Similarities in Stoicism and Martial Arts
From a combative point of view, emphasising “stoic” principles make a certain amount of sense. When dealing with violence, one must expect that they will suffer physical and mental pain. Training one’s mind and body to continue to operate under high stress conditions is necessary therefore in preparing the martial artist for violence.
As practitioner’s we are obliged to become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable and to continue to strive for our goals regardless of the suffering we feel. Indeed, one of the early stoic’s Cleanthes of Assos was a boxer prior to beginning his time as a philosopher and, the link of enduring suffering through training can be seen in these two practices.
Despite Stoicism’s origin in western philosophy, we can see how it shares many similarities with eastern philosophies and methods if training in martial arts. The goal of martial arts is for an individual to overcome suffering (specifically physical violence), therefore a mindset that emphasises determination and a clear head is better than one which falters at the onset of pain. The stoic’s knew that life was hard but, they chose instead to temper and hone the mind in order to face adversity on their own terms. So too in martial arts we seek to train ourselves, that we may face violence or suffering with integrity.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations