Purification: Excerpt from Budo Mind and Body: Training Secrets from the Japanese Martial Arts

By Suino, Nicklaus
This article first appeared in the “SMAA Journal” Volume 22, Issue 3.
Purification: Excerpt from Budo Mind and Body: Training Secrets from the Japanese Martial Arts

Looking for ways to declutter your mind and body?

Have you ever thought of martial arts as purifying?

An important concept in budo is that of self-purification through training. Budo practice is thought by some to be a means of approaching the presence of the sacred. In some ways similar to the ritual of washing the hands and mouth before entering a temple, training is a way of cleansing the body, mind, and spirit in preparation for an encounter with a higher plane of existence. The physical cleansing that takes place is fairly obvious. Sweat cleans out the pores, and the rush of blood through the veins and arteries is thought to help keep them clear. Comparing the physical condition of a budo man at seventy years of age and that of someone the same age who has not trained will satisfy you that exercise is good for the body. If, in fact, "the body is a temple," then hard physical training is equivalent to sweeping the floors of the temple, painting the walls, and burning incense to welcome the gods.

Mental cleansing comes through concentration. The complex actions performed in budo require our strict attention, distracting us from petty concerns. Paradoxically, deep concentration on the details of technique frees us from the worry over daily issues, allowing us to concentrating on fundamental matters. Thus, we can look clearly at our circumstances and decide if they are what we think they ought to be. In a lesser sense, this can mean something like examining a technique and deciding the best way to perform it. In a larger sense, it can mean contemplating our whole relationship with the world and perhaps making behavioral changes that bring us more in line with our ideas of how we ought to live.

Through frequent practice, we learn to stay in this state of sharpened perception for longer periods of time. Repeated efforts of this kind eventually sharpen perception permanently. Like the results of regular meditation, daily exposure to a clearer way of viewing the world affects our thinking in fundamental ways. Learning to perceive truth is intrinsically rewarding, and we begin to seek it in experiences outside the dojo. Constant exposure to this kind of thinking can ultimately have a profound effect on our personalities.

"Spiritual" cleansing also comes from hard training. A tired body seems more inclined to operate in unity with the mind, leading to the kind of clarity that often follows intense meditation. At the extreme limit of fatigue, an exhausted body becomes unable to resist the dictates of the spirit. Thinking and then acting becomes, after many repetitions, unified thought and action. According to certain budo philosophers, there eventually arises a "perfect" relationship between mind and body, at which point the whole human being becomes a means of expressing divine intention, and thus is no longer constrained by ordinary physical and mental limitations. It is when students experience this oneness that they find their training most rewarding.

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