Between Stockholm Syndrome and Lima Syndrome
Part 33: Pacifism in Martial Arts, Violence in Religions
On the surface, it seems like a paradox that pacifism, tranquility, and spirituality became the most important principles in Zen martial arts. After all, Zen martial arts is supposed to be violent, and cannot be separated from Miyamoto Musashi's classic, The Book of Five Rings (1645) which provides timeless advice and swordsmanship techniques for samurai warriors on how to skillfully overpower an opponent and throw an adversary off-guard. However, if only we are honest to ourselves, we'll see how pacifist martial arts—and how violent religions—can be.
Take judo, for example. Literally, judo means "the way of gentleness", and it has been a far cry from an instrument of aggression and domination. Judo was developed by a Japanese educator, Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) out of survival necessities to defend himself against bullies, as he weight only a hundred pounds (45 kg) in his twenties. Judo uses the “soft method” which is characterized by the indirect application of force to defeat an opponent—the similar principle of aiki which uses one's opponent's strength against him and adapting well to changing circumstances.
The spirituality of judo cannot be overstated, as expressed by Gunji Koizumi (1885-1965): "Under the circumstances of contest or combat, to judge clearly, and to command quick action, one must have calm mental balance. This mental balance depends, in turn, on the spiritual balance, or a clear conscience. Thus it will be seen that the study of judo does not remain solely on the physical plane; also, despite the drastic nature of its objectives; judo is not prone to be submissive to the influence of an evil power."
Now let's juxtapose this principle of judo, a Zen martial arts which emphasizes gentleness and conscience, with Moses' famous words (31:13-18): "(13) And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp. (14) And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle. (15) And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? (16) Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. (17) Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. (18) But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." Do we notice the contrast?
Another Japanese Zen martial arts is aikido, developed by Morihei Uyeshiba (1883-1969) who once declared that the true purpose of the martial way was love, “to receive the spirit of the universe and spread his peace.” As described by Vernon Turner in Soul Sword--The Way and the Mind of a Zen Warrior (2000), Aikido practitioners learn to defend themselves with the spirit of peace as their source of power, and Aikido is known for its serenity, grace, and power. In fact, Morihei Uyeshiba's most famous book is titled The Art of Peace, which contains aikido's philosophical foundations based on compassion, wisdom, fearlessness, and love of nature. Again, let's juxtapose aikido's call for peace with that of a familiar religion: "I will send my terror ahead of you and create panic among all the people whose lands you invade. I will make all your enemies turn and run" (Exodus 23:27). The last time I checked Matthew 10:34, even the seemingly serene Jesus once said "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword."
And a sword it was—literally and figuratively—for the following popes did not mince their words. Pope Gregory I (540-604): "The bliss of the elect in heaven would not be perfect unless they were able to look across the abyss and enjoy the agonies of their brethren in eternal fire." Not to be outdone, Pope Paul IV (1476-1559) declared: "If my own father were a heretic, I would personally gather the wood to burn him." Then, Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903): "The death sentence is a necessary and efficacious means for the Church to attain its ends when obstinate heretics disturb the ecclesiastical order."
To be fair to religions, let's take karate, a seemingly deadlier Zen martial arts than both judo and aikido. Surprisingly, it is also characterized by a certain element of gentleness. According to karate’s founding father, Gichin Funakoshi (1906-1945), "kara" means "to purge oneself of selfish and evil thoughts … for only with a clear mind and conscience can the practitioner understand the knowledge which he receives." Funakoshi believed that "one should be inwardly humble and outwardly gentle." It's believed that only by behaving humbly can one be open to karate's wisdom. This is realized through listening and being receptive to criticism. Funakoshi considered courtesy of prime importance, and stated that "karate is properly applied only in those rare situations in which one really must either down another or be downed by him."
Funakoshi did not consider it unusual for a student to use karate in a real physical confrontation no more than perhaps once in a lifetime and stated that karate practitioners must "never be easily drawn into a fight." Because one blow from a real expert could mean death, he warned those who may misuse karate as "bringing dishonor upon themselves." Again, that is the principle of karate, a Zen martial arts with potentially deadly blows, yet still stresses the importance of receptiveness to criticism and being inwardly humble and outwardly gentle. Juxtapose this principle with the teachings of another familiar religion, which in their holy book, the Quran, flatly sanctions terror and violence as a means to convert disbelievers: "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them" (8:12); and "So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them" (9:5).
The more religions changed…
[To be continued.]
Johannes Tan, Indonesian Translator & Conference Interpreter