Monday, 2 March 2015

Looking at 無為

In this post I would like to talk in more detail about the term 無為 pronounced Mu-i in Japanese and Wu-wei in Chinese (Mandarin). This concept is often associated to the Taoist approach to living, but aspects of this concept are also very evident in our Karate Do training. At the centre of the concept is 自然 Shizen, taking a natural approach to life and the problems that one may encounter. The concept stresses that the world we live in is made up of opposites and that we need one in order to appreciate the other. This is further applied to combative strategies and theories of dealing with conflict. However,  this has also been wrongly interpreted by some as meaning "to do nothing." I have seen this approach to dealing with conflict applied in various situations here in Japan and have grown to appreciate it very much. The more I am exposed to these concepts the less I want to translate them and simply be receptive to them.

For the sake of introducing them to you, I will try to outline a few important terms in order to build a foundation of knowledge to help us understand the connections between these concepts. I would first like to point out the difference between  不 Fu and 無 Mu.

Fu is a 'negative' and is often coupled with other Kanji to imply more of a meaning of 'Not' like in the case of 不動心 Fudou-shin or 不安定 Fu-antei where Mu is more often translated as lacking the existence of ~, or simply as 'nothing'.

Shi-zen is a term that I am sure you have heard before either in the Dojo or in your Japanese cultural studies. 自然体 Shi-zen-tai, literally meaning a 'natural' state of the body's posture, is a state that we are all forcing ourselves to realize. In this lies the problem.
In order to understand Mu-i or Wu-wei we must first look at a few other terms such as 自然 Shizen mentioned above and the Asian concept of the relationship of man and nature. All of the Asian philosophies with which I am familiar place man on the same level as everything else in nature, that is to say that man is not placed higher than anything else in nature whereas in Western philosophies man is placed higher because of his ability to reason. We must consider such things when we reflect upon these concepts within the Karate Do context as well. The concept that the 敵 Teki, for example, is not some external thing or somebody that needs to be conquered, but rather something within ourselves that needs to be calmed and controlled. In order to understand this we must also take a deeper look at how the terms like 精神 Seishin, 気 Ki, and 養成 You-sei are used in the context of Karate Do.

This concept of 無為 Mu-i also closely relates to 無理、無駄、斑 Mu-ri, Mu-da, Mu-ra, a concept that I have heard my Sensei mention many times in the Dojo and one that Richard Rowell presents as a fundamental learning stage in his book Budo Theory Exploring Martial Arts Principles. I  suggest that you conduct your own research on these and related topics. I will try to provide you with links and book titles that can help you in this respect. I cannot possibly provide you with everything, but I  do hope that I pique your interest and help you realize the importance of these concepts in our Karate Do training.

Where is the 敵 Teki?
there is a saying in Japan, 敵は内にあり Teki wa Uchi ni Ari, This basically suggests that the true Enemy is within each of us. You have probably heard motivational speakers or coaches say that we can be "our own wost enemy" while promoting such things as positive self-talk. Well, this is not a new concept. It has been around for a very long time and while the saying is obviously Japanese it also has ties to Buddhism and Confucianism. In the context of Karate Do training, this is why we undertake 修業 Shu-gyou, as discussed in previous posts. The training we do is done not only for the purpose of developing a strong body physically, but also to create a state of emotional balance. During the course of our training we are not supposed to fight with each other, although this is often done to test strength and skill, the real fight is an internal struggle in which we are really fighting ourselves, 心と戦う Kokoro to Tatakau. In this sense the growth that occurs results in a heightened level of self-awareness and self-control where we can maintain poise as we face our fears. This is the 精神的な成長 Seishin teki na Seichou, growth in the state of one's mind that Sensei often talk about with their students. This is such an important aspect of Karate Do training that I strongly urge you to research it in detail.

I would like to talk a little bit more about 精神 Seishin as I have heard it used in the 道場 Dojo and in 部活動 Bukatsudo. Seishin can be translated as Spirit, Mind, Soul, or even Intention. When the character for 的 Teki, is place on the end the term then changes to Spiritually, Mentally, or Morally. But, I have often heard it used when speaking to young athletes in Junior and Senior High School sports about such things as self-control, mental toughness and controlling one's emotions.

Growth in students is often broken down into two main categories, the first is 精神 Seishin, spirit; mind; intention, which is often associated with 感情 Kan-jyou, Emotions and 道徳 Dou-toku, Morals. The second is  肉体 Nikutai, Physical growth. While it may be said that in the West more attention is paid to physical health than mental health (Guy Winch), They have, traditionally, been treated as equal in the East; developing a strong mind or will within the students through unique training known as 修業 or 修行 Shu-gyou, as discussed in the post 'Taking a Closer Look at Shu Gyou.' I have seen that these are treated as equally important in the growth of children here in Japan and while I might not always agree with some of the approaches I have seen, there is no doubt in my mind that the teachers in the school system whom I know go to great lengths to insure that children have every opportunity for healthy growth in both of these areas. Perhaps this is part of the appeal of Karate Do and Dojo Culture in North America.

Speaking from personal experience, The environment of the Dojo I entered as a small boy changed my life. The training coupled with the advice from my Sensei penetrated deep into my Heart/Mind changing me physically and emotionally and setting my life's course on a path I would have otherwise never ever been aware of.

養成 Cultivation
What we are really talking about here is self-cultivation. Slingerland, in his book '無為 Effortless Action' suggests that "Regardless of which metaphor schema is invoked to conceptualize self-cultivation [養成], the end-goal is the same: harmony and perfection. The rites, for instance, rein in the emotions and allow the attainment of social 'harmony' (和)" (p. 55). This is the 和 Wa from the 和と忍 Wa to Nin in the Chito-Ryu Showa discusses in previous posts. Furthermore, these 'rites' above are  the 礼 Rei of 礼儀作法 Reigi Saho that engender the Wa that can come to exist both inside ourselves, and external to ourselves in all of our relationships in society. Also, it is this Wa which includes a 'harmonizing' of our 気 Ki, and in harmonizing, increases its concentration within us, and also what we can project outward.

all of these processes that I am discussing above, developing 和 Wa, 礼儀 Reigi, 修業、修行 Shu-gyou, 鍛練 Tan-ren 稽古 Kei-ko, etc., all increase the power of our 気 Ki and simultaneously help us to learn to control this 'Ki power', by making it adhere 守 Mamoru within the framework of 和 忍 where we nurture it within the guidelines of the practice performed in the Dojo 道場 which is designated as a "place of nurturing our harmonizing with the powers and potentials of the 道.

The path that we are all walking, the 道 Michi of Karate Do is not a path of violence, as I'm sure you know, it is a path of self-cultivation in which the end-goal is "harmony and perfection" and that is why the journey is never ending. While our physical training may plateau, the cultivation of character only gets more powerful as we continue to study and practice this art of self-discovery. But, this growth can only happen, in my opinion, after we realize that the Teki is not somewhere out there, but something within each of us, something that we bring with us wherever we go. After we turn our attention inward and begin to really reflect 反省 Han-sei internally, only then can this disciplined growth occur. There is something to be learned even from the self help mentors who suggest we "take 100% responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and actions" (Canfield, Success Principles). I learned this in the Dojo, but realized this much later after I really began to look at my life and the choices I've made.

With a topic like this, I could go on forever, but the blog format limits this. What I would much rather prefer is that each of you who read this and other posts on this blog, consider the points made, conduct you own research and, most importantly, talk with eachother. If you do, I am confident that these actions will augment your training in such a way that it will take you to a whole new level.


No comments:

Post a Comment