It is said that the roots of many of the martial arts are in India, with Buddhist monks. While many sources provide conflicting data, it is known that in Japan the only places large enough to allow indoor training in bad weather were the giant Buddhist temples.

Zen Buddhism and Martial Arts

For example, white uniforms were the clothing of Japanese Buddhist monks and lay people alike. The rankings of the courses kyu and dan “Class” and “Level” were originally developed and used as a marker for how much a monk had learned and progressed during his training. And a lot of the etiquette in the dojos “training halls”) is identical to that used in the same temples to show respect for everything that has gone before me and for everything that I want to become.

Well, before you stop screaming for fear of being converted to Buddhism, Hinduism, or any other “foreign”, sacrilegious cult – don’t panic. Although Buddhism often practiced like many conventional Western religions, it is not a religion at all – at least not the way most people define or practice a so-called “religion”.

As developed by founder Siddhartha Gautoma, referred to as Buddha (“one who is awake”) and fine-tuned in the past two and a half years – plus centuries, Buddhism is a philosophy of personal development in which the practitioner works to be his true one Understand nature and the immutable laws of the universe that govern the world and everything in it. It is not a belief system at all like many religions today, but relies on the student to get an intimate understanding of reality and truth through direct, personal experience.

Zen and the martial arts

One of the monks who developed martial arts in the Buddhist temples of the time was known as Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen. This new education was accepted by the monks for many reasons. And while the monks may have been interested in defending themselves against unfriendly outsiders, they are also likely to want to prepare for the demands of their daily lives – a life that required them to sit immobile for hours while in a deep meditative practice.

Zen, the most popular form of Buddhist thought known today, is directly related to the intercultural exchange between the arts and the many philosophical systems that came together when these teachings traveled from India to the Himalayas, China, and Japan. Ironically, many Westerners have no idea that Zen is a form of Buddhist study and practice, nor is it usually seen as much more than “sedentary meditation” for most martial artists – both teachers and students.