Evolving Your Martial Arts with Zen!

Creating A Better Martial Art!

I recently had a person ask me,
‘what do I know about Zen?’
I said,
‘I know everything.’
Pretty arrogant, eh?
this is going to be a lengthy newsletter,
but I will explain it in a way
that will wake up the zen in you.
I will even,
at the end,
explain EXACTLY what zen is,
and why it makes your martial arts superior.

I started Martial Arts in 1967.
I had no idea what they were.
I looked for books,
but couldn’t find a thing.
But I did find books on this thing called Zen.
I had no idea what zen was,
but the few references to it
said it would improve one’s martial arts.
It was supposed to be the difference
between martial ART
and everything else,
including the simple ‘fighting’
that most people assumed martial arts was.

Then I came across a book called
‘Zen and the Art of Archery.’
By Eugene Herrigel.

Eugene went to Japan to study zen
and they refused to teach him.
Won’t teach you.
Go away.
He persisted,
and he asked why they wouldn’t teach him.
They said because he had no cultural context.
He had no frame to put it in.
It wouldn’t hang on him.
He simply wouldn’t be able to understand it.

Well, these durn foreigners can be persistent,
and he persisted,
and he asked,
‘How can I study it?’
And he was told,
study something else with zen.
That might give you enough context
to understand it.
Eugene took up the art of archery.
And he didn’t understand it.
He tried,
but he was told to hold postures,
to forget about the target.

Forget about the target?
how do I hit it then?
His western, logical mind
simply couldn’t grasp the concept.
The master,
whose name I forget,
but it is in the book
should you wish to find it,
invited Eugene to his house.

It was evening
and they had dinner
or tea,
or something,
then the old man took Eugene
to the backyard.
He had a hundred pace archery range.
At the midway point,
fifty paces,
was a stool with a candle on it.

The old man had Eugene light the candle
then stand behind him.
Eugene could see the single candle,
but not the target at the end of the range.
The old man turned off the lights
Eugene heard the twang of a bowstring,
and the arrow passed through the flame
and extinguished it.
The old man told him to turn on the lights.
The old man had not only extinguished the candle,
he had made a perfect bull’s eye.

And that was the old man’s demonstration of zen.

You can read the book yourself,
see if it sounds like bushwah,
but after nearly 60 years in the arts
I have seen enough things that were like this,
that I believe.

So…what is zen?

I’ve come across lots of definitions
but the simplest and best definition I have found
was simply the word, ‘knowledge.’
One can get into all sorts of Japanese linguistics
and explore origins and etymology and such,
but at essence,
this is what it boils down to for me.

The old man who shot out a candle
and made a bull’s eye
was demonstrating a higher knowledge.
A knowledge that most men,
without the discipline,
and the correct way of thinking,
simply cannot understand.
The correct way of thinking,
such as…
do your form,
forget about the target,
be now.

I had the discipline to understand zen
because I did the martial arts.
I had the context to understand
this unique and elevated
form of knowledge.
But I needed something else.
That something else came
in the form of a hundred years old manuscript,
from a college lecture
on the subject of yoga.
Talk about going far afield!

That manuscript said this:
Man is an essence,
an idea,
surrounded by ‘sheaths.’
He surrounds himself with the sheath of family.
He surrounds himself with the sheath of his work.
He surrounds himself with hobbies,
systems of law and religion,
education and rules and morals and mores and…
everything in the world does one thing…
substantiates the man.
We identify ourselves,
we give reason and purpose to our existence
by our clinging to these sheathes.

In zen they sometimes talk about
returning to the source,
being childlike in your wonder
and appreciation for life.
People think they must be ‘childlike’
to understand zen.
They don’t understand that to understand zen
they must understand themselves as an idea.
That they are an essence
wrapped in self generated ‘sheaths,’
and that to understand themselves,

to get to the idea of zen

they must rid themselves of sheaths.
They must peel the layers like an onion
and uncover that original idea
that they are.

Oh, the lies we must penetrate.

When one does the martial arts
they are trying to be
‘in the now.’
They are not trying to react,
but to act,
and even if that action is merely
the relative motionless
of just being in the now.

I didn’t just practice the martial arts
for nearly 60 years,
I investigated them.
I read everything I could,
even things like yoga and zen
and obscure religious manuscripts.
When doing the forms
I tried to divest myself
of what other people thought the forms were,
and tried to stick to only physics,
no matter where that led me.

The result was a lessening of the static in my mind.
I no longer have that ‘chatter’
in my head,
telling me what to do,
to care what people think,
to act a certain way.
None of that.

I explored the context of this martial zen
by learning and practicing
every martial art I could.

Attaining the purity of explosion,
silence before and after
the moment of the punch
in Karate.

Focusing attention until it was unwavering
on the single finger of Pa Kua,
or the delicate geometry of Tai Chi.

Exploring patterns of Kenpo and Arnis
and various other arts,
until there were no patterns,
only me
moving in space
without regard for planet earth.

When I wrote
The Last Martial Arts Book,
the one on ‘Nine Square Diagram boxing,’
I had all of this in mind.
It is able to be done with the purity of explosion,
the silence and contemplation
of tai chi and pa kua.
I do the forms (and the fighting) with my eyes closed,
so that I am only connected to reality
by the sensation of gravity,
and the geometry of the self in space,
that there is no distraction of the world
to interfere with the idea of me
exploring a world without context,
a world of only me,
unbound by convention,
thought or idea.

This is the way I try to do all martial arts,
cultivating silence within,
observing the world without judgment,
able to do things at 76,
that I couldn’t do at 19.

This is a sad times we are living in.
Children are being programmed and not taught.
No more cursive or standard clocks.
No more ability to critically think.
Just follow directions
and trust that ‘authority’ will take care of you.

It is ignorant times,
and such things as zen cannot be understood,
and are unknown as a path to a superior man,
because people don’t understand simple words,
and even if they do,
they are being bound in sheaths,
and robbed of context,
the context of nothingness
that is the true reality
for the idea of what a man is.

there it is,
philosophy and rant,
message and path,
all wrapped up in one, neat blog.

I suggest you look at unwrapping yourself from what binds you.
Undo the matrix being constructed around you
Defeat the teachings of ignorance
which have been used to imprison you.

If you want to follow the path to a higher martial art,
and to a higher, more evolved and superior you,
I suggest that you educate yourself.
Pick up a copy of
Zen and the Art of Archery.
Start exploring these concepts.
And for the discipline,
to achieve the context of which I speak…

The Last Martial Arts Book:

Nine Square Diagram Boxing

There are a couple of editions,
so make sure you get the edition with
You may have to search,
but there is your path.

Enjoy the summer
and learn a new martial art!


And thanks to everybody who picked up my book,

Advanced Tai Chi Chuan for Real Self Defense!

Don’t forget to give me five stars.
Those ratings help my sales.

Don’t forget to check out the interview

‘The Last Martial Arts Book’ has 12 ratings for 5 stars.
(There is a video version of this book with no stars yet)
My two yoga books have 9 ratings between them for 5 stars.
‘The Book of Five Arts’ has 8 ratings for 5 stars.
‘The Science of Government’ has 7 ratings for 5 stars.
‘Chiang Nan’ has 6 ratings for 5 stars.
My novel, ‘Monkeyland,’ has 5 ratings for 5 stars

That’s a lot of good ratings
so hopefully you’ll find the book that works for you.

How to Fix Karate:
A Karate Training and Workout Book
(Two Volumes)

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