September 9th 2019

Week commencing 09.09.19

Not only are we settling in to the new dojo space during the week, but we now have a new space to train on Saturday mornings, a Church no less, and this led me to wonder what, if any, connection there might be between religion and martial arts. 

There is certainly an overlap between eastern religion and martial arts, we have all heard of Shaolin Monks and Kung Fu. Indeed Taoism and Buddhism have a long and colourful history throughout Asia, which is richly documented.

However, Karate, as a martial art, is relatively young (I noticed that Rugby has been practiced for longer than karate in Japan, which seems extraordinary) and Karate began life as we know it, in Japan. Okinawa to be precise. 

One of the main or rather, the indigenous religion of Japan, is Shintoism (translated to ‘Way of The Gods’). It is similar to Taoism in that it includes animist elements and spirit worship. Shinto Gods are called Kami and they are sacred spirits which take the form of the landscape and the elements, the most sacred of all being The Sun Goddess. 

There are no absolutes in Shintoism, no rights or wrongs and nobody is perfect. Rituals are practiced to keep away evil spirits by purification, prayers and offerings. 

There are many texts surrounding  Zen Buddhism and the martial arts: the blending of religion and martial arts is clear in a way that does not really appear in Christianity, Judaism or Islam. 

I have heard it said that in Wales, rugby is close to being a religion, which is quite a coincidence really, because next week we see the opening matches of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, in Japan!

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