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Old 12-09-2003, 02:17 PM   #1
Dojo: Messores Sensei (Largo, Fl.)
Location: Florida
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 1,267
Zen and Martial Art (?!)

As per Michael Young's reasonable request, I have continued a tangent in this new thread. Originally it was at http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showth...?threadid=4603.

Michael Young wrote:
Yes, but where in Furuya Sensei's post was this evident? His comment is that they are closely linked. Does he mean that the study of martial arts is the study of Zen, my impression is no...closely linked denotes something else...mainly that many of the concepts are the same....

Having said that, I would like to hear more of your opinions on the abused notion of Zen's close association in Japanese MA's
Thanks for asking.

As regards the Zen influence, I've got to ask: Iz you iz or iz you ain't?

Are we talking about Zen proper, a discipline in which one immersed oneself entirely (there were no lay-adepts until DT Suzuki's generation) or merely the miasma of Zen in the culture? Again, the point that Suzuki overemphasized Zen's influence is relevant here. One researcher tried to trace the Zen influence in gardens that Suzuki vaunted so highly. The earliest reference he could find was the 20 century...in a tourist brochure...written in English...by a foreign woman...living next door... to Suzuki. How much Zen was there actually in the air that these Bushi were soaking up?

Kensho Furuya wrote:
Historically and culturally, Japanese martial arts happens to be closely linked to Zen. That is the way it just happens to be....
According to what I've read, it would be more accurate to say that "Historically and culturally, Japanese martial art-ISTs happens to be closely linked to Zen."

There were two great outcroppings of Zen in Jpn history, Kamakura and Edo. According to Five Mountains: The Rinzai Zen Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan (Harvard East Asian Monographs, 85) by Martin Collcutt (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...books&n=507846), the Hojo, having wrested power from the Emperor in the 12 century, needed religious, political, and cultural legitimation. The other Buddhist sects were already connected to the imperial household and thus their loyalty could at best be suspect. Zen, introduced to Jp in the 8 th century, was suddenly useful (its purported sword/mind benefits having languished lo those four centuries unrecognized). Two of the Hojo seemed actually to practice it, but they were the exception. The chief values of Zen to the warriors was--

1) cultural legitimation (the trappings of spiritualism and the insight of their Chinese Ch'an masters in matters of Chinese literature--Kyoto, the imperial household, had Jpn literature in its pocket)

2) political: these Ch'an masters would travel on behalf of the Shogun to China on diplomatic missions and provide intelligence concerning matters on the continent.

3) funerary ceremonies

The Ashikaga Shoguns would continue this convenient association for the same reasons.

In Edo (1600-1867), Zen might, without injustice, be considered a kind of urban affectation. Purported to train the Bushi to fight better, when the rustics came to town absent this marvelous mind-swordsmanship, they handed their enlightened citified cousins their heads. Indeed, when the Shogunate established it's military academy to defend itself against the coming revolution, it installed these sorts as teachers, very embarrassing to mind/swordsmen Yagyu, hereditary sword tutors to the Shogun. To be sure, there were people who claimed a Zen component, but scholars, e.g., speak of Yamaoka Tesshu as an exception during that time, as he actually did go to a temple and actually did do Zen with more than his tongue. (See especially Hurst, G.C. "From heiho to bugei: The emergence of the martial arts in Tokugawa Japan" in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts, VOLUME 2 ~ NUMBER 4 ~ 1993 )

Kensho Furuya wrote:
In regards to Zen and its connection to martial arts, and here, I am addressing tradtional Japanese martial arts, please do your homework and go through all of the accepted historical documents and records regarding Japanese martial art throughout its entire history in Japan. Much of what I say here is a product of such painstaking reserach over the last 40 years.
Actually, I would be interested as to why Furuya Sensei's experience going through the accepted historical documents and records regarding Japanese martial art throughout its entire history in Japan deviates so greatly from those quoted below:

Karl Friday:

"Be careful of the oft-repeated contention that Zen was widely practiced among the samurai. It was not. The most common form of Buddhism among the medieval and early modern samurai--as among the peasantry and townsmen of the same periods--was Pure Land. The form of Buddhism that most influenced the bugei, was Mikkyo. " (http://listserv.uoguelph.ca/cgi-bin/...aido-l&P=R7653)

Meik Skoss:

Interesting question about the relationship of Zen to koryu bujutsu. Probably the best sources to examine on the subject would be the densho of different ryu. That being said, there's an almost total dearth of Zen-stuff in any of them. What one does find are references to kami (Shinto deities), devas and bosatsus (Buddhist worthies of various sorts), direct reference to mikkyo practices. If one takes these documents as reliable sources of valid information about warrior concerns, then Zen is pretty far down the list, ranking somewhere between absolute and asymptotic zero.

Oh, yes, what about Herrigel's and Suzuki's references to the importance of zazen and satori in budo or other Japanese traditional arts? I defer to Wayne's World for a definitive answer: "and monkeys might fly out of your butt." In other words: NOT!!

William Bodiford:

This conclusion is absolutely correct. I would emphasize the phrase "almost total dearth" rather than "absolute zero," though. Initiation documents passed down in traditional martial lineages predominately reference combined exoteric-esoteric (ken-mitsu) forms of tantric Buddhism and Chinese learning (especially Daoist magic). There are rare examples, though, of martial initiation documents (densho) that contain subsection titles and contents identical to the initiation documents (kirikami) that were passed down in medieval Zen lineages. Just estimating from memory, I guess I have seen these kinds of initiation documents only in about 3 of the 50 or so collections of koryu document collections that are available in publications. These documents might represent only one or two of about 30 or 40 initiations taught in those particular martial art lineage and taken together they correspond only to about three or four of the hundreds of initiation documents taught in Zen lineages. (Regarding initiation documents in medieval Japanese Zen, please read my book: Soto Zen in Medieval Japan, 1994, Univ. of Hawaii Press.) A comparative examination of these overlapping documents would result in a completely different version of "Zen and the martial arts" than commonly imagined by Western writers.

(For the whole of the very intersting thread excerpted here (Skoss/Bodiford and more of Friday), see http://www.e-budo.com/vbulletin/show...t+total+dearth)

Last edited by Don_Modesto : 12-09-2003 at 02:21 PM.

Don J. Modesto
St. Petersburg, Florida
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Old 12-09-2003, 03:25 PM   #2
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 8
Thumbs down Re: Zen and Martial Art (?!)

Excellent compilation, Don !
There was another interesting qoute from Karl Friday in that thread:

Philosophers like DT Suzuki and historians like George Sansom reasoned that if Zen trivialized the line between life and death, and taught that enlightenment could be had through devotion to one's everyday job with the proper mindset (both of which propositions are, BTW, somewhat dubious), then it ought to have appealed to medieval warriors, whose vocations put them in constant contact with death and forced them to perform acts that ran contrary to traditional Buddhist morality. This is a reasonable surmise, but there's no foundation for it, and the evidence we do have concerning warrior religion points in an entirely different direction.

Last edited by Pasha : 12-09-2003 at 03:27 PM.
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