Last week I posted about the book I am reading, A Path To Liberation. This week as I continue to read and gain more inspiration and insight into martial arts, I will continue to attempt to share some of the important things I am learning from this book.

Herman Kauz, the author, shares his thoughts about self-defense and its place in martial arts; meditation and martial arts; and the relationship between teacher and student, in the chapters I have read this week. First I am going to touch on the chapter about teacher and student relations, since it has given me insights into the views that students can have of their teachers.

“…expectations of their teacher will be high, most wishing to think of him as a special person who has developed to the extent of being able to offer them a method of breaking through delusions to a more enlightened view of themselves and the world.

A disturbing factor often enters this picture when students, even though cautioned against making such judgments, believe they can define and recognize certain desirable mental and spiritual qualities and expect to discover these in their teacher… But beginners usually judge with their everyday rational minds, without the insight years of training might confer….

At one extreme, veneration of a teacher may have its roots in a wish to believe that he is so highly developed as to possess in his makeup elements that our culture assigns to deity, and that he is then different from the rest of us. The divinity that may be evident in the teacher is, however, in each of us and we are, then, all of us special in that way…

At the other extreme are students whose reservations about their training extend to deep doubts about their ability to develop, to break the hold of their conditioning and see themselves and the world differently or with additional clarity. These students may try to find substance or a basis for their doubts in the way their teacher conducts their training and the way he behaves in the training hall and in everyday life.

Still other students will try to make their teacher into the kind of person they believe he should be. They will discern in him qualities they think he should have and refuse to recognize those they consider negative or inappropriate.”

All of this is interesting to me as a student, and especially as a beginning teacher. There are many implications; I have certainly realized that if I am going to teach a martial art class, there is then always the possibility that a student or potential student will see and observe me as I go about my everyday tasks. But then I am still human and I still do things that I look back on and regret. As Kauz notes, a drawback of the last student viewpoint of teacher mentioned, making the teacher into the kind of person they think he should be- can obscure the student seeing the teacher “as a real person, with the often inconsistent positive and negative qualities we all have.”And a later passage states; “The teachers I have known have been further along the road students wish to travel, could point the way, and had reached understandings and insights that could dispel some of the illusions to which most of us are subject. But these teachers were still human beings who made mistakes and demonstrated the faults and inconsistencies characteristic of us all.”

Meditation is something that comes up often for us, for example see Master Pearson’s most recent post- https://insidetiger.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/2166/

After studying judo, karate, tai chi and Japanese Zen sitting meditation, in this book the author concludes that his practice of martial arts is a form of meditation that has given him great insight. As we who have practiced martial arts know, it is necessary to be fully aware of what you are doing and what your opponent (if you are practicing with one) is doing, and the result of having unrelated thoughts can be physically painful (and a good reminder to pay attention). Another thing in this chapter that I like is the author’s proclamation that through meditation, specifically focusing on the lower tan tien- a spot a few inches below the bellybutton- “The effect on the way we think and feel as our center drops is that we are somehow made aware of knowledge possessed by a part of the body other than the brain. This knowledge is a product of mankind’s development over millions of years and it consists of a sense of our connection with other forms of life and with the spirit that infuses everything.” He also speaks of the importance of learning things this way rather than only accepting views of life put forth through science- “Scientists are becoming increasingly aware of the complexity and interrelatedness of everything in the world. Moreover, while they are finding out more and more about the surface of things, what really makes things work or gives them life continues to be as elusive as ever…. It is interesting that scientists working in areas of research like microphysics find themselves describing the world in the way mystics have always described it…”

“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me”-in those who harbor such thoughts hatred will never cease.

“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me”- in those who do not harbor such thoughts hatred will cease.

For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time- this is an old rule.

-Dhammapada

This quote opens the chapter titled Self-Defense in Martial Arts. Though I believe martial art training is a way that a person can gain confidence and learn to defend him/ her self, I also relate to the author’s inclination to downplay self-defense in his martial art classes. He states that when a person looks to him to learn self-defense his response is “I have advised engaging in the art for its own sake, letting it affect all areas of our being however it will.” An overview of his reasoning; “It is likely that the desire for enhanced self-defense ability stems from a feeling of insecurity…. It is also possible that we may lack confidence in ourselves in a general way and think if we are trained to fight we will develop and project a stronger personality… We may wish to learn self-defense for all these reasons as well as for others… But learning a martial art for self-defense- even if we recognize our insecurity, lack of self-confidence, or desire for power over others- is still only a surface expression of deeper needs or problems that require solution. Because these deeper problems are not solved simply by learning self-defense, those who join martial arts classes with only the intention to learn self-defense usually stay for only a short time…. When they realize that adequate fighting skills require a few years of training, many conclude that the results will not be worth the effort.”

In a way I feel that learning self-defense is a side effect of my studying martial arts. Of course, a lot of what we do can be applied as needed to a self-defense situation, so it can be said to be a big part of what I learn. However martial arts also, as stated in A Path To Liberation, “have much more to offer us than effective fighting techniques.” They can lead to  a of life-path that expands to influence every part of our lives.

I look forward to the rest of this very inspiring book. Thank you Master Pearson for picking it for me.

Thank you for reading our blog.

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