Sunday, 30 January 2011

From Kung Furious to King Calm

Kung Furious is furious.  We’re pounding on the martial arts.  Here’s what he says in his comment on ‘A Lost Modern Man’ :
“...for reasons that would take too long to explain, should not practise the martial arts” [see ‘A Lost Modern Man’]
You also wrote the following in your ‘The Jesus Prayer 3’ post:
"Let's suppose that you're Orthodox. The first thing to do to begin the Jesus Prayer is to make a good confession to an Orthodox priest. [...] The first thing is your relationship to God. Here it is very important to make a very detailed confession to the priest concerning anything which might have disturbed your relationship to God. [...] Have you ever practised non-Christian forms of meditation and prayer, including hatha yoga, T’ai Chi Ch’uan and EVEN KARATE?"
What about judo or kickboxing or the mixed martial arts?
I know that the (eastern) martial arts are full of philosophical blabber and spiritual 'this' and spiritual 'that' but if someone tries to avoid these things and is only interested in the exercises, the kicking, punching, grappling and so on, then why shouldn't he practise a martial art?
Is it because of their aggressive nature? Or because of the "tribal ballet dances" (as I like to call the kata/taolu, the choreographed patterns of movements) and their strong emphasis on imagination? Or because of the breathing exercises?
Please explain. And if you know some stories and can give some examples, I would really like to "hear" them.
Thank you.
There are two separate issues about the martial arts here, Kung Furious.  Let’s take the Jesus Prayer first.  When we wrote ‘The Jesus Prayer 3’ we were concerned about having the aspirant to the practice of the Jesus Prayer in a serious, intensive way completely cleanse his or her soul from every non-Western, non-Christian experience they might have had so that the Jesus Prayer would operate in his or her soul as intended by the Fathers of the Orthodox Church.  We still think the advice holds.  If you want to practise the Jesus Prayer, cleanse your soul.
Now in the second case, we were faced with an email from someone that seemed to us to be under a great deal of nervous tension.  We wanted to calm him down.  Apart from the issue with the Jesus Prayer discussed in the previous paragraph, there is the fact that karate ‘hypes’ you up so that when you walk into a tavern your eyes immediately scan the room for potential attackers.  We have seen this with a sixth degree black belt.  Under the circumstances, we did not think that it was in the interest of A Lost Modern Man to have that sort of sensibility and nervous tension.
Well, what about T’ai Chi Ch’uan, aikido and so on?  They’re soft style; they shouldn’t create this sort of problem.  Well other issues arise, and the best thing to do when you are spiritually searching and need to calm your nervous system down is to stop all the martial arts, whatever the style.  You should be getting exercise, certainly, but of a sort that isn’t going to create this sort of nervous tension.
Our advice to A Lost Modern Man was based on our assessment that he needed to calm his nervous system down.  In the case where someone doesn’t have the nervous intensity that we sensed with A Lost Modern Man, the practice of a martial art as a sport would, with the permission of the confessor, be acceptable.
Moreover, in the case where someone is professionally obliged to practise the martial arts—for example, he is a member of the United States Secret Service—obviously he’s not going to stop.
The ‘tribal ballet’ aspect of the oriental martial arts doesn’t bother us.  It’s fun to watch, although we’re not much for the extreme forms where the fighters ‘fly’ several hundred meters through the air on wires.
We were wondering whether to entitle this post ‘From King Kong to King Calm’.  We also wondered if Theodor had shown up in a new incarnation.

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