Long ago, in another age, somewhere far from here, people found a way to keep themselves strong and alert. As they practiced and refined and used their art to good effect, it spread. It was referred to by many names over the years. The names changed. The technique evolved.
In China, in the mountains and in the villages, on the grasslands and farmland, at the coast and across the open ocean to the islands. It was shared and adapted to fit the life of the people who learned it.
People learned it. They trained hard. They used it and made the most of it. They made it their own. Some were great practitioners and grand masters, most were people who wanted to keep alive if they were threatened, and to live a good life.
I have found martial arts training to be valuable every day. Not just in case of emergency, but as a practice that makes your body feel good and strong, makes your mind sharp and keeps you aware of life’s limitless possibility, of freedom.
I traveled and studied with teachers and practitioners all over. Some were great. Some had tremendous gifts and have offered them generously. Some wanted to take advantage of the students. You learn, as we all do as we grow up, to take responsibility for yourself. To take up what is healthy and avoid what is harmful, as appealing as it may be.
Many of the martial arts teachers I studied with in Okinawa and Japan were interested in Zen. Some were monks or accomplished meditators. Some united the two kinds of practice. I no longer practice in the Zen tradition. For about 20 years I wrote a regular column on fightingarts.com, and articles for other publications which were distributed around the internet and in print magazines which were framed in terms of Zen practice and Buddhism.
As we go deeper into practice and further into life we draw on many streams of experience: physical techniques, ideas, cultures, environments, institutions and others. As we learn and change we make new discoveries.
We derive nourishment from the great discoveries from other times and places, and get the benefit of all the sincere hard work the ancient masters did. But we should not allow ourselves to be bound by the errors of the past.
As we practice together we will bring the ancient legacy into real life.
Post by J. Michael Brooks
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