Occasionally people take up martial arts as part of their “shamanic” quest. Of course such a thing is totally appropriate since warrior arts have long been associated with such journeys. On the interview we always conduct before accepting students some people indicate they are taking courses in Shamanism or going to seminars and there might be some “blend” of the martial arts commodious to this.
Of course every one constructs his or her own reality, especially in this age where shopping is king. I realize that most people know nothing about the tight connection of shamanism to martial arts. And also don’t realize how completely unlike this inheritance some modern martial arts with its emphasis on “street combat” or “building self esteem” have become. The same can be said of shamanic practice. Because both of these practices are so deep, so ancient and so misunderstood there can be all sorts of excess baggage attached. Some of this excess is natural and acceptable but it is excess none the less. Here are a few examplesÃ‰
1. PERSONAL THERAPY: Most of us need healing. And our deep gorges of cut misery may indeed find so relief in the arts of the shaman but, truthfully, shamanic arts are not personal therapy. They can’t be. They have to be about servicing the village, the people because the other worldly truth doesn’t exist out there for your sake or anyone else’s. In Hollywood movies the world is threatened by destruction ostensibly so the guy and the gal can get together. The subject of shamanism is nothing like this. It is an exploration of the truth as much as that of a scientist. The martial arts – the ancient arts – are the same. To be really good at self defense you have to over come the self, at least in part.
2. THE CROOKED WAY TO POWER: Power is not moral. But the acquisition of power certainly is. In the case of Taoism, for example, we have the concept of yielding. This is an essential aspect of Taoist thought. It is also a subtle way to get what you want. But not the right way. In martial arts to throw, say, a great punch you have to give up the typical idea of what a punch is: tight shoulders, hard fist, cords popping in the neck. It is a real ego-deflater. Often people take a spiritual path looking for personal power because they feel so powerless in the first place. This is just human and proper. But if they don’t see the art of yielding as something inherently useful and valuable then they make limited progress. It’s alright to yield, to “go with the flow” to gain some power. But you have to be honest about your goals.
Shamanism is popular right now. That means many will do it because it is being done, nothing more. In that crowd of the lost some people are actually found. Like martial arts shamanism is best when it is natural, ancient and humble. After all if you aren’t searching for something OTHER than yourself, why leave home?