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Martial Arts: Religion, Foundation And Movements

1587 words - 6 pages

The moment one hears of Asian culture, martial arts may be the first idea to come to

mind. In a general sense, many view martial arts as a sport that involves hurting one another. On

the contrary to this belief, martial arts has had a rich history in a religious aspect as well. One

may think religion and martial arts are two contradictory of each other, how can they mix?

Religion plays an important factor in belief, but most of all in way of life. Religion highly

contributed to the structure and fundamentals of Asian martial arts, also not only in foundations

but display of religious ideas and movements outside of Asia. Specifically, the early religions of

Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism provide the basis for a majority of eastern religions.

The primary, and much older, contributor to the start of martial arts was the religion of

Buddhism. Branching out of Hinduism, Buddhism stresses the idea of meditation. Buddhist

meditation, though can be used in other branches, is most emphasized in the Chan (Zen)

Buddhist sect. According to legends, the founder of Zen Buddhism was an Indian monk named

Bohdidharma who traveled throughout China. He is also known as Da Mo in China, or Daruma

in Japanese culture (Irons). In his travels, he desired to reach enlightenment through intense

meditation. Zazen, or seated meditation, is a significant practice of the Zen Buddhist belief.

Legends state that, like Siddhartha Gautama, Bohdidharma took extensive amounts of time to

meditate. Within his nine years of meditation, he too suffered physical declines with the

weakening of his legs. It is very iconic to see Bohdidharma sitting down, as daruma dolls in

Japan are used to depict his posture. In addition to his physical decline, he also severed his

eyelids before reaching his enlightenment. Where his eyelids were disposed grew tea bushes


Within martial arts, legend states that Bohdidharma founded the Shaolin Temple, thus

Shaolin kung fu was born (Davis). During Bohdidharma’s time of teaching at the Shaolin temple,

he not only taught the practice of Zen meditation but physical routines as well. The monks of the

monastery were in poor condition, and enlightenment required both physical and mental strength.

In Bohdidharma’s teachings, he integrated a combined regimen of yoga, deep meditation and

physical exercise (Fundukian 1436). Out of Shaolin kung fu came many styles and forms, as

kung fu refers to the wide variety and schools of Chinese martial arts. With the base of kung fu,

martial arts in other countries developed as well (Fundukian 1437). From the Japanese

perspective as Daruma, the art of kenpo was developed. Disciples of his teachings were unable to

find enlightenment and physical punishment followed. His development of kenpo helped others

to reach enlightenment faster (Ashkenazi). It is from Bohdidharma’s codes of conduct...

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