Sunday, November 30, 2008

I finally realized I am not a Martial Artist!

Yes, I finally realized that I am not actually a Martial Artist. For decades I always thought of myself as a Martial Artist, but I was wrong. Of course, I practiced my Kata, kept in shape, studied philosophy, even dreamed of being a stealthy ninja in the the middle of the night. I now see how it is not me that truly practices Karate, but that it is Karate that expresses itself through me. I am the 'canvas', not the artist.

So, before you think I've gone totally bonkers, let me explain.

This might sound strange so I am going to try and keep it from getting too philosophical or mystical. Those of you who now practice the Martial Arts, if you are like me, have always been drawn to it. Remember the first time you ever saw a Karate or Judo demonstration and you told yourself you just had to do this? It was just so cool that nothing was going to get in your way of learning?

A few weeks ago while going through my personal library I came across the first Karate book I ever bought. I was 12 years old and I remembered mail-ordering it (no internet or back in the dark ages). It was called, "Super Karate". I read this book over and over. I was also fortunate our small public library in Rhinelander had a book on Kung Fu. I constantly renewed it and practice the techniques. The Martial Arts always intrigued me. It was as if it were calling out to me.

Fast forward forty plus years and I can see now how Karate actually was calling out to me. I can see now how Karate and/or Budo is actually the Artist...and I am the Canvas upon which Karate 'paints' its form. Yes, this does sound half-assed backwards, but if you reflect for a moment on how Karate or your respective art has changed you over the years, you will begin to understand what I am saying.

The typical understanding of an Artist is that they create, whether it be a painting, a statue, a piece of music or a book. Every artist has a medium for their art. We, as Martial Artists, tend to think that our medium is the style of Budo we practice, but this is not true. When you grasp 'Emptiness is form, form is emptiness', you begin to see how we are the medium by which Budo expresses itself! We are the canvas, the piece of granite, the musical instrument, the pen and paper. It is Budo that uses us for the expression of a side kick, hip throw, eye jab, or reverse punch, as well as the attributes of compassion, integrity, loyalty, honesty, etc.

Budo transforms us. Shapes us. Changes us into better people. We are the Art-form...not the Artist. Oh, well. Enough ramblings. Just chew on this for awhile. Keep up your 'practice' of the arts and soon you will realize you are not a martial artist either.

Be Well,
Sensei Dave


  1. I've experienced this when beyond being tired, totally exhausted, during a kata or kumite, the "art" flowed without my conscious intervention, a sort of corporal memory. But the zen zone of having it flow, tired or not, comes when you least expect it, like inspiration, and just as suddenly vanishes. You have to not want it, like the samurai who accepts he is dead as the first premise of battle. Just musing.

  2. Wonderful Musing Mr. Morales-Santo Domingo. You have described Mushin, or No-mind. It is when our small ego mind melts into universal mind...until ego sees it and wants to own it. It then vanishes from ego's sight. Universal Mind, or the flow of our art or life is always present, but not always realized until we 'give up' or 'surrender', which is why we can sense it more upon exhaustion. Thank You.