I've been thinking about what sports are of late. They are clearly very different to Martial Art and yet, many people categorise Martial Art as sport, despite the commonly used label is Martial ART. It doesn't help the reputation of Martial Art when big money making globalised federations such as the World Taekwondo Federation market their product in saying that it is an Olympic sport that preachers "fair play","good sportsmanship" and "Taekwondo fun for the hole family (Ages 3 and up)". Sports do have their similarities to Martial Art; however, when taking all the elements that make Martial Art what it is into account, the differences outweigh the similarities in my opinion. If your reading this then you may have had experience in playing a sport like myself, but you are probably far more interested in Martial Art at this point in your life, like me again. To under stand Yang we must also understand Yin, and vice versa. It is beneficial to understand both sport and Martial Art by essence. This greatly enhances our conscious awareness of the differences and similarities of this entire situation, regarding the accurate categorisation of these physical activities.
When I was much younger, I use to love Australian Rules Football. It's officially known as AFL (Australian Football League), but to those who love this national sport, it's just "Football" or "Footy". What I loved about it at the time was that I got a lot of physical exercise as it's a very physically demanding contact sport that requires a lot of running. I also loved the thrill of being chased whilst running with the ball, and tackling those who had the footy on the opposite team. It was nice to be part of a group that shared a common interest. I always admired the shear athleticism of professional AFL players. Here is a video with dramatic music (unnecessarily added I think) that will show you what AFL played at a professional level looks like...
One of my favourite quotes from Morihei Ueshiba (the founder of Aikido) is: "Sports are widely practiced nowadays, and they are good for physical exercise. In Aikido [Martial Art], too, we train the body but also use body as a vehicle to train the mind, calm the spirit, and find goodness and beauty, dimensions that sports lack." Ueshiba further stated: "In Aikido [Martial Art], we train not to learn how to win; we train to learn to emerge victorious in any situation." I share Ueshiba's views.
Sports are evolutions of war in my opinion. War, or just fighting, serves the purpose of getting the better of one's enemy. The purpose of fighting is to satisfy one's ego. I think the first formal sports have their origins in ancient times. I can imagine someone maybe 6 centuries ago saying something like "Hey, instead of throwing these javelins at each other, why don't we just throw them over there and see who's javelin went the furthest? That way the winner gets the ego satisfaction we both want, and the loser doesn't have to die, he just loses face!" And then the other guy probably said "Wow, great idea! I'm glad you thought of that before we killed each other :-)" theoretically, this idea of non-lethal competition is a relatively intelligent way to, and do keep in mind that I use this term metaphorically; 'bypass', mans innate animalistic urge to put others out of commission. In many ways, I think it has met with relative success. RELATIVE success. Now, instead of speaking theoretically and off the top of my head about how this success is relative like I normally would, I'm going to share with you a recent experience in my life that I believe is a good example of relative success.
As I am currently doing my last year of high school, I have the privilege of using the school's gymnasium during lunch. I went into the gym last week and joined 3 other guys playing singles in the game of badminton. The way they were playing it was who ever scored the best out of 3 got to stay in. When I was playing, I really enjoyed myself. I love the feeling of hitting the shuttlecock. What made it even better was that the guy on the other side of the net would hit it back to me, so that I could hit it again! We were helping each other physically develop our reaction time, precision, agility and mental endurance. When I went out, it didn't seen like I was "going out". It seemed like a harmonious rotation so that someone else could come in and have that same experience, and I was happy for them just as I was for myself. The YinYang principle felt obviously present. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that it felt like a meditative experience to me. Unfortunately however, one of the guys didn't see it as a beautiful harmonious experience like I did. Whenever he didn't 'get the best out of 3', he yelled "Arr F**K!!". He then through his racket up to the ceiling or into the walls. I felt sorry for him. He seemed to be going through a lot of pain that was completely unnecessary. I believe that this is an example of how sports can bring out the worst in people. Sports can be a good thing for society because people aren't getting killed. But they often seem to be more competitive than ever.
The other day in Physical Education class, I over herd my teacher tell the guy who through the racket that he was banned from playing badminton in the gym during lunchtime and that he should have hid the broken racket better. And yes, his competitive attitude led to the destruction of school property. This is an example of why the success is relative in my opinion.
Sports seem to succeed as methods of human development in the physical sense to certain extents. Sport participants are most often very fit/athletic because of the physically demanding nature of sports. Although sports practitioners are very physically healthy and generally have a degree of mental health, they are possibly some of the most spiritually unhealthy people you might come across. Why? Because that old animalistic instinct or innate impulse that says 'I must be better than them!', is not being delt with or maturing. In actuality, it is being encouraged. In my opinion this is misguided behaviour. Although I disagree with that guys behaviour, I feel fairly compassionate towards him and competitive people like him. I feel that they are misguided. They are not bad. What they do have is a lot of room to develop, particularly in the spiritual department I think. They have lots of growing to do, just as infants do. As I have grown, I have learnt not to fight them or actively try to change them. From past experience's, I've got nowhere by doing this. If they take an interest in me and the way in which I view the world, it would be an honour to help the grow beyond the ego.
I have found that by thinking about sports over the past few weeks, my understanding of Martial Art and its relation to sport is even clearer. Sport is an evolution from fighting that promotes physical health. That in itself is an obviously positive factor. Although it technically goes beyond fighting, it can sometimes have a reverse effect on certain people, making them more violent. Martial Art on the other hand is a more complete evolution, developing not just the physical and/or mental aspects, but all aspects of the human being, including the spiritual aspect which is very intrapersonal by nature according to my current understanding.
I see that the West knows about the first step. The Western world has known about the physical aspect for a long time, and more recently gained an understanding of the mental aspect of human development. As there are 3 aspects of human development and the Western world now specialises 2, a simple way to put it would be to say that the West scores 2/3. Through my studies of Martial Art and Eastern philosophy, I have come to realise that the East recognises those of the West, but the spiritual aspect just as much. For that reason, I'd give the East 3/3. This brings me to question why the East has brilliant holistic views of the human being and why the West only knows parts of the whole truth. The answer that comes to mind is that the Eastern civilisations are much older than those of the West. I know that it's a HUGE generalisation in me saying this; the East has more maturity than the West. I have reason to believe that before the second half of the 20th century, competitive sports were non-existent in the East. This great documentary makes a significant statement regarding this between 3:05 - 3:47.
I think it is important to remember that not all physical activities are competitive sports. Too many people immediately think of competitive sports when they hear the words 'physical activity' in my opinion. Not all physical activity should be made competitive. Actually, I'd like to say that competition should not come into physical activity at all, but that would be very impractical and idealistic. The masses of people are not going to change over night. However, some physical activities aren't competitive by nature. There's gymnastic training. There can be bike riding, jogging or swimming for fun. There's also the physical arts, like dance. Dance is a physical expression of the human being. It often requires a lot of skill. Martial art is very similar. Martial Art is like dance, but with combative techniques integrated into the physical expression.
Now I'd like to simply summarise the message I'm trying convey regarding my evolution theory. First, humans were fighting. This is Step 1. Step 2 to was when people took the killing out of competition, and thus sport was created. Step 3 is maintaining the physical intelligence of sport but taking the competition out of it. So that way, all aggressive or egotistical substances have been removed. As I don't know of any sports originating in the East, I believe the East reached stage 3. The West seems to be on stage 2. The west is younger and has more growing to do. I think that's a positive thing.
Many people seem to like implementing competition into physical arts such as Martial Art. THIS CONTRADICTS THE ESSENCE OF MARTIAL ART! I see no point in having Martial Art tournaments. To revert Martial Art from a peaceful physical expression for holistic cultivation to just another sport is to go from stage 3 back down to stage 2. This is devolution. It disappoints me that others do this, but it's important not to over concern ourselves with others. If we do then we can easily lose sight of the path, way, Tao. It does however, bring me feelings of warmth to know that True Martial Art is being practiced. Not in the commercial world, but by individuals that simply express the way to the best of their abilities. This is purity.
To conclude this blog post, I'd like to quote Buddha; "The winner saws [constructs] hatred because the loser must suffer. Give up winning and losing, then find joy."