BlackBird wrote:While I'm not certain martial arts are in line with the Buddha's teachings, I don't think they're a fruitless exercise Alex. I've met a few black belts and they're more often than not - Very nice, humble and disciplined people. I have thought that taking up a martial art might actually have some benefit on the cushion, or perhaps time on the cushion would have some benefit on the martial art, but there does seem to be a degree of cross over.
I agree that many martial arts practioners are very nice people--hell, I used to be one. Lol. But I think there needs to be a distinction made between the martial arts which are actually effective in combat situations and those that are not.Ineffective martial arts
I think this is the largest category. Most martial arts have been watered down over the years, were never effective in combat to begin with, or were just plain fabricated to sell to eager consumers during the "dojo boom" of the late 70s and early 80s.
Martial arts can be an introduction to Asian culture and philosophy and to focusing one's mind. In this sense, even ineffective martial arts have some value. They can be like "Preparation for Shamatha 101" from a spiritual standpoint. There is often an emphasis on ethics and an introduction to martial arts folklore.
Perhaps the students at these dojos will enjoy the feelings of peace they get while practicing their katas in the early evening with others. There may or may not be sparring. If so, it will most likely involve no contact or light contact.Effective martial arts
Some ancient martial arts are still effective: judo, jiu-jitsu, esrkima, silat, etc. And some newly created martial arts are effective: Krav maga, MMA, the US Marine Corps martial arts training, etc. Some of these could care less about Asian culture, peace of mind, or ethics. It's all about simple, destructive techniques done properly, fast, with the intention to totally dominate one's opponent, and with the will to survive at any cost.
I remember devouring the stories in Inside Kung-Fu magazine about wise, ethical, old kung fu masters who effortlessly defeated groups of unethical thugs when attacked, but I think these things rarely happen. There is a reason why you never see Tai Chi or Aikido practioners win in mixed martial arts competitions. Even most guys who practice what look like pretty fierce techniques in the dojo would still probably lose to a soldier who doesn't know any martial arts, but who is extremely aggressive and strong and is used to fighting in life-and-death situations.
So in summary, I think that most martial arts are worthless for self-defense, but are useful for the beginning stages of spiritual development. Other martial arts are great for self-defense, but may not develop such postivie spiritual qualities. Perhaps, some may do both, but I'm not sure. Most western dojos teach ineffective techniques while selling the mystique of Asian inner peace along with a lot of other martial arts paraphenalia (dragon T-shirts, foam nunchucks, etc.).
In my opinion, if someone wants to learn to fight, then he/she should learn judo (people have been inflicting serious bodily harm on each other since the time of the samurai with judo because of judo's very effective use of leverage). If someone wants to develop himself/herself spiritually, then he/she should practice Buddhism. The martial arts done in your average plaza dojo tend to only develop meager amounts of either and may result in developing a false sense of confidence which will very likely be quickly shattered in a real fight.