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Many martial arts have an underlying philosophy and basis of peace, reconciliation, and harmony. Equally, though, many are violent and use force and aggression to achieve those aims. While the bases of many martial arts are peaceful, the means to achieve that peace are anything but.

This is a deep contradiction – that ultimately actually makes sense. For many martial arts, this contradiction is comparable to Yin and Yang, in that two opposing ideas and concepts are needed to fulfil and complement each other, to create a sense of completeness and harmony. Many martial art disciplines seek to restore balance and harmony to the environment and restore the natural order of things. To seek that harmony and to return to peace and balance, violence is needed but must have peace and harmony at its core.

Balance of Martial Arts

martial arts philosophy

Balance is the keyword here. For violence and force to be negated, and effectively countered, equal and proportionate forces are needed. For conflict and situational resolution, the source of the conflict needs to be met with force. It is through a controlled and proportionate application of force that peace and harmony can be restored, and equilibrium can be restored to the environment.

The key concept here is that peace can be achieved through violence. Considering harmony and balance as a whole, peace, and violence are therefore connected, interlinked, and (to an extent) dependent on each other. Balance results from the resolution of conflict – for there to be peace there must have been conflict in the first place. Instead of being different and opposing each other, force and peace actually complement and complete each other. Quite often, the two are simply opposites in the same scale or other sides of the same equation or circle.

All Martial Arts Have an Underlying Philosophy

martial arts philosophy

Putting such philosophy into practice, all martial arts have an underlying philosophy (which needs to be understood fully to become an expert), much of which concerns this issue of harmony and resolution. Some are more obvious – such as in Wing Chun Kung Fu. Aikido is another good example: from the beginning, students are taught that aikido is based on an ideology of peace and restoring balance to the universe.

Although violence is used, that force is controlled and focused in such a way to bring peace and resolve conflict. For some martial arts, that philosophy is more subtle such as in Karate. Whether obvious or not, many martial arts have that same concept underpinning it.

Other disciplines quite openly use sheer force to match and overcome an opponent such as in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In doing that, peace and reconciliation are achieved by use of sheer brutal force to counter any attack. Similarly, martial arts such as Judo and Krav Maga are based around self-defence, bringing the philosophy that offensive strikes and force are used to ensure personal safety and security. Safety and peace are results of using overt force.

One way to fully understand the philosophy behind a martial art is to appreciate this contradiction of violence and peace. Further, it must be learned that this is not a contradiction: peace and violence complement one another. To understand that contradiction and concept is to fully understand a chosen martial arts discipline. Such concepts also show the other part of martial arts, namely the philosophy and mental training involved in each discipline.

Each Martial Art Has Its Own Distinctive Philosophy

martial arts philosophy

Each martial art has its own distinctive philosophy behind it. That philosophy underpins how the martial art is put into practice, how it is taught, and the mindset and mental method of thought required of the martial artist. Taiji and Shaolin Kung Fu are very good examples of martial arts being led and driven by a very distinctive mindset and philosophy. From that philosophy derives the etiquette in the dojo, the style of teaching, and the various grips, kicks, throws, and strikes.

To understand the physical aspect of a martial art is to only understand half the martial art. It is the philosophy behind the actions that needs to be studied and understood to fully understand the offensive and defensive strikes.

As a student of martial arts – in addition to endlessly practicing and perfecting the various techniques, throws, and physical skills in all their variations – to consider and fully understand the philosophy behind a chosen martial art will only serve to develop true mastery of a martial art.

Just as violence and peace complement and complete each other, the physical actions and mental philosophy of a martial arts discipline also complete and complement each other.

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