The Zen Martial Artist

  • You've probably read accounts of Zen monks possessing remarkable levels of concentration, discipline and focus.
  • And you probably know that the samurai, the world’s most feared and respected fighters, also practiced Zen.
  • And, of course, it would be hard to find a martial artist who isn't at least a bit intrigued by the potential benefits of zazen (seated Zen meditation).
  • But as martial artists (practical and results oriented) we do have to ask ourselves "Are the benefits of Zen meditation real and will they help me in my particular art?"

First, because the samurai consistently practiced Zen, we must acknowledge that it was very important to them. It was probably a matter keeping their sanity while at the same time a matter of life and death. But we are now approaching 150 years after the last of the samurai. And we should now want to know "Is the Zen Martial Artist still relevant today?" And to answer that for yourself, check out this video ...

So, Zen training was relevant to the samurai and is relevant to the GI. But what about its relevance to a martial arts student? I've studied both Zen and the martial arts for over 25 years. Here's how Zen practice can help you.

It's a timeless, universal dilemma for any martial artist:

What's the biggest impediment in any martial arts encounter?

The answer is, of course ... thinking. When you are thinking (planning, scheming), you are slow and late and clumsy. And when you do move, you find that your opponent has moved on - the opening has closed. Practice helps, no question. But practice can only shorten the time it takes to 'seeing' an opening and responding. It can never make it go to zero! I know you've experienced it ... an opening and a response without thinking, without hesitation and you ask yourself how it happened and why can't it always be that way?

And what's the second biggest impediment to a martial artist?

This answer ... 'looking'. When you are 'looking' at someone's hands you can't 'see' his feet. When you are 'looking' at someone's eyes you are trapped by them and don't 'see' either hands or feet (or the other opponent circling behind you). How is it that we so easily attach to our opponent's hands, feet, eyes or how easily we get lost in responding to just a single attacker?

And so what's the solution?

You already know - don't think and don't 'look'. Simple in concept, but near impossible to accomplish on your own. And yet at the heart of Zen training! When you have 'conquered yourself', there is no need to think, no need to look, the 'tiger has no place to bite'.

Both Hands Clapping … Zen and the Art of Aikido

It is my firm belief that every serious martial artist should also practice Zen (sit zazen). And here at BHC, we combine Zen practice with our Aikido training in every class. If you are absolutely new to Aikido, check out the About Aikido page.

If you'd like to explore the ultimate - Zen practice and Aikido instruction, then consider Both Hands Clapping. We accept new students four times a year. You can follow this link for more information. Upcoming Classes If you already have Aikido experience and would be interested in seeing how Zen can be incorporated into your practice, check out our Zen and Aikido Open Mat Sunday.

We are happy to have you come observe a class, You can also e-mail me with any questions or comments. You can receive our weekly newsletter and / or updates of all our upcoming classes by subscribing here.

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