In a discussion in the comments section of my last blog post, I stated that anyone who truly embraces an art allows their psychology to be affected by it. I believe this to be true whether it’s Jiu-jitsu or something non-martial like poetry or calligraphy, though it does have to be something that contains a philosophical element. But this is not true of all martial arts. I will use Japanese martial arts for reference.
There are two mentalities toward training in Japanese martial arts, ‘jutsu’ and ‘do’. ‘Jutsu’ refers to combat-oriented arts that are, in theory, practiced for their practical applications, like Jiu-jitsu (aka, Ju-jutsu), Kenjutsu, Karate-jutsu, etc. ‘Do’ refers to arts that are, in theory, practiced for mental and spiritual development, like Aikido, Iaido, Judo, Kendo, Karate-do, etc.
This is not to say that there isn’t cross-over in the two different mentalities. There are ‘do’ martial arts dojos that simultaneously emphasize practical application, just as there ‘jutsu’ schools who also encourage mental and spiritual development. It is more a question of which comes first in the dojo’s teachings.
In my dojo, for example, our primary curriculum is intended to provide students with practical self-defense skills, but as they train in the long run, the mental and spiritual development also come into their training. Conversely, I’ve trained at Aikido schools that emphasize the mental and spiritual practice first in their students’ training, knowing full well that they likely won’t be able to apply it practically in a self-defense context for years.
Whichever way you come at the ‘do’ part of your training, it has a profound effect on your psychology. You develop a heightened sense of awareness, a free-flowing sense of creativity in your practice and, for some, a deeper appreciation for life and your existence within it. And this is what the martial arts have in common with non-martial arts. It does, however, take a very different, yet very interesting form in martial arts, what I think of as “beauty in destruction.” It sure makes for a neat oxy-moron that begs for further exploration and discussion.