Spiritualism - Graham Ravey
Martial Arts is for individuals to discover themselves through rigorous physical training of the body, eventually freeing the spirit of it's physical boundaries to pursue the moral truth through realisation.
The spiritual side of Martial Arts is the mental training of the mind and soul. The body enables us to have hands on experience to understand and realise the importance of the unseen mental processes in the higher order of things, these are all one and the same, inexplicably inter-twined into the matrix that is the essence of what we really stand for.
If we neglect our spirit or cease to reflect, tradition and philosophy can diminish in importance to the point where balancing the ego becomes impossible. A student who never finds the spiritual side of the art will only concentrate on the physical and therefore become unbalanced.
I have been studying Martial Arts for a overÂ 40 years and have read in many text that date back thousands of years that a basic desire for money, position and power can be a catalyst for a wasted life. To desire theses things by means of abuse to the community, for self gratification of ego can be intrinsically evil, though from a business point of view can be seen as progress. Spiritually this may stagnate an individuals growth.Â
Martial teachers alongside the rest of the population have their needs, some get their needs and wants mixed up, we all need transport, but some want a Porsche! We all need a roofÂ over our heads, but some want a mansion! Money is needed to run Dojo's, for equipment, rent, salaries, but there are those who want to become rich of it. This leads to watering down and denial of the one true path to self knowing. Respect for the Masters and the true growth of the way of the Art.
To be humble and live humble comes under the spirit of Martial Arts. Master Gichin Funakoshi saidÂ "I haveÂ no money problems because I have no money". Once spiritualism is neglected the flavour of the teachers lesson changes. Instead of the student having to strive to match the standard of the masters, the standard is lowered to match that of the student. These symptoms are prevalent in many schools causing erosion of the way. Milder discipline and training is given so as not to scare the student away, frequent gradings are given to keep their egos fed. Patience is a great lesson to learn and the only way to learn is by waiting, etiquette is another area that is selectively edited or being left altogether.
Once the spirit is neglected one or all of these cancers will grow until there is little of the original strong and successful form of teaching left.
Living off Martial Arts requires sound judgment on the part of the teacher, taking care not to sacrifice the morality of the art for personal gain or to the detriment of the generations past, presence and future. The responsibility of education fall on seniors in any place of learning, the young need constant tutoring and guidance to keep them strong and focused on the path within themselves.
I once attended a summer camp abroad at which time I was a fourth Dan. I was approached a green belt who asked me to look at his Kata, I expected him to do a drill of the level of green belt and was shocked when he proceeded to do Kata of a third Dan level and not very well at that. He had developed many mistakes and made them his own, by which I mean he had trained them into himself. I found out that he had taught himself by way of video.
Such a seeker of the way will inadvertently take many steps backwards as a video lacks all the importance of hands on tuition from a teacher. His lessons in patience and ego refining were put to one side as soon as he turned on the video and before this man could be taught properly, he would have to be retrained from all his mistakes. Don't get me wrong, I think videos can be a great asset to martial arts as a reference library for senior students of all styles, to appreciateÂ the masters as they really are. But for novices to try and copy advanced teaching, is a recipe for disaster.
This could be solved by having all parties decide that there is indeed a problem. Perhaps a licence could be shown before purchasing advanced teaching videos? Or perhaps such videos are only for accredited Dojo's. I can not see to many problems evolving as long as they have ample explanations of the importance of warming up and down. Also a guide as to how to recognise the difference between a fine overall teacher to a fly-by-nighter, anyone can go out and buy a black belt (which is another huge problem the credibility of martial arts faces). Such pseudo teachers set themselves up as the be all and end all of Martial artists, how "they" do it, is the way everybody should do it. An illustration of how wrong this view comes from personal experiences.
I am a tall man and have changed my basic application instruction over the years through understanding that how my body type applies a technique is different to how a short fellow would apply the same technique. If I taught my flavour of the gospel, I would be neglecting all students of different statures in my Dojo. So what I teach must stay general in form, acceptable to all shapes and sizes of people. The basic way is flexible and adjustable to suit all, a gift from our masters making it possible for every person to reach their best. There is a fine line between right and wrong in life and the way of Martial Arts is no exception.
Some people have pride in what they do, but don't go over to vanity. To need things is normal, but when does need become greed? To admire someone forÂ accomplishment is healthy, but over stepping the line becomes hero worship. Take care, enjoy your Martial Arts both physically and mentally to the fullest.
Read philosophy and most of all, contemplate it. Otherwise it will be like eating without digesting, no nourishment will take place. There are victories of the soul and spirit. Sometimes even when you lose, you win. Remember, nourishment for the soul starts with philosophy.
Sensei Graham Ravey