Are martial arts OK?

Question

I have been practicing martial arts for many years, and love it dearly. I love how it makes me feel to do the exercises and to master a difficult skill. I feel more alive when practicing than at any other time.

Is participation in such "violent" sports forbidden in your teachings? I do not see how I could give it up at this time, yet I also want to know and grow my spiritual life. I am not harming anyone when I practice but I am quite attached to it.

Thank you for your kind wisdom.

—Janell, NC, USA

Answer

Dear Janell,

There are several of my fellow disciples on this path who practice martial arts, and I am sure that they do not feel that it conflicts with their spiritual lives.

If you like I can put you in contact with one great soul I know, who is near the very top of this field, who lives here at Ananda Village. He could certainly shed more light on this subject than I, as I have never practiced martial arts. Do let me know, and I’ll see if I can make this happen.

From the little I do know about this subject, it is my understanding that the martial arts were never meant to be a “violent sport.” In their essence, they are more about energy control, self-control, and staying calm and centered under every circumstance in order to protect and defend.

So with these principles in mind, the answer is no, martial arts are not forbidden to followers of these teachings.

Two things you have said, however, are attitudes you might want to look at carefully as you move along your own spiritual path

1) You say you feel “…more alive when practicing martial arts than at any other time.” Hopefully you can use this sort of energy awakening to help move you towards being able to meditate deeply, for it is through meditation that you truly become more alive, awake, aware, expanded into states of superconsciousness, and so on.

Perhaps you can view your practice as a preparation for higher states of consciousness — a sort of means to an end.

What you will probably find out is that your meditations enhance your martial arts practices and visa versa.

If you are not already doing so, I’d recommend you add into your routine the Energization Exercises as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda. Learn more about them here: http://www.ananda.org/meditation/energization.html

2) Second is your statement, “I am very attached to it.” A deeply important part of the spiritual path is letting go of all attachments. Most of us have found that it is impossible to let go of them all immediately. It has to be gradual. So it’s best start with the harmful ones and let them go first.

Practicing martial arts doesn’t seem like a particularly harmful discipline to me, as long as it doesn’t completely dominate your life.

I’d suggest making room in your life for yoga, meditation, and the various spiritual practices recommended by Paramhansa Yogananda. They can be valuable additions to what you are already doing.

And remember, it’s not what you do that is as important as the attitude with which you do it. Watch your thoughts and your heart’s feelings at all time. Meditation will help you very much with this process.