I'm talking through my hat when I say there are many instructors who extend their martial art practices to include not only spiritual growth, but religious thinking.
Much of good martial arts training focuses on combat effectiveness but also covers ancillary aspects of personal growth. I would like to think that this is a value add aspect of the training and in fact beneficial to combat effectiveness. Engaging in combat requires a person to be able to mentally focus on the task at hand (overcoming the opponent and reduction of risk) whilst being confronted with physical and mental intimidation.
Spiritual growth through the various forms of meditation and dedication through training creates maturity but more importantly is an activity that allows the practitioner to 'get into the zone.' Getting into the zone or mentally focused for optimal performance is an accepted part of modern sporting endeavours - but has been included in traditional training for a very long time.
Where we nowadays identify this aspect of traditional martial arts as being part of 'spiritual growth,' it was probably not always like this. Martial arts, mostly influenced by Asian culture, has practices intertwined with cultural norms. Where we now practice things such as bowing or other reverential motions or intonations, back in the day this was part of normal everyday living.
So when I visit a modern day martial art studio with instructors that have no cultural background that is similar to the source of its lineage AND I see that the instructor has taken some liberties to include additional religious information along with his training - I have to fight to keep a straight face.
I feel that very little value is added to 'accepted' practises leading to spiritual growth by forcing students to ingest semi-religious concepts labelled as Buddhist, Zen, Taoist, or what have you. Worse is to propagate these concepts in the name of Budo. Somewhat bad is to decorate your dojo with religious artifact to hint at a higher level purpose of your style.
If you want to transmit a religion, transmit a religion. Don't disguise it as a martial arts class.
And for goodness sake, if you find yourself having to continue talking about pseudo-religious Buddhist thought, at least please read about it. It's not at all about waving joss and bowing to a Buddha statue!
Please convince me that I'm talking through my hat. Anyone?
-- Colin Wee Traditional Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]. Colin is a martial art instructor with 25 years of experience across three continents. Colin leads a small Traditional Taekwondo group for adults in Perth, Western Australia. Connect with Colin on FaceBook and Traditional Taekwondo Group on FB.