The Real Purpose of Internal Arts

While I was locked out of my blog, Dave over at Formosa Neijia decided to block comments for a couple of posts.  If you haven't been following his blog, here is the story.  He writes mostly about Internal Martial Arts, but lately he started studying Judo and practicing vigorous fitness routines.  He got a lot of comments from people demanding that he be true to the Internal Martial Arts ethos,  that he renounce hardcore training.  I suspect he got a few nasty comments that were deleted before I had a chance to read them.

Why did he do this?  His first reason was a good one.  He wants to teach his son martial arts.  He decided, and I agree with him, that Judo is a great way to go because it gives high regard to the social aspects of martial arts.  Judo is a two person game with formal protocols which promote kindness, awareness of others, physical sensitivity, and spacial observation.   Judo does a good job of teaching respect for oneself, for other people and for the Dojo itself.   It also hooks you into a world wide community.

His second reason was that he is getting fat.  The fitness routine he is on is part of a diet.

All of this would actually be fine, but a conflict arose based on the presumption that Internal Martial Arts, on there own, were not good enough! For what you ask?  For losing weight.  For defending yourself against an assailant.  For grappling and choke-outs.  For making rock solid abs, gluts, pecks, and biceps!

Why do I care?

I see it as my duty to be a voice for Internal Arts and their Daoist roots.  I don't however, have any intention of trying to convince anybody that what they are doing is wrong.  I don't proselytize.   I just want to be a resource for people who are interested in the subject.

First things first!  Dave made the following comment in one of the blocked posts that I imagine was aimed at me, "I don’t give a damn what the TaoTeChing has to say about anything."  In that comment he is basically saying that regardless of what the Daodejing says about weakness or fighting, we sometimes need to defend ourselves, and to do that, we need the most effective body technologies available.  For the record, here is what the Daodejing actually says:

Weapons are things of ill-omen, disturbing to the spirits.

Adepts give precedent to the Left;  They cultivate calm and do not indulge in conflict.

When there is no alternative, they go to war; Give precedent to the Right and do not delight in victory.

To delight in victory means to enjoy killing others.  To enjoy killing others is to lose one's own life.

Adepts joyfully honor the Left, And only mournfully give precedent to the Right.

When you have killed, honor the dead with sorrow.  When the battle is won, perform the protocols of a funeral for the enemy.

The metaphor of left and right here deserves a little explanation.  The Dao of the Left, is Orthodox Daoism--precepts and wuwei.  The Dao of the Right means trying to become a powerful shaman, ruler, or a god, it is the path of superiority and death.  The emperors of China always had their ministers sit on the Left and their generals sit on the Right.  In war time the ministers and generals switched positions.  Thus, there is an common expression, "Always give precedent to the Left."

The chapter clearly communicates the idea that if you have no alternative, don't be wish-i-washy, go all the way to Right, as far as you can.  In other words, Kick Ass!  Then immediately go back to the Left and treat the experience as a funeral.