I had a friend who loved to play basketball. Unfortunately, he started playing later in life so didn’t have that many skills. He encountered someone who had been playing ball for more than 20 years on various basketball teams from High School to college, and even at the semi-pro level before getting an injury. He hadn’t been a coach, but he had tons of experience and he shared them freely, every day, with my friend. When I tell you this story you are probably thinking how lucky my friend was. He met this guy who knew all about basketball and learned from him. You probably think about how this guy really helped him. If I told you the same story about martial arts though, and a guy who had been practicing a Tai Chi form or a certain style of karate ten or twenty years, you might say the same thing, until you talked with one of the martial arts gate keepers.

Somehow, in most of the world, martial arts have become a franchise. One has to go to a certain school, or learn from a certain teacher in an old traditional way to be accepted openly as a martial artist, or someone who can teach martial arts. The power of the individual teacher has been taken away and has been replaced with a corporate cog, where the one who is willing to follow the right trail is rewarded while the one who works hard, thinks, and helps to develop new ways of doing martial arts are thwarted. It has always been this way to a certain extent, now things are even worse. With the invention of the video player and DVD and great martial artists who are willing to divulge secrets that have been reserved for long time students to the public, things have gotten much worse. This is partially due to an actual change in martial arts.

Martial arts were primarily used for fighting and protecting oneself. The proof of the art was that it worked. Now, most of the time, it is a sport. People put on pads and gloves, they compete in tournaments, they compete in the Olympics, and all kinds of money are being made from martial arts. Most places don’t emphasize the fact that martial arts were created to protect oneself. They have also forgotten that any art that a person works at and develops to protect oneself is a martial art. I think that we, as the general public, have been hoodwinked again. The system has once again taken away our ability to choose. Instead of using our common sense and realizing that one can learn by practicing and one can teach by knowing the subject matter, we rely on reports, certificates and paper trails from people who are making a fortune teaching. It is time to rely on our own brains now.

Those who really explore the arts don’t take martial arts for prestige. They don’t take it so they can brag about their belts and prance around. They don’t take it so they can put big trophies on their walls. We who do the arts as a spiritual discipline take martial arts so we can learn to take control of the anger, the violence, and the negativity and to channel it, if necessary, to protect ourselves and our family. Most importantly, we take it so that we can help the mind and body become one, and so that through the crude movements of martial arts, we can merge with the powers at the foundation of the universe—the powers of yin and yang, positive and negative, full and empty, and experience wholeness as we and they become one with that power...the same power that many call God.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. John W. Gilmore is a martial-arts instructor and long time practitioner. He is a spiritual director, a certified Massage Therapist, a Certified Reflexologist and an ordained minister. For more articles like this one visit this e-zine, or our website at http://www.dswellness.com , where you can explore Dr. Gilmore’s books, our Practical Spirituality Journal. You may also partake of our many free cyber courses and our interfaith cyber service, the Cyber Circle of Creation Spirituality, which is based on mystical connection and divine union.