I have friends I only know through limited interactions on Facebook, yet feel I’ve known my entire life. Some of these friends are heavily invested in the martial arts where they have attained a high level of proficiency. This got me thinking. What is the role of the martial arts, the role of the “old ways” in a modern technological society? As with most of the outcomes from my thinking, the results are mixed, a convolution of epiphanies leading to more questions.
I do not believe the martial arts arose for the purpose of enlightenment of the human being. I suspect their whole evolution was born out of the necessity of survival. The strong survive, the weak die, and the cruel hard realities of life in those days probably was, lose your focus, you die. Simple as that. The Samurai, the warrior, could not indulge the the luxury of any distraction, pain or otherwise. Pain was to be endured and the mind ignored. Reactions needed to be automatic and fluid as the Samurai became as one with his body, as one with his weapons. This was no esoteric undertaking. As I’ve already said, life depended on it.
So where do the old ways fit in with a modern technological society? I suggest what the martial arts hold for us are at least two fold whether that be metaphorical or actual. First, our lives are always at stake though what threatens us in a technological age is not our physical being but our spiritual being. In a technological society distractions abound that threaten to rob us of what is most important and nurturing to human beings. Second, like the Samurai of old, discipline and practice are the secret to the focus necessary to ignore the distractions that could cost our lives.
Like the Samurai of old, the focus that comes from discipline and practice may just be a lifetime commitment though we all succumb to life in the end.