The 7th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Influence of Buddhism in Chinese Martial Arts
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The martial arts incorporate self-defense techniques that have their origin in China, India, and Japan. Although there are numerous disciplines, generally most of the martial arts focus on teaching individuals how to use their hands and feet in order to defend themselves or other people against attacks and gain an offensive advantage. However, the martial arts, especially as practiced in eastern Asia, have been influenced by the teachings of Buddha. Many scholars believe that Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk that lived in 5th century India, spread the concepts of Zen Buddhism to Shaolin monks in China. From then on, notions of Enlightenment, spirituality, and honor have been intricately woven into the fabric of martial arts.
Many scholars believe that Buddhism forms the spiritual and moral foundations for the martial arts. Buddhism provided an ethical framework that taught martial artists the importance of using the skills only in self-defense and in the service of weak. The teachings also taught martial arts practitioners the value of restraint and respect for their perceived enemy.
The Buddhist practice of meditation also played a crucial role in martial arts. Meditation provided individuals with a method of self-reflection and introspection that allowed them to gain a better understanding of themselves and the world around them. It allows individuals to think clearly and learn to harness their energies for a particular task.
Zen allows martial arts practitioners to not only master a particular martial discipline, but it also teaches individuals to be flexible in order to deal with unknown contingencies. Although many disciplines predate the arrival of Buddhist teachings to both China and Japan, the notions of eschewing materialism, self-sacrifice, and the search of Enlightenment all have their underpinnings in Buddhist teachings.
Although many choose to discount the influence on Buddhist thought on the development of the martial arts, those with an open mind and a cursory understanding of the concepts behind Buddhism will see the connection.