Luisa M. Godshaw
Presented to Shihan Paul M. Godshaw
November 14, 2008
Mission Viejo, CA
(Before I make my presentation tonight, I pay homage to Mr. Ivan and to all of those that came before us.)
Any conflict, whether it takes place within the body and mind or outside of them is always a battle against the self.
This evening I am going to approach the concept and the kinship between Zen and the Martial Arts. Both Zen and the Martial Arts can lead us toward the spirit of the way.
As many of you know, Japan has a long history of importing, synthesizing and recreating aspects of other cultures, a practice that continues to this day. The primary source of such cultural borrowing in Japan’s early history was China, whose civilization existed for centuries at a high level hardly seen in other parts of Asia. Chinese religions and spirituality had an immense impact on Japanese society and the Ways of Japan. Chinese religious development is marked by diversity and was heavily influenced by native as well as Indian beliefs. This diversity can be found in the multiform tradition known in the West as Taoism. Taoism is based on the concept of the Tao. Most basically, TAO means “THE WAY”. It is said that Taoist philosophy was established by Lao-Tsu (literally meaning “Old Master”), who is believed to have lived during the fifth century B.C. He is believed to be the compiler of the Tao Te Ching, or the Classic of the Way and its Power.
Taoism stresses universal harmony and natural action rather than magical rites for personal or material gain. In Japan, Taoism is known as Dokyo, and this same character is the DO used in the names of the Japanese Ways. Do is the Japanese pronunciation of Tao and KYO, “TEACHINGS’. Do means ‘the way’.
So like many aspects of Chinese culture that were brought to old Japan, Tao teachings now referred to as Dokyo in Japan gradually influenced Japanese society and arts as well as Chinese Buddhism which also bore a Taoist influence.
The Dokyo philosophy of going with the flow and the Confucian concepts of etiquette, respect and a devotion to tradition and learning are concepts emerged not so much as a distinct religion, but as ideals applied to everyday life.
Confucianism was the primary moral and ethical tradition in China. And along with Buddhism and a writing system, Confucianism was a cultural artifact the Japanese imported from China in a big way. And, whereas Taoism has a relation to Confucianism it has avoided being absorbed by this major tradition, with which it has coexisted for generations.
In the sixth century, a sect of Zen Buddhism originated in India. Its originator is generally considered to be the monk BODHIDHARMA (DARUMA IN JAPANESE). And it is said that shortly after establishing Zen, in about A.D. 520, he left for China.
The word “Zen” is the equivalent of Chinese “ch’an” which in turn comes from the Sanskrit Dhyana. Though they started using new words to describe ZEN, the concept had been around for much longer than when it was introduced to India. Ancient Greece had similar if not the same exact concepts. Zen, a Japanese school of philosophy was modified in Japan by the influence of the SHINTOISM. Shintoism regards The Sacred and The Divine in everything… Every living and nonliving thing.
Zen has no central or core theory. Zen emphasizes simplicity and self control, full awareness at every moment, and tranquility in the face of death. Zen puts the accent on intuitive knowledge (Satori), reached gradually or suddenly through the practice of Zazen.
ZAZEN, literally means: SITTING ZEN. ZAZEN IS THE CLASSIC FORM OF ZEN MEDIATION. ZEN displays total indifference towards all ritual aspects of religion such as: statues, images, ceremonies, etc., but values seeing the nature in all things and in realizing one’s own nature.
‘YOU MUST CONCENTRATE UPON AND CONSECRATE YOURSELF WHOLLY TO EACH DAY, AS THOUGH A FIRE WERE RAGING IN YOUR HAIR.”
This last thought/philosophy set well with the Bushi (martial artists) and Samurai (those who serve), this long-unwritten code was designed to guide the warrior in navigating the complex, often bloody, political and social turf of Japanese feudal society. These words of instruction may have been given to a medieval samurai by a Zen master. A duel was always possible and the difference between life and death lay in one swift stroke of the sword.
To practice Zen, or martial arts, you must live intensely, wholeheartedly, without reserve---as if you might die in the next instant. Lacking this sort of commitment and mere ritual and the martial arts devolve into mere sports.
Modern martial arts such as kendo, karatedo, judo and aikido go back directly to the marriage of Zen and Bushido, the medieval chivalry code of the samurai. Bushido means “the way of the warrior”. Budo means “the way of war”. But the Japanese character bu, also means to cease the struggle, to
Sheathe the sword. So the emphasis in Budo is not on bu but on do. Moreover, DO may have a deeper meaning, if you allow yourself to delve into fully. DO the way is essentially more than just competition, or winning, it is to be and do your best each and everyday. Furthermore, great Zen masters speak of DO and never employ the word Zen, which is largely a Western usage.
You might question if certain specifics are necessary to reach/feel Zen as a martial artist. The answer is yes. As practitioners of budo, a thorough knowledge of waza is useful. When, we begin, we repeat waza, over and over, and kata, not only forms, but also the 'form' of our behavior over and over. We repeat them endlessly until waza and kata become a habit, a second nature and at the same time developing physical strength and making the body (tai) stronger. KATA, not only being the practice of forms, but proper behavior: how we bow, how we eat, how we maintain ourselves and our homes.
During this time, the concept most useful to us is that, through hard training and a continuing desire to deepen our awareness, we can develop a clearer perception of “Do”.
TRUTH CANNOT BE FOUND WHERE SELF-DECEPTION EXISTS; THOSE WHO SEARCH THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF SINCERETY WILL FIND THEIR GOAL.
The over concern of our attention and the fatigue that comes with hard training helps us to overcome obstacles to clarity created by our personal beliefs or biases. The onslaught of attacks in sparring session overloads our senses, forcing us to release our grip on the mundane, and to assimilate sensory input without engaging the analytical mind. When we have trained properly, we react with more accurate and effective responses. What would be more Zen would be to perceive the supposed onslaught as nothing at all, and react without hesitation. This is why it is so important, just as Shihan reminds us in our daily training; every attack should be as if life were at stake, even in ippon kumite.
“Mizu no kokoro” A MIND LIKE WATER, THE CURRENT OF EXISTENCE!
As we achieve technique (if you practice for a few decades) and continue to develop physical strength and mind, it is SHIN---MIND that really matters. Yes, the body must be well formed and we have moments when we feel as though we are watching ourselves performing from the outside. We are aware of what we are doing, but do not feel involved in it. Somehow, the motions are executing themselves, which is probably what led the ancient martial artist to attribute such actions to a divine source.
But it is SHIN, mind-intuition that is needed to use the body and technique correctly; it is the mind that will prevail, because it will find the weak point.
Shin, is the strong internal awareness that enables the martial artist to become alert to her or his external surroundings. From the heart, to feel what is being felt, from the bones, to move in the rhythm of what’s happening in each moment; from the very bloodstream, to let right action flow from what’s truly needed now.
Remember in the Japanese martial arts of long ago, one motion meant death, and that was the reason for the great deliberation and concentration in movements preceding attack.
ONE STROKE AND IT’S OVER; ONE DEAD MAN—SOMETIMES TWO, IF THERE WERE STROKES AND BOTH WERE AS THEY SHOULD BE. IT all happens in a flash. And in that flash the mind decides, technique and body follow. Today in modern sports there is a pause, but in the martial arts there is no pause. If you wait, ever so little, you’re lost; your opponent gets the advantage. The mind must be constantly concentrated on the whole situation, ready to act or react, that is why SHIN is most important.
All of us here tonight know there is no choosing of one technique. It happens unconsciously, automatically, naturally. There can be no thought, because if there is a thought, there is a time of thought and flaw. For the right movement to occur there must be permanent, totally alert awareness, of the entire situation; that awareness chooses the right technique and the body will execute it, and it’s all over.
It is difficult to make categories about the order of importance of shin, wasa, tai. They have to be united, not separate. It is the perfect union of the three that creates the right action; not their separation. Complete unity.
Now, along with SHIN, WASA, TAI, we must not overlook the importance of proper breathing for it is an essential and fundamental factor of concentration. The HARA, THREE FINGERS BENEATH THE NAVEL.
The way to develop the power of the hara, to assemble all of your energy there, is by proper breathing. Air contains the energy and life from the universe, which we receive through our lungs and every cell in our bodies, and so it is important to know how to breathe.
We tend to breathe superficially, using one-sixth of the capacity of our lungs; deep, full breathing with the expiration longer than the inspiration. The Japanese martial arts use this way of breathing. This is also how you will develop a powerful KIAI. Push out your shout with everything in you, starting from the hara. This is the place the Japanese also call KIKAI, the ocean of energy.
This is also Zen breathing, long exhalation, as deep as you can. The kiai is that long exhalation, combined with a loud voice; the sound has to spring out naturally from the depths of the body. Remember, the word kiai is composed of KI, energy, and AI, union, so it means the union of energy. KIAI, IT IS ONE CRY, ONE INSTANT CONTAINING ALL SPACE-TIME, THE WHOLE COSMOS.
AND, we must cultivate ZANSHIN. Zanshin is connected mind. The mind that remains still without being attached to anything is a mind that is watchful, and alert. Allowing the action to follow-through and the movement to continue after the technique has been executed…waiting to see if another action will occur or be needed.
Zen: A form of alertness that is applied to every act of our lives. There must be awareness at every moment. Otherwise we miss now, and now, you can never get back.
A poem by a Zen philosopher… A tiger chased a monk off a cliff and he hung on by a branch when was falling, he looked at the side of the mountain and he saw a strawberry. He plucked it and ate it with his free hand. He said, "What a delicious strawberry" the tiger was in the past, this is now.
Now is Zen! And Zen is now!
Shihan, I thank you in allowing me to make this presentation tonight, I thank all of you for sharing this time with me and I wish all of you a perfect NOW everyday of your life.
ROCA, thank you for all of your technical support while preparing for this paper.
To the beautiful Professor Leroy Jenkins I am so grateful for all of your insight and always stimulating conversations. Merci!
Ideals of the Samurai, Writings of Japanese Warriors
Translation and Introduction by William Scott Wilson
Karate-Do Kyohan, the Master Text
Don F. Draeger
Mas Oyama’s Karate
Aikido Masters, Prewar Students of Morihei Ueshiba
Stanley A. Pranin
Budo, Mind and Body
Arts of Strength – Arts of Serenity
The Code of the Samurai
A. L. Sadler
Living the Japanese Arts & Ways
A Book of Five Rings
Zen in The Martial Arts
The Zen Way To The Martial Arts
One Flash of Lightning
Iaido, The Way Of The Sword
In The Dojo
The Tao of Physics