Three Jewels of the Martial Arts

The Martial Arts have been around for a very long time.  There are many legends and stories of where they come from and where the lineage of the systems come from as well.  The truth is that we really don't know. However, we have a good idea from legend and oral tradition.  In the study of the Arts one common thread seems to stand out.  That is that the Arts are rooted in a Far East philosophy of Taoism.  This is by no means to be confused with faith or religion and is not an attempt to convert Western people to some esoteric belief system.  It is however, just a tool in the box to help the student of the Arts to center oneself and focus on what is really important and what really matters.  Even though students may compete the Arts are really about the advancement of ones own self actualization.

It is a common belief that there are three Jewels of Taoism (compassion, moderation, and humility) and of the Arts as taught today if one teaches tradition.  As we know, the Arts have undergone change in the world and in America with the Olympics and sport aspects.  What many of us learn in martial arts schools today is far removed from the traditional philosophy of the founding masters of the arts.  This is not to say that this is wrong, it is simply a different approach that what was not originally intended by the masters in keeping with true Budo (the way of the warrior) tradition.

So, with that said, todays students of the Martial Arts are given a choice.  Take the sport road and skip tradition for the sake of the ranking and trophy or take the traditional road of self actualization as intended by the masters of old.

To help one understand this more clearly, I would recommend the book by Dave Lowry "Moving Toward Stillness; Lessons in Daily Life from the Martial Ways". In his first chapter, Entering the Doorway, he explains about humility for us all, no matter what rank we hold. "Japanese doors of all kinds are opened in the same way; you kneel at the crack of the door and push it open, then you come into the room by sliding forward on your knees." Lowry further goes on to say that "It would be easy to make a flashy, imposing entrance." This usually is  the way one finds many Martial Arts instructors presentation. However, those who are secure with their social status as mentors to youth and leaders of society do not need to be reminded of position or status. As Lowry states, "The skills of opening and closing a Japanese door are a part of reishik, 'proper form', or as etiquette. "The ability to move in a balanced and graceful way by slinding one's knees on the floor is a specific aspect of this form, this mastery of the self that allows us to get along with others and to present ourselves to the world in a respectful way," as stated by Lowry.

Because Western society is competetive and sports are encouraged it is usually accepted that atheletes and coaches or instructors revel in the win. Trophies, ranking, and belts are prizes much sought after in what is perceived to be ones' victory. However, in the mind of the true and traditional martial artist the competion is not with the opponent, but with the perfection of ones' own character.

Going back to the original philosophy of the arts one who has trained and obtained proficient skills is already the protector of those less able to defend themselves. And in keeping with the three Jewels, there is no need to flaunt one's skills for self edification or reward. This is the differentiation between the Budo mind, and the sport competitor.

Happy training!