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The Martial Arts and Buddhist Philosophy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 August 2013

Graham Priest*
Affiliation:
Departments of Philosophy, Universities of Melbourne, St Andrews, and the Graduate Center, City University of New Yorkg.priest@unimelb.edu.au

Extract

My topic concerns the martial arts – or at least the East Asian martial arts, such as karatedo, taekwondo, kendo, wushu. To what extent what I have to say applies to other martial arts, such as boxing, silat, capoeira, I leave as an open question. I will illustrate much of what I have to say with reference to karatedo, since that is the art with which I am most familiar; but I am sure that matters are much the same with other East Asian martial arts.

Type
Papers
Copyright
Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy and the contributors 2013 

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References

1 A brief autobiographical note: I have been practicing karatedo now for well over 20 years. I am 4th dan in Shitoryu (Yoshukan) and a 3rd dan in Karatedo Shobukai. I am also an Australian national kumite referee and kata judge. I have trained for substantial periods of time at dojo in Australia, Japan, the US, and the UK (the dojo in the last two countries being with styles other than my own).

2 Karate has traditionally been passed on by direct transmission of practice. There are hardly any written records before the 20th century. Good (objective and reliable) histories of karate are therefore hard to find. One of the most authoritative I know is Bishop, M., Okinawan Karate, revised edition (Boston, MA: Tuttle Publishing, 1999)Google Scholar.

3 Some styles of karate allow full-contact competition, which is obviously more realistic than ‘non-contact’ forms. But even in these, certain techniques are forbidden as too dangerous. Sporting competition was never a part of traditional karate.

4 See King, W., Zen and the Way of the Sword (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1993)Google Scholar. On Musashi specifically, see the last chapter of his Book of Five Rings, The Book of Emptiness’. (Cleary, T. (tr.), The Book of Five Rings (Boston: Shambhala, 1993)Google Scholar.)

5 See Cleary, T. (tr.), Soul of the Samurai (North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publications, 2005)Google Scholar.

6 Such as such as Hyams, J., Zen in the Martial Arts (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1982)Google Scholar.

7 See, e.g, Funakoshi, G., The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate (Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd., 2003Google Scholar).

8 Historically, there are many political connections between Buddhist institutions and state power, including military power. (For a survey, see Harvey, P., An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 264–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The dynamics of power-structures makes this anything but puzzling.

9 See, e.g., Harvey, P., An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 69CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

10 It is clear why martial practitioners might want to receive advice concerning certain Buddhist mental practices. These can have effects that improve fighting, as we will note in due course. However, that hardly explains why a Buddhist should want to give such advice.

11 Some can be found in Layton, C., ‘The Personality of Black-Belt and Non-Black-Belt Traditional Karateka’, Perceptual and Motor Skills 67 (1988): 218Google Scholar; Layton, C., ‘Anxiety in Black-Belt and Non-Black-Belt Traditional Karateka’, Perceptual and Motor Skills, 71 (1990): 905–6Google Scholar; Nosanchuck, T., ‘The Way of the Warrior: the Effects of Traditional Martial Arts Training on Aggressiveness’, Human Relations 34 (1981): 435–44Google Scholar; Nosanchuck, T. and MacNeil, L. M. C., ‘Examination of the Effects of Traditional and Modern Martial Arts Training on Aggressiveness’, Aggressive Behavior 15 (1989): 153–9Google Scholar; Rothpearl, A., ‘Personality Traits in Martial Artists: a Descriptive Approach’, Perceptual and Motor Skills 50 (1980): 391401Google Scholar.

12 See, e.g., the anecdote in Hyams, J., Zen in the Martial Arts (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1982), 131–3Google Scholar.

13 For a light-hearted expression of the idea, see Priest, G., ‘An Interview with Bodhidharma’, ch. 2 of Priest, G. and Young, D. (eds), Martial Arts and Philosophy (Chicago, IL: Open Court, 2010)Google Scholar.

14 On the variety of Buddhisms, see Mitchell, D., Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002Google Scholar).

15 On the following, see, e.g., Siderits, M., Buddhism as Philosophy (Farnham: Ashgate, 2007), chs. 2, 3Google Scholar.

16 See his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part X.

17 Which is not to say that the person does not exist, any more than that the car does not exist – though some Buddhist schools, notably the early Abhidharma schools, do endorse the thought that a partite object does not have the same reality as its ultimate parts.

18 One can find views similar to this in various Hellentistic philosophies, such as Stoicism and Epicureanism. See, e.g., Irwin, T., Classical Thought (A History of Western Philosophy: 1) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), chs. 8, 9Google Scholar.

19 See, e.g., Koller, J. M., Asian Philosophies (4th edn.) (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002), ch. 12Google Scholar, or Mitchell, D., Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), ch. 2Google Scholar.

20 Note that determination is not the same as attachment. The former is a resolute decision to act in a certain way. The latter is about the attitude one has to the results of our actions when things go right or wrong.

21 See, e.g., Leaman, O., Key Concepts in Eastern Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1999), 200 ffGoogle Scholar.

22 Though of course there may be some Buddhist practitioners who also teach a martial art, and who talk their students about Buddhist ideas. Thus, see Furuya, K., Kodo: Ancient Ways: Lessons in the Spiritual Ways of the Warrior/Martial Artist (Santa Clarita, CA: Ohara Publications, 1996)Google Scholar.

23 See, e.g., Keown, D., Dictionary of Buddhism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 296Google Scholar.

24 See, e.g., Welter, A., ‘Mahākāśyapa's Smile: Silent Transmission and the Kung-an (Kōan) Tradition’, Heine, S. and Wright, D. S. (eds), The Kōan: Texts and Contexts in Zen Buddhism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 75109Google Scholar.

25 On the importance of respect in the martial arts, see Young, D., ‘Bowing to Your Enemies: Courtesy, Budo and Japan’, Philosophy East and West 59 (2009): 188215Google Scholar; and, for a more light-hearted account, Young, D., ‘Pleased to Beat You’ ch. 1 of Priest, G. and Young, D. (eds), Martial Arts and Philosophy (Chicago, IL: Open Court, 2010)Google Scholar.

26 See, e.g., Funakoshi, G., The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate (Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd., 2003), 23 ffGoogle Scholar. On the theme of violence, Buddhism, and the martial arts, see Mortensen, C., ‘Budo for Buddhists’, ch. 14 of Priest, G. and Young, D. (eds), Martial Arts and Philosophy (Chicago, IL: Open Court, 2010)Google Scholar.

27 See Keown, D., Dictionary of Buddhism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 62Google Scholar.

28 See, e.g., Hahn, T. N., The Long Road Turns to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation (Berkeley, CA; Parallax Press, 1996)Google Scholar. Indeed, some Zen Buddhist masters, such as Hakuin, held kneeling meditation to be somewhat useless. See Kasulis, T. P., Zen Action Zen Person (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press, 1981), 111Google Scholar.

29 As described by Takuan Sōhō in his letters of advice. See the translations in Cleary, T. (tr.), Soul of the Samurai (North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publications, 2005)Google Scholar. For a light-hearted commentary, see Finnegan, B. and Tanaka, K., ‘Don't Think! Just Act!’, ch. 3 of Priest, G. and Young, D. (eds), Martial Arts and Philosophy (Chicago, IL: Open Court, 2010)Google Scholar. A more extensive discussion of mushin can be found in Herrigal, E., Zen and the Art of Archery (New York, NY: Random House, 1981)Google Scholar. The similarity between Zen and the martial arts, in that both require unmediated response, rather that premeditated action, is noted by Kasulis, T. P., Zen Action Zen Person (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press, 1981), 121Google Scholar.

30 See Kasulis, T. P., Zen Action Zen Person (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press, 1981), 122Google Scholar.

31 Nichomachean Ethics, Book 2, Ch. 1.

32 A version of this paper was given under the title ‘Karatedo and Buddhism’, at the Royal Institute of Philosophy, London, October 2011, in their series of lectures on Philosophy and Sport. I am grateful to the audience there for their helpful comments. I am grateful, also, to two anonymous referees for their comments, and, especially, to Damon Young for his.