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Spirituality in martial arts

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In any martial art, physical fitness and self-defense are steps, which lead to the spiritual development of the martial artist. The primary focus of any martial art is always to show the martial artist a way of life, by whose practice, the martial artist can live in peace with oneself and with others.

Everything is connected

Spirituality connects oneself with oneself, and oneself with others. Everybody is connected with everyone else, not only in this world, but in the entire universe. The following video explains from a scientific perspective how everything in the entire universe is connected.

TEDx Talks video “Everything is Connected — Here’s How: | Tom Chi | TEDxTaipei”:

Connection of martial arts, religion and spirituality

Martial arts, religion and spirituality are connected via their own distinct and respective philosophies. This connection is evident, especially in those martial arts which are practiced by monks and nuns. Almost all martial arts place great emphasis on praying, breathing and meditation for spiritual development of the martial artist.

For example, in Taekkyon and Hapkido, the importance of attaining inner peace is fundamental. In Taekwon-Do, Gen. Choi has given importance to the spiritual aspect by explicitly stating the philosophy, moral culture and tenets of Taekwon-Do. The various Chinese martial arts have embedded spirituality influenced by Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, or a mix of Chan Buddhist philosophies. Japanese martial arts follow the Buddhist or the Mahayana Buddhist philosophies. Every fight in Kalari, Kung Fu, Karate, Aikido, Ju-jutsu and Muay Thai, begins with a prayer that is performed in their own unique ways. In the following video, before a Muay Thai fight, a fighter performing the Muay Thai ritualistic prayer, known as “Wai Kru”, is shown.

Amazing Thailand video “Muay Thai (original intro: Wai KRU) by BUA KAW”:

Spiritual concepts

The connection of martial arts, religion and spirituality, leads to the understanding of the spiritual concepts, which enable this connection. By enabling the connection, these spiritual concepts help martial artists in leading meaningful and happy lives.

A fundamental spiritual concept is of “self-mastery”, which has various applications in all spheres of human accomplishments. It is well-known that one who masters oneself can understand others, and with the twin understandings of oneself and others, success is certain in any human endeavor. This concept of self-mastery, as applicable to martial arts, is succinctly stated in the quote, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. – Sun Tzu, The Art of War”. The following video describes the major hindrances as stated in Buddhism for achieving self-mastery from the perspective of a Shaolin warrior monk.

TEDx Talks video “Master Shi Heng Yi – 5 hindrances to self-mastery | Shi Heng YI | TEDxVitosha”:

Among the several spiritual concepts, those that are most often applied in martial arts, are concepts like “inaction in action and action in inaction” (also sometimes described as “stillness in movement and movement in stillness”), “empty mind”, “mindfulness”, “going with the flow”, and more. In the following video, the concept of going with the flow is explained from a psychological perspective.

TEDx Talks video “From Fear to Flow | Cedric Dumont | TEDxUHasselt”:

The following video shows the martial arts perspective of the concept of flow.

TEDx Talks video “Unthink: the path to flow: Grandmaster Dave Wheaton at TEDxAmericanRiviera 2012”:

Way of life

Martial arts is a way of life. By traveling on this way, a martial artist becomes a peace-loving, respectable, contributing and a harmonious member of the society. Such a way of life can be lived if the martial artist understands and follows the spirituality inherent in the martial art. A martial artist always upholds peace, justice, morality, faith, wisdom, social unity, harmony, and compassion. Cultivation of the spirituality within oneself and in other human beings is done, so that everyone can connect within themselves and with others. The following video shows this way of life in Taekwondo.

taekwonmedia video “taekwondo music video: way of life”:


It may be possible to be religious without being spiritual, or to be spiritual without being religious. Since every individual is a unique person, every path is uniquely individualized and similarly, every destination is also uniquely personal. This creates as many paths and destinations as there are human beings. Whichever path and destination one may choose, it interesting to note that reaching the destination is albeit exhilarating; nonetheless, the journey is also equally exhilarating. With every passing mile, the rainbow may advance further and further, but the journey to touch the rainbow is as colorful as the rainbow itself. There is joy in the journey.


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