Martial Arts and Magick
This month, December 2017, I gave exams for the brown belt in Judo. The brown belt is the last belt before giving exams for the grade of 1st Dan black belt. The brown belt (1st kyu) in Judo is the most important belt in my opinion because as students we have seen by now the Gokyo no Waza which is the material of techniques learned in Kodokan since 1895. Teaching for five years Chapkoondo and Taekwondo, and heading for my third black belt at the age of 25 in Judo and also having passed time studying magic, I came to spot some similarities between magic and martial arts.
Magic and Martial Arts as Systems
(Written by Hekate Phosphoros)
There is not only one system that someone can learn. There are different systems with emphasis on different material or even similar systems with small differences. Someone should carefully choose what is best according to his needs. Both magic and martial arts have a certain/basic material for the students to learn. New techniques are taught and according to the level, perfection is progressively attained. The practitioners have to learn the terminology and the correspondences along with some patterns for achieving each level with exams. Some people pass, some people fail.
Progressively learning the material, the practitioners are used in repeating certain patterns (ritual/kata/kihon/yakusoku kumite) of which some will be the basis for the following patterns of the rest of their practicing lives. A lot of meditation is required and of course visualization. You need to visualize in energy techniques and in the methods of the hardening of the body. Also as a magical tool in every ritual and pathworking. The lack of visualization in both systems will make them seem like a dance. The practitioners must never forget to breathe properly. Great importance is given to the raising, controlling, applying, projecting and grounding the energy. One of the most crucial points is also the manipulation of energy at a certain timing and how it will be used.
The students will immediately realize that nothing will be given freely to them and they will need to earn it (unless we are talking about a New Age group or a McDojo). Set a goal and achieve it. Give exams for the belt, give exams for the grade, break the wood, create the tool. Make it manifest. Be a good student to make your teacher show you more than the basics. Bring new ideas to discuss them with the teacher or apply new self-defense techniques or sparring.
Of course, these results come with a lot of practice and effort. However, there is a secret, invisible enemy… the mind and body. The mind and body will do anything not to let you practice and study. Tell them to be quiet and ignore them. Along with a good practicing program, there is always a mutual respect to the body. Keep it healthy and strong. Keep a balanced diet.
Something that occurs after practice is that the body is going to argue with you, as you will feel pain, muscle injuries, muscle soreness. During the meditation, the body is going to be the worst enemy with itching and numbness. The mind is going to project numerous excuses not to let you do the daily routine because you are tired or because you have something to do. During an exercise that needs you to be quiet, your mind will fly away remembering irrelevant and useless information and not focusing on the actual meditation. You are going to try to remember what you want to eat, what you will do later and if during your mediation you have to count numbers, at zero time you will reach number 40 without even noticing it. The student should overcome those excuses and focus on his goal. If the practitioner denies trying, he will abandon. The practitioner should see a magical tradition and martial arts as a system of self-transformation, not as a part-time hobby or a fashion statement. These systems are not an escape from reality.
Both systems should lead the practitioner to self-discovery, inner peace and spiritual alertness as well as to take the control of his life and not to stand passive. Following this road, the student should not be taught within the system any kind of hate. We are talking about paths of enlightenment and union. The teacher must teach ethics, virtues, commitment, hard work, beauty, justice and how to become better people and develop ourselves through the system. It also should be taught respect for other people and systems as in every system there is a kind of truth. If something is beyond your ethics go away from that system.
In both systems the practitioners have fixed clothes that only wear when they practice the system and there are discrimination clothes/accessories for higher and lower rank practitioners. They all practice at a common place either temple or dojo. Of course, this place has some expenses and the teacher offers his time to teach you, so the students must pay money.
No non-practitioner will understand the importance of not losing a single day from the programmed daily routine. Don’t ask me again “what is going to happen if you miss a day?”
The Common Problems
People will abandon the system either martial arts or magic because it takes time and needs sacrifice and effort. Sooner or later people will have to face some things both inside and outside of them and they are not willing to go through them. That leads to the fact that systems that are good and have good teachers usually don’t have many students. This situation is further intensified by McDojos and New Age groups or eclectic Wicca covens (which come and go), which take the place of valid schools and systems. In addition, fast seminars and lessons take the place of the complete training which requires some years and personal work, according to each system. Learn self-defense and Tarot in two days? Four? A month? I don’t think so. You will most likely hit yourself accidentally or break a bone and you will end up with a beautiful deck of cards to decorate your bookshelf and a certificate of no practical value.
Something else I have noticed is that some people claim to do something they don’t and they use labels to fish customers like “Wicca” and “Karate”. And please… stop saying how ancient is Wicca and Taekwondo. They are not ancient! And they have almost the same age developed around 1950. Get over it! Wicca and Taekwondo are not even 100 years old. Both systems are new, based on different, more ancient systems, philosophies and techniques.
Many people believe that these systems are made for killing people and they are afraid of those who practice these systems. On the contrast there are some others who become super excited and at the moment they know what you do, they come to you to ask for a free advice. “Would you contact the spirits for me? If I grab you like that what would you do?”
It is the teacher’s duty to make clear what is real and what fantasy is. Don’t believe that iron shirt will make you bullet proof or that in the next lessons you will fly or become invisible with ritual. Don’t ask when you will break a wall with the iron fist or when you will talk with a real spirit. If you are a starter don’t make suggestions and don’t teach the teacher.
For the teacher himself, he should not stop practicing and study for himself. Eventually, his knowledge will start to fade away and the others will see it. He must be kind and at the same time strict enough to his students and he must know what is best for each student according to his needs, of course in the field of the system. However, the teacher can become very eclectic to his students and who he will teach. There is also difficulty in trusting who he will give his full and complete knowledge of the system.
The teacher at one point will face some good things from his students and some bad things. Some will progress amazingly fast and they will be very committed. The teacher will be very proud of them. Other students will come for a month and then they will disappear (firework effect) Sometimes they will not want to pay the teacher.
During the class, the teacher will constantly be learning from his students and he will become better. Some students are a great motive for the teacher to learn more. Being a teacher doesn't mean you know everything.
Sometimes, the students tend to misunderstand the whole concept and they expect something else from their training. Sometimes after a ritual, they would expect to have super powers or that after one month in martial arts they will kick 180 degrees high yop chagi. Why to kick that high? You can punch the enemy actually… be practical! When you approach a teacher, know what you want from him. Don't ask him things and wait for him to guess what you want. Don't ever say I "I need a way to protect myself". Because honestly right now I can't tell if that person is talking about magic or martial arts. Be specific and precise.
Anyway, every system takes time and effort to reach a good level and of course for that goal, the student will need a good teacher. Find a teacher who you will respect and inspires you to become better. Listen to him because he knows better how to lead you to this path and don’t practice techniques beyond your level. Practicing and studying is the only way and you will always be pushed to become better.
One good thing today about the teachers and systems is that many of them have websites and the student has the chance to find what he wants easier. Some really good teachers even have videos on Youtube so the student can form a better image of the system and the teacher or compare what he knows with what he sees. Additionally, some teachers are available on Facebook and the student can interact with them. These teachers usually are very good and kind and they will give advice for free. Respect them and thank them for their time.
When a Martial Artist Practices Magick
(Written by Hekate Propolos)
There are many connections and similarities between traditional martial arts and Magick. Martial arts teach discipline, challenging yourself, setting new targets, working with yourself and become better not just as a fighter but as a character. This is budo, the way of martial arts, a way of self-perfection through both physical repetitions and mental training. This mentality can easily be applied in Magick to create a good Magickian. Also, martial arts have meditation and breathing exercises which help in accepting those practices in Magick too. The healing techniques like herbalism, massage, chi gong and the use of meridians also help the practitioner to develop those aspects through Witchcraft too. For the grounding of the energy, martial arts give a lot of earth energy with the hitting exercises and the gymnastics but with kata/forms they cultivate heaven ki and the brain too.
Martial arts encourage cross training like weight lifting and training in different schools and styles. In Magick this is like when someone who practices for some time one tradition, wants to find out techniques of other similar traditions to be more effective or to make things that aren’t possible within the tradition he practices. Thus we see Progressive Wicca and changes in traditional Wicca. Doreen Valiente wrote that in Magick if something works, we use it. That’s it! Experimentation was a fundamental characteristic of magick and in martial arts. But this experimentation should be done not by beginners, else the final result won't be pleasing.
A martial artist trains in the same technique from white belt to black belt. He repeats the same sequences again and again. This will help him in Magick, when he will have to repeat the same banishing rituals, the same circle casting ritual, the same cakes and wine ceremony etc. He knows that every time he becomes better and more fluid. He can also notice changes in the effectiveness of its actions. After many repetitions, we have a daily routine repeated. If the practitioner changes something to try a new variation, he will be in a position to judge if the change had a good effect or no effect on his practice. The constant repetitions or performing a daily routine no matter what is something that we see in zen, as something important. It is important not to skip our work, to do it, without having any obstacles in our mind, without any mind trash.
Personal work is important in martial arts, for being someone more than an average student. Devotion is noticed in simple techniques. The good martial artist makes choices to enhance his training. He is going to run once a week. He goes to the gym or has kettlebells, elastic bands, dumbbells in his house to workout. Likewise, in Magick, the practitioner spends time to make his own tools, to work with his oracle deck or crystals, to meditate and connect with his personal guide. He chooses to work with his tools, as the martial artist chooses to work his blocking techniques or his kicking techniques. In Magick and martial arts, the practitioner understands its weaknesses and he wants to eliminate them.
Martial arts are very grounding as you can see if your technique is effective on a punching board (makiwara), a punching bag, a target mitt, sparring with one or more practitioners, free rule sparring and applying self-defense techniques under pressure. So, he can’t be delusional if his technique works well or if he is strong enough. In Magick, we see people having their mind lost in the skies of imagination. But a martial artist has developed a mindset of testing and waiting for results. The same thing that a scientist does. By the way, science and Magick have a lot of things in common concerning the way they work and be applied.
Another thing I want to address is discipline. Martial artists go for training if they are tired if it is snowing, if it is cold, if it is hot if they are in pain or have low body temperature. They have no problem with ignoring pain and difficulties. They overcome obstacles too easily. Not to mention that even if it is hot or cold, they wear the same clothes. They will sweat and they still have no complaints. Even if their partner smells badly. Let’s see this mentality in Magick. The magickian actually performs the ritual when it is the appropriate time. He constructs the tools no matter what. He will do the offerings daily and he will find the money to get that herb that is missing from the recipe. He will, there will be no permanent problem. He is going to perform the spell with all he has near. No complaints, no excuses.
Cooperation is another thing that a martial artist is building gradually. In training, the martial artist relies on his partner to work the techniques and he becomes better if his partner is better. He bows to his partner as he is the one who gives him the opportunity to train. In tournaments, all the team is united every time a member competes. If we take this and see it in Wicca, the beginner learns to cooperate with characters he doesn't like, just because the ritual should be done and the energies should be harmonious. So there are compromises as there are in training. The martial artist is going to train with the partner that didn't have time to take a bath or his feet smell bad or his gi (uniform) has blood or he ate garlic or onions or he sweats too much. And of course, he is going to train with lighter and heavier than his opponents. He is not asking for exceptions, he works with the flow.
Martial arts offer an active interest in the health of the body. The practitioner tends to eat healthier, whether this is veganism, vegetarianism or eat fish and chicken on a daily basis. He wants to reduce the body fat percentage so that he can move normally in the dojo. If we move that way of thinking in Magick, we see the practitioner trying to gain better energy, having his inner organs work perfectly, which is important for generating and manipulating personal energy. In a more practical way, we have lower cholesterol and blood pressure, lower risk of diabetes, a muscular system that works good, it cooperates and it is flexible. As I wrote before, there is a matter of choices. In Magick, there is a misunderstanding that initiation offers superpowers of makes things easy. Well, initiation is a start on a process of continues work/choices and change. Just like the black belt is nothing but a stage towards a more essential understanding of the material that has been taught and will be added.
The martial artist respects older students and appreciates both knowledge and experience. He also studies books of older teachers. He respects his teacher and other teachers too. The same person, when he will come to Magick he will listen more than speak. He will read more than posting online. And when he will ask another teacher he will consider his response and appreciate it. Once I read a statement of Chic Cicero about online fora and posts. He complained that anybody (and fake profiles too) comes and comments and writes whatever he wants even attacking those who have the knowledge and give their time to respond online to people who ask questions.
The last thing I am going to add is the development of self-confidence. People with low self-condifence begin martial arts and from the beginning, they notice that their self-confidence and self-esteem grow. Self-confidence is important in magick, especially when the practitioner is solitary. But also, to knock the door of a covenor is not a decision taken easily. Low self-confidence is going to provide a person ready for manipulation from a bad teacher weather he is an ego-maniac or he uses marketing to promote his work and gain extra money. Self-confidence means respect for yourself, and if you believe that you are a good fellow who has potential, you will want to work with yourself, you want to be active, to take things, to embrace responsibilities because you believe in yourself and you will travel in a new road by your will.
I have noticed that in the Golden Dawn system, there are practitioners of martial arts. The Golden Dawn hermetic tradition tend to draw intelligent and active people due to its nature. This explains why we see martial artists in that complex system which requires a lot of will, study and devotion.
If you practice Magick and you haven't joined a martial arts place (dojo) we encourage you to do it. Find a martial art that is close to your character and accept the challenge. If you don't want to start a martial art now, consider going for weight lifting. It safer to wake up those muscles and then use them in sports or martial arts. Japanese martial arts are connected with Zen, a spiritual practice of reaching enlightenment through meditation, repeating sutras and reading spiritual texts. As martial arts were always connected with spiritual texts and so magick was connected with philosophy and religion, we have to consider that those systems having many similarities and benefits, offer improvement to the individual's character, mindset, behavior, not to mention that Hekate, the Goddess of Magick is also the protector of athletes and warriors (athlete+warrior = martial artist).
Only mature persons in good mental and physical health should undertake these activities of magic. This system should be approached with the same respect one would accord to a full-contact martial art. -Carroll Poke Runyon