How very interesting is this thread!!
I started my martial arts practice at the age of 23, training TKD at the engineering college where i studied. There was little spiritual teachings involved, but I could feel a connection between the physical training and my self-dicipline. I quit after seriously injuring my tendon running from the right hip down to the thigh.
Two years later I continued my engineering education in Hull, UK, where the sports centre offered AMO aikido and tai chi. I started up on aikido and wound up doing tai chi merely because I was more interested in striking and kicking at the time. Simultaneously I was learning the didgeridoo on my own and later found a teacher who was very much into alternative arts. But the breathing power I developed started to alter my mind and combining the two, didge and tai chi, made such an impact on my mind that I had a crisis related to my traditional scholarly atheist western rationality.
At the age of 25 I was in confusion, having to come to terms with a newfound spiritual outlook that conflicted with my scholarly cartheisan world image, and at this point in life I had a lot of help from a native English fellow who had converted to Islam. Combining the taoist teachings and the spirituality of Islam I managed to find a good focus to pursue. These teachings also enabled me to come to terms with many of the better aspects of Christian teachings.
It then took me a good year and a half until I resumed my martial arts training. This time, a good old friend of mine, a blackbelt TKD practitioner, had searched through most dojos in Oslo and found Sunyata Aikido Dojo to be the most impressive, regardless of art, and asked me to join him in the beginners class. Having already been introduced to aikido I accepted and started my martial arts training afresh with new vigour. I found the overall attitude of the members to be very kind and accepting, same as I did when training tai chi.
When I found out that the head teacher also had experience from zen meditation, and that he was quite interested in the link between breathing and spiritual power, I joined with him starting a zen meditation group.
Keeping the zen group and then aikido group separate, I still could see various connections between the two, in terms of attitude and application.
Nowadays, my only spiritual practice is training aikido. The principle of non-violence is very dear to me, and as a martial artist my highest goal is now to avoid or resolve all conflicts peacefully. Training with young and old, without hazard of injuries, working on my minds focus and power without elevating myself above others. Developing kokyo-power and reaching a more relaxed state of being.
With the risk of being labelled, I consider myself as being both muslim and buddhist, contradictory as it may be to some. In prayer and in daily life I am considerate of all human beings as being my brother, sisters, mothers and fathers. This has enabled me to enjoy my work as a doorman with self confidence and love, contrary to my steroid collegues. It has also allowed me to grow tremendously as a person between persons in all other circumstances.
All in all, I am now a more humble person than I used to be, and all for the better!
I believe, and stumbling across aikido was no accident.
Bishmillah ar Rahmaan ir Raheem (In the name of Allah, the merciful, the oft-forgiving)