Home > Karate, Martial Arts, Philosophy, Random Thoughts > Getting My Zen Back

Getting My Zen Back


With everything that has been going on in my life, what is written here on this blog and other things that have gone unmentioned, I have had a lot of time to sit and read and think.

Something that has been on my mind heavily for the past few days is “balance”.

I think everyone loses their balance in life on occasion. We get involved in this thing or that thing and we lose sight of the REAL thing.

Perhaps we put too much emphasis on something or we neglect the importance of something else. We are working toward a goal but in the journey to get to that goal we somehow get lost. We find ourselves totally off track and in a very real sense lost because the little things have grown into big things. The Tao Te Ching tell us that if we focus on taking care of the little things, they won’t grow into large things. Sometimes though, I think that very focus we put on the little things is the very nourishment they need to grow. In a way it isn’t the “things” themselves but the focus that steers us away from the path we are on.

I could go on and on here and ramble probably for hours on philosophy or even the “why” of it. In the end, that really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter HOW a person gets off-balance or strays from the path. What does matter is getting back into balance or getting back on the path.

Zen is one of those mystical magical terms that is seen in as many different ways as there are people to see it. There is indeed a mystical side to Zen. As in many things in modern society though, what was once “magick” or even mystical has been explained by our science and technology. It doesn’t make it any less important or any less true. It has simply been explained. If you take electricity for example; early man saw lightning in the sky. He saw it sometimes touch the earth and when it did massive amounts of power were given off. He was awed by this. He could not explain it but he knew there was power there. So he did what he could to explain it. He “created” a reason for the lightning’s being. Today we understand electricity. We have harnessed its’ power. We use it. It is one of our tools. Simply because we understand it and have control over it doesn’t take one single thing away from its’ awesome power.

Scientist have tried to explain Zen. New Agers have adopted it and put their spin on it. The question is: Does any of that really matter? It doesn’t to me.
Zen, to me, is a form of discipline. It is a form of meditation. In it is what is called Samadhi. Samadhi is very simply : one-pointed concentration (a state of consciousness beyond waking or sleep in which conscious mental activity ceases so to allow total absorption with the object of concentration). It is a state of mind I try to put myself in when practicing karate. Whether it is kumite (sparring), kata (forms), or even performing simple basic techniques like punches, blocks, or kicks.

Most people who have any knowledge of the fighting arts understand that Zen and the Martial Arts go hand – in – hand. There is a very good book on the subject named appropriately Zen In The Martial Arts. Every form of classic martial arts, of the Far Eastern variety anyway, has roots in Zen. If an instructor tells you differently, go find another instructor because that one doesn’t know what he’s talking about. True. Many arts have forsaken the roots of Zen that are at their core but it doesn’t mean those roots are not there. And as all of the Asian arts are rooted in it, most of the traditional martial arts are grounded in it. Any time you see an art that ends with “Do” (Tae Kwon Do, Tang Soo Do, Karate-Do, AikiDO) they are based on a Zen philosophy. The word “Do” is an interpretation of the Chinese “Tao”. Tao means “The Way” or simply “Way”. It has very deep meaning. Karate-Do, for example ( because I am more comfortable talking about the thing I practice) would translate “The Way Of The Empty Hand” or “Empty Hand Way”. What surprises many people is that the meaning has NOTHING to do with punching, kicking, or violence of any kind. The way of karate is a way of harmony, balance, and inner-peace. Its’ true meaning is exactly opposite of what it appears to be on the surface.

There was a line in the movie Spiderman. Uncle Ben tells Peter, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The student walks into the door of the dojo for the very first time for whatever reason he has come for. Many times these reasons are quite negative. Fear or even anger can be the motivating factor behind them joining the class. The student trains. Gradually they become stronger. Slowly they develop technique. Over the course of time they transform into karate-ka. In that transformation, if Sensei is doing his job, they lose sight of the negative things that brought them in the first place. Instead of fear, they find confidence. Instead of anger, they discover compassion. By focusing on what they do and using Samadhi they lose sight of negativity. The focus shifts from negativity to self-improvement.

In this blog I have focused a lot lately on self-defense. Although I don’t really think I have went too far off center I do believe that some balance needs to be applied. It is the same with my life in general. Too many things coming from too many directions for a while now. It is time to pull back to center. It is time to re-focus. Some would call it prioritizing. I see it more as straightening up the closet of the mind. Something like Spring Cleaning. It’s not a fresh start. It’s simply redirection of energies to pull them back to the core and resume the flow.

I’m sure Zendictive will enjoy this and I am happily awaiting his comments, views, or observations

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  1. March 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Art will definitely enjoy this post, J.! Here is the line I felt summarized what you are saying here:
    “redirection of energies to pull them back to the core and resume the flow”. When my son was earning his Black Belt in Taw-Kwan-Do while growing up on Macon,GA, he always reminded us that this martial arts discipline was very much a spiritual discipline and incorporated exactly what you say here.

  2. March 27, 2012 at 2:49 am

    Whattaya mean ? I’m all like, “Why is someone a jerk and HOW can I take them out?” LOL!

    Whut… dat’s funneee… 🙂

    I’m kidding… sort of. 🙂

  3. March 27, 2012 at 3:04 am

    loved this wise write (~_~)

    zen is defines as… a state of being
    simply be (~_~) at one with your self and the universe
    a state of tranquility
    the key to tranquility is… acceptance

    Art~

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