Zen, Martial Arts, and Building Muscle Mass, Part Two

Martial Arts Training
In the first part of this series, I had a brief overview on much of what I want to discuss for the remainder of these posts.

For this post, I want to discuss on training as it relates almost specifically to the martial arts, although you will quickly notice that it can’t help but “spill out” into the other two.

The Bushido of Training

  1. Several years back, I wrote a post that focused on “The Lifter’s Bushido.”  Here is the quote that I used then by the samurai Yamaoku Tesshu: “In order to learn about the Way, forget about self and awaken to the truth… Exerting self is a mistake… We should not say “myself” — in truth there is no such thing… When there is no thought of self, true Bushido develops.”
  2.  I have often thought of lifting as a form of Budo, and my gym as the dojo.  (This is one reason that I enjoy lifting at home, in my garage dungeon gym.  It is not commercial, and, therefore, becomes more of a dojo than anything commercialized.  The furthest thing from a dojo, for instance, would be Planet Fitness.)
  3. Lifting as Budo becomes even more true when performing only one or two exercises at each workout for multiple sets each.  A lot of lifters who train in both martial arts and Olympic lifting understand this the best—martial arts training (particularly the Japanese martial arts, which I’m partial to) and Olympic lifting allow one to lose thought of self—what my sensei would refer to as “mushin”—and, thus, attain true Bushido.
  4. The above is true for both the lifter and the martial artist, and should become especially true - in fact, it must become true - for the martial artist who is also deeply practicing Zen and lifting.  (More on what “deep practice” should mean to follow.)

Martial Arts Training
  1. When I was young - and by young, I have in mind from my teens to my mid to late 20s - I was concerned with learning a lot of martial arts, obsessed might even be the best word for it. I trained in Isshin-Ryu Karate-Do from the age of 9, but by my twenties I had learned quite a bit of Kyokushinkai, Hung Gar kung-fu, Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do, and, finally, Shorinji Kempo.  And, yes, I could do a lot to the casual spectator who may have seen me train. A lot of it may have even appeared, to said spectator, "impressive", but that was only of the surface level, and the truth was that my training was not deep. Because knowing a lot of stuff - and even being proficient at a lot of martial ways - is way different than practicing only a few things but entering into them deeply.
  2. Training - and this would go for lifting, too, but for the moment we will stick with the martial arts - should focus on only a few movements, but the goal should be firmly placed on perfecting those few movements.  If you are young - or simply an older Western materialist who has taken up martial arts as a hobby - then this may sound strange to you, and perhaps it is even foreign to your ears based on what you thought your goals should be.  But that’s okay for it actually takes years to reach this point, and it may not even “work” (for lack of a better word) unless you have been through all of the other “stuff” that allows you to reach this point in your training.  In this manner, what is an end point for the older martial artist perhaps shouldn’t be the starting point for the beginner. It is all "part of the journey", as some might say. But I would also add this: if what I am discussing here is, for you, naturally the starting point, the alpha rather than the omega (and this is not something that you can force; it must be natural for you), then you are already on the "correct" path, and all the better for your training and your life.
  3. Pick a few basic movements - three or four kicks, four to five strikes, not much else - and train on these for your lifetime.  Maybe that doesn’t sound glamorous, but it works.  It’s also the manner in which martial arts have been practiced for millennia, and not just in Japan.  In China, for instance, it was common for the kung-fu practitioner to pick an art that focused on a single thing - such as “iron shirt” chi kung, as an example - and to train on that one art for years before (maybe) moving on to something else.
  4. Practicing just a few moves, and perfecting them, is what allows you to enter deeply into your practice.
  5. If you doubt the efficacy of what I am recommending, just ask yourself this: have you ever needed more than a handful of kicks, strikes, or grappling moves in a fight?  The answer, of course, is going to be that no, you have never had need of more than a handful of techniques.  And if you can’t even answer this question because you have never been in a combat situation - even if it was just an intense sparring session - then you have “no dog in the hunt” as we say in the South.


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