9 posts / 0 new
Last post
Visitor (not verified)
Visitor's picture
Mushotoku

I've been reading a book called The Zen Way to the Martial Arts by Taisen Deshimaru, a zen master, for the third time in a row slowly picking my way through it and disecting it like my good old English professors taught me, and I've come across this concept that I wanted to share.

Yes you guessed it, it is the same as the title.

Mushotoku or as the author defines it without desire for gain or profit.

I just find this idea very motivating to me. I think I like it because to me it reminds me that there is no goal, or rather there is no end, there is just practice. If I have to fight and I win, I practice. If I fight and lose, I practice. If my form is perfect, I practice. If my form is terrible, I practice. If I feel good, I practice. If I feel bad, I practice.

I like this idea of practice as a constant, because I feel that the idea of a goal creates a treadmill, like Sisyphus in Hades rolling his boulder. I believe that if you embrace practice as being a constant that it's no longer a treadmill, but a pleasant journey admiring the scenery, the rolling hills, the vistas and cloud gazing. I think you get the picture.

Interestingly enough Taisen Deshimaru believed that you could only practice the Do through the martial arts if you thought of them as a matter of life and death and not as a sport or duel.

Anyway, I hope this helps somebody out. It helps me out, but everybody is different.

Sincerely,

Holgersen

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Hi,

my opinion totally contradict your views.

I find that the whole Zen thing is a distraction from martial arts. Zen is a form of buddhism and nothing else. Back in the days Itosu wrote that Karate has nothing to do with religion and I think he is right.

When I practise I have goals of a technical nature that I can work towards. Practise for the sake of practise is pointless in my eyes. When you have no goals, you have no training plan. You just do what jumps your mind and that hinders your progress which is totally fine since you have no goals and don't need to measure progress.

Just my 2 cents.

Regards Holger

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

I’m probably somewhere in the middle here. I totally agree that you need to set specific goals in order to have a focused training program i.e. you have you know what you want to achieve in order know how to achieve it. Our practise also needs to have a goal and an aim. We need to have clear idea of the goal of training otherwise we can’t improve. As an example, I need to have a very clear idea of the” ideal kata” I wish to able to do. I need to have that ideal in mind so I can compare it to my current non-ideal kata so I know what needs to alter and how it needs altered. So I have desire to reach that ideal, and hence my view of training is not in accordance with the “Mushotoku” concept described above.

I can however see the need to not overly focus on the goal to the detriment of the process. There’s that old tale of a guy going to a sword master and asking how long it will take him to be the best swordsman in Japan if he trains with him full time. The master tells him, “10 years.” The prospective student thinks this is too long and ask, “What if I train all day, every day?” The master tells him that in that case it will take 20 years. Confused, the student asks how long it will take if he endlessly trains, only stopping to eat and sleep when he absolutely has to? The master tells him that in that case it will take 30 years. The student asks why the time keeps getting longer and the master tells him, “the more you put your mind on the goal, the less focus you have on the path.”

We see this a lot in the martial arts where people get instantly frustrated that they can’t do something perfectly. They are totally focused on the goal, and not the hard work it takes to reach that goal. The students who tend to reach a high level are the ones who keep turning up and keep training. They focus on the training and hence, little by little, they edge toward to goal.

So I can see the need to keep practicing and for that to be the dominant thought. In short, it is better to be focused on the process and not the product … but there remains a need to have a goal.

As an aside, I think we need to mark the distinction between the practice of the martial arts for their own ends and the martial arts a vehicle for Zen practice. I’m with Holger in that I don’t see a connection with Zen and Itosu was clear that no such connection existed:

“Karate did not develop from Buddhism or Confucianism”

I can understand that if Zen practise is the primary aim then the idea of martial practice with no attachment to results or process would be desirable. Although you do that the typical zen “paradox” of having the goal of training without being mindful of the goal :-) If, however, we are practising the martial arts as an end in themselves then we do need to “attach” to the idea of goals otherwise training will be unfocused and will not take us anywhere. But I can see the value of a watered down “Mushotoku” in that the emphasis of daily practise should be engaging in the process of development as opposed to being overly focused on the end product that will result from that process. Process will lead to product. Training will lead to the goal. It is therefore training and process that should be the core focus.

All the best,

Iain

Holgersen (not verified)
Visitor's picture

ky0han,

Interesting response. Thanks for commenting.

Sincerely,

Holgersen

Holgersen (not verified)
Visitor's picture

Here's the paradox. If you practice without a goal, then isn't your goal not to have goals?

You guys are taking this way to seriously.

It was just supposed to help people combat a feeling of stagnation.

All the zen paradox stuff is to help you deal with the fact that you can train all you want and then get hit by a bus tomorrow. The goals may be meaningless and you need to decide whether just doing them is worth it, if you never have to use it.

It doesn't, and I repeat, have anything to do with how you schedule your training.

I personally think that the past masters screwed up by thinking that they could make it just about Do without any of the practical aspects of karate.

Like I said before, even this zen master doesn't believe you can practice martial arts without keeping it in the appropriate context of preparing for a life and death struggle.

I'm going to say it again, because I think you guy's glossed over it. Even the zen master, thinks that martial arts without practical training and application is worthless and would still be worthless if you practiced it as a vehicle for zen.

Sincerely,

Holgersen

 

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Hi Brandon,

Holgersen wrote:
Here's the paradox. If you practice without a goal, then isn't your goal not to have goals?

Not necessarily. Only if it is a deliberate decision to have no specific goal which makes absolutely no sense to me. What do you train and what do you want to achieve with your training? And when you want to achieve anything you have a goal, be it getting fit or getting the head clear or being able to defend myself or to compete. But that is just my personal view.

Holgersen wrote:
It was just supposed to help people combat a feeling of stagnation.

In that case my advice would be to modify the training plan. Simply change things.

Holgersen wrote:
All the zen paradox stuff is to help you deal with the fact that you can train all you want and then get hit by a bus tomorrow. The goals may be meaningless and you need to decide whether just doing them is worth it, if you never have to use it.

According to that logic, it is better to do nothing and don't start any endevour and don't pursue a certain goal, just because there is a chance you will not reach it. Regreting your whole live when you actually make it to an old age that you did not tried at least anything.

I am not finding any help in such a Zen paradox. Even if I get hit by a bus tomorrow my goals have meaning to me. But again that is my personal take.

Holgersen wrote:
I personally think that the past masters screwed up by thinking that they could make it just about Do without any of the practical aspects of karate.

Who says that Do is without any practical aspects? Who were the past masters you are speaking of?

Holgersen wrote:
Like I said before, even this zen master doesn't believe you can practice martial arts without keeping it in the appropriate context of preparing for a life and death struggle.

So the goal is survival and you need instructions to get to a level were you are able to survive?

Holgersen wrote:
Even the zen master, thinks that martial arts without practical training and application is worthless and would still be worthless if you practiced it as a vehicle for zen.

That is one opinion that I also don't share. I find a whole host of reasons to do martial arts even without practical training and applications. That depends on the different training goals everybody has. Is your training goal focussed on self protection and self defense that I would agree. But when your goal is to simply get fit or to compete at world level you simply don't need any practical training and applications.

Again that is just my view. Others may find help in the above written paradox, so thanks for sharing.

Regards Holger

Holgersen (not verified)
Visitor's picture

Holger,

That's cool.

You said you like to change plans to avoid stagnation, what kind of stuff do you like to do?

I train almost exclusively solo, and I've yet to find someone to keep up with me, for some reason people think three hour sparring sessions are unreasonable. I have no idea why. Anyway, I need all the stuff to stay motivated that I can get, so how do you shake things up?

Sincerely,

Holgersen

ky0han
ky0han's picture

Hi Brandon,

most of my Karate training is based around Kata-Gumite and that I can only do with a partner. So every once in a while my teacher Siggi and I are changing our Kata drills to work on different things e.g. trapping and impact or locking and impact or just things like tactile mapping. We also do Kata scenario based pad drills. In the regular dojo classes we also do various forms of sparring which is fun and a good workout but since my competition days are over I rather concentrate on the Kata-Gumite. 

I also teach at the local university once a week and when I find myself in the situation were all my efforts to explain a certain topic result in strange student faces, I go home thinking about it and try to come up with a better explanation. That also helped to improve my understanding of things.

At home I practise the solo forms in various ways sometimes just a single sequence with the focus on rooting, or the center of gravity etc.. I also like to incorporate a pair of kettlebells to work on things like body structure or the correct joint alignment for generating power. I really like hitting the makiwara in the dojo to test if my homework has resulted in improvement. When I have the feeling I stuck I simply look for new exercises.

And then there are my Karate studies. Reading books, blogs, participating in various forums, watching DVDs or documentaries. Simply put I do anything were I think it helps me to become a better martial artist and to achieve my goals.

So depending on what your goals are you have to find exercises or training methods that will lead you towards those goals.

I hope that helps.

Regards Holger

 

Holgersen (not verified)
Visitor's picture

Holger,

My goal has always been functional self-defense, and I can honestly say that for me I've already achieved that goal. I practice to get better, but I really  only practice to maintain, because if you don't use it you lose it. I achieve my goal each and every time I practice just by continuing to practice. I do push myself and add variety, but everything is built around my core of principles and techniques and I don't practice anything that doesn't enhance these things, because they just wouldn't be beneficial to me.

For me practice is like maintaining a wonderful garden that I can use to break someone's neck, but in the mean time I can still smell the flowers.

Sincerely,

Holgersen