the sun and sand, trying to clarify my thoughts of what I’m trying to convey about “Integralizing” Martial Arts, and how those thoughts could be made more useful to those involved with teaching and studying their respective “Ways”. The focus of these meditations was a simple question: What evidence is there that people have used (or are using) Martial Arts for spiritual development, and how far back does it go?
History was never my best subject, but I did find some pretty definitive evidence going back centuries. One of the most famous examples was from a series of letters written by a Japanese monk named Takuan Soho to a samurai friend of his where they discussed the spiritual aspects of swordsmanship. Beyond technique, Takuan talked about mindset, and even in his own way he talked about Spirit and Oneness after the Buddhist fashion of the time. That got me thinking a little more about samurai, so I checked out Miyamoto Mushashi’s book on his personal Martial Art. As one of the greatest swordsman who ever lived, Musashi believed that his Way was not only about fighting, although fighting was a significant part of it if not the very core manifestation. Musashi’s Way was one of getting to know the Self, and using the art and other arts to further the depth of knowledge a person has of his or her own interiority and the outside world together as One.
Having two good examples from the 1600’s, I wondered more about modern times and if anyone published thoughts on Martial Arts and spiritual development. There is a fair amount written on that subject. Gichin Funakoshi’s book comes to mind, where he tells about his Way and the history behind it. Funakoshi believed that karate was a method for living a lifestyle and improving the self, and not just a way to improve fighting skill. Another book I read last week was by Joe Hyams, who studied with Ed Park and Bruce Lee and had many anecdotes about how karate improved and even saved his life outside of class in normal every day life. This book resonated with me because it was the first one I found that had applicable modern lessons that I myself remember learning in the dojo and applying outside.
With all this material, however, something is missing for me. There’s something left to do yet. The basis for using Martial Arts for personal and spiritual development is definitely there! It has a rich history. However, it is not Integral. In order to be Integral, something has to honor or take into account AQAL. Interestingly, Martial Arts does take into account a good bit of AQAL already. Books on spiritual and personal development in the martial arts cover the 1st Quadrant (UL) pretty well. Books on fighting and technique cover the UR Quadrant. Some of Musashi’s writings even talk about how one relates to an opponent, which is very much a LL Quadrant phenomenon. There are even books on the business of martial arts and how to distribute them to students more effectively, which covers the LR Quadrant. All these perspectives are represented, and there are many “Lines” you can pursue in the Martial Arts which are all covered by books: grappling, breaking, chi development, kata, etc. What’s missing is clarification on States and Stages and organization.
Honestly the literature is a mishmosh. It is like the literature on Psychology and Evolutionary Biology before Ken Wilber organized and made sense of it. There is also little to no talk of Stages and how Martial Arts look differently depending on vantage point. Additionally, there is almost no talk of how States, i.e. meditation, work into the equation and how they change with Stage, e.g. the Wilber-Combs Matrix. I feel this is what is needed here. Even in religious institutions, there is little accounting for Stages. Ken Wilber is writing a book called The Fourth Turning, which talks about how Buddhism which traditionally acknowledges its own evolution is expected to leap again to a format where Stages, States, and other discoveries are more properly incorporated. As with Buddhism, I do not feel this has been done yet with Martial Arts.
So there we have it. I see a clearer mission now of what has to be explained. There are also two other perspectives to deal with: teacher and student. Conveying this to teachers so they can distribute it to their own students is a different task than developing a program for individual students to work through. I am in the process of doing both through my own class in Ridley, PA (for students) and through my writing (for teachers).