Three Types of Martial Arts
For many interested in a spiritual path (a study of the nature and conversion of spirit/consciousness) it can be difficult to understand the importance of the warrior arts. Many eastern spiritual traditions have long had connections with the martial studies though it can be difficult to understand exactly why said connections exist. To understand the usefulness of the martial arts within the context of inner development we really have to break down martial arts into three main categories:
- The martial arts of periods of warfare
- The martial arts of competitive sports
- The martial arts of peace-time
Understanding the nature of the martial arts for a spiritual study requires that a person understand which of these three systems they are engaging with. During periods of warfare martial arts training is violent, bloody, painful and focused upon the efficient destruction of an opponent. There is little in the way of ‘forms’ study or aesthetics. Competitive sports-based martial arts are a relative modernism based upon the winning of medals or the achievements of specific physical goals. Training is tough with a focus upon ‘peaking’ your physical performance and fitness. The martial arts of peace-time are an adaptation of the martial arts of warfare. Though stemming from the same traditions, the focus upon bloodshed and efficient killing/survival is switched for efficient body movement, perfection of form and technical proficiency with the mind and body.
Confusion comes when a person does not understand the nature of the martial art they are studying or they try to learn it within the wrong context. Warfare-based martial arts are no good in competition and will rarely lead you towards elevation of the spirit. Sports-based martial arts do not contain the mental conditioning for the taking of life and ignore the elevation of consciousness altogether. Peace-time martial arts may well teach you to defend yourself from a mugger but they are not adequate to turn you into an efficient killer nor are they going to allow you to win in the competitive arena. These three different forms of martial arts are completely different entities and should be understood as being so.
- Warfare-based martial arts are to ‘stop your opponent from killing you’
- Competition-based martial arts are to ‘stop your opponent from beating you’
- Peace-time martial arts are to ‘stop inner conflict on a spiritual level’
Peace-Time Martial Arts
We practice and teach ‘peace-time martial arts’. We are under no illusion that we are teaching anything different. What this is, is a study of efficient of movement, internal principles and combative techniques with a focus upon integration of body and mind into one unified whole. Through a study of the nature of martial technique a person learns how to unify Ming (health and life) and Xing (inner nature) whilst working through the various layers of distortion which lead to inner feelings of low self-esteem, insecurity and frustration. In short they tackle many of the things which prevent a person from reaching a state of inner peace.
Alongside this, students learn how to defend themselves from an aggressor, as ultimately one of the worst things for your spiritual development is to be violently dominated by another. What we do not study, however, is the conscious-less taking of human life through violent technique. We live in times of relative peace and therefore the focus should be upon the most likely and common opponents within our life, inner turmoil and physical illness. Few of us will be killed by a violent assailant but many of us will die early from heart disease or a similar ailment.
The path of the spiritual warrior is a path of discomfort, inner questioning and arduous repetition, but it is a solid and long-established way to reach a state of spiritual elevation.
Within Lotus Nei Gong we teach martial arts from two main systems. The first is Taijiquan from the Yang branch of practice. The second is Baguazhang from the Cheng tradition supported with some Hebei Xingyiquan. Alongside this, students with an avid interest in cultivation through combat also study a non-style-specific class focused on all round combat including striking, locking, throwing, grappling and ground fighting. Though this class can be quite intense at times it is still taught in a safe and technical manner.