Tuesday, April 5, 2011

East Meets West

So as many of you know, I've got a bit of a background in the martial arts. Specifically, I hold a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and orange belt in Hapkido, have studied under both the WTF and ATA styles of Taekwondo, and have had exposure to (seminars or integrated into other martial arts training) Judo, Kungfu, Kumdo, and Systema.

I have also had the honor of serving as an instructor at under Masters Hegland & Shilkaitas, from whom I earned my degree, and as a TA for Grandmaster Yong Chin Pak, who truly is a legend. My dad started teaching me Taekwondo when I was 9, so you could say I've basically grown up around the martial arts.

As many of you also know, I have a keen interest in Theology and Philosophy. My dad pointed out to me (some time ago) that one of the things he enjoyed the most about Taekwondo in college was how the tenets taught by Grandmaster Pak, reflected the way of behaving in which we are trained in our Christian faith; Courtesy, Integrity, Self Control, Perseverance, and Indomitable Spirit.

A warning here, there a few major ways in which eastern religions/philosophies tend to fall away from the truth; Contradiction, nihilism, determinism, and "emptying yourself."

In brief, logic - a product of the west - is founded upon the principle of non-contradiction. That is, one cannot say that a statement (the ball is green) and its opposite (the ball is not green) can both be true at the same time. Many eastern philosophies reject this notion, which draws in a great number of mystic-type pseudo-theologians, but really prevents and real progress from ever being made in any direction, philosophically speaking.

Secondly, with regard to nihilism and determinism, a number of philosophies espouse a total negation or destruction of the self, and promote the concept of a re-incarnation cycle in which we live countless lives until we "get it right."

Along with the issue of nihilism, the Zen concept of emptying yourself can be dangerous if one is not careful. While there is nothing wrong with meditation - in can be very healthy for mind, body, and soul - there are many ways it can be perverted. As a contrast, in Christianity, when one empties oneself, it is for the express purpose of being filled by Christ. We decrease that He might increase, as John the Baptist said. If we simply empty ourselves without any intention, we can open ourselves in dangerous ways.

But all that aside, as far as the way of behaving is concerned, the same basic tenets seem to appear between east and west, and there is a strong tradition of mysticism from the east, which we honestly sometimes lose in todays techno-centric world.

The point I'm getting at is that I have long admired the warrior monks, albeit their much romanticized film versions. The concept of drawing closer to the truth while honing your body appeals to me though I am not very physical myself. Something with the phrase "mens sana in corpore sano" - a healthy mind in a healthy body.

To that end, I have wondered for some time now about what it would be like to start a Catholic order of warriors. Maybe it's a guy thing, but there is a simple and profound closeness and contentment in struggling against another with nothing but your own wits and skills. And there is a truth that when your mind is the master of your body, it is freed to attain nobler pursuits than before, when it is not always fighting for dominance.

I need to find them again, but I composed a series of prayers related to the 8 elements of the Palgwe and Taegeuk form sets taught in the WTF. They have yet to be reviewed by a priest, but my thought was to have them integrated with the forms, so that the practice of the form becomes itself a prayer, a physical expression of love for God by the utilization and maintenance of His temple.

The training would be... interesting. I'm contemplating making the training itself in Latin, though I lean towards the Korean in which I learned the techniques, or English because the rest will be hard enough already. Students would learn not just the physical, or even the mental and spiritual which is currently taught, but more, training in classical forms, hand to hand self defense, sport sparring, weapons, and of course Theology and Philosophy.

The outcome: The Philosopher Warrior. They are gentle, not because they are weak, but because they withhold their strength. They are humble not because they lack in ability, but because they know their ability is a gift, and a responsibility to be used in the service of others. They seek the truth, in word and in act, purifying thought by the sweat of their brow, bonding with each other over the clash of words and the clash of blows.

Their minds are honed into weapons of truth, seeking out what is right in charity and compassion. Their bodies are healthy, strong, able to defend others, clean temples of the Holy Spirit, contemplating the mystery of Christ's Sacred humanity while they discover their own.

Plus, with the end coming 2012*, wouldn't you rather be roaming the post-apocalyptic plains of the midwest with a band of Catholics survivalists?

* N.B. I don't actually believe the end of the world is in 2012. I don't know when it is.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep it civil, keep it thoughtful. Vulgarity will be deleted immediately. Thanks for reading!