The Martial Arts –

Your Gateway to a New Age Perspective
By Quinn McMurtry AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED I’ve tried meditation. I even bought a copy of “Meditation for Dummies.” I downloaded podcast, after podcast and managed to find an old copy of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” I visited countless websites that extolled the benefits of meditation. I attempted to endure Wayne Dyer’s meditation tapes. My last attempt was installing an app for my phone that kept track and times daily meditation sessions. Occasionally, I would have moments or a glimmer of mindful-here-and-now-ness, but, unfortunately, none of these approaches worked for me. It was not until I discovered the martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that I was consistently able to reach a mindful state of awareness. Not-so-Ancient Wisdom In retrospect, one of the wisest shamans I ever met was a PE teacher. Clad in polyester football coaching pants, ball cap and a whistle, Coach Tresko was the stereotypical football coached dutifully relegated to teaching PE to Hanover College’s incoming freshmen who were archaically required to endure a

mandatory physical education. Perhaps it started with a couple laps around the football field, then maybe a lecture on hygiene, but during one of those classes, Coach Tresko lectured on something that turned out to be much more profound then it initially seemed. Coach Tresko said this: “If you don’t like doing a certain physical activity, you’re not going to do it. Staying in shape doesn’t have to be jogging or aerobics, if you like shooting basketball go out and shoot basketball. If you like taking walks, take walks, but if you force yourself to do an activity that you really don’t like doing, chances are you are not going to do it over the long haul.”

Despite his non-intellectual approach to his career, which might have focused on no-huddle-offenses, recruiting or booster meetings, Coach Tresko was a soothsayer for my own personal enlightenment. Macho New Age Aversion Call it a sort of “new age” stigma or just a general reluctance to accept a nonwestern type of means-to-an-end, but some people reflexively reject something that is not familiar to them. As I mentioned, the traditional meditation approach did not work for me. The word meditation to this day brings up a variety of visual stereotypes ranging from bald, chanting monks, to lotus-positioned hippies with salt and pepper hair and guys with ponytails. Many of these images may or may not appeal to some people – but especially not me.

Personally, the thought of meditation or anything yoga-like, conjures up images of Cincinnati’s very own Lilias Folan, who was known as the “First Lady of Yoga” when her groundbreaking 1972 PBS series “Lilias! Yoga and You” was popular.

The show claimed to “add more flexibility, energy and joy to your life.” To this day, Cincinnati’s WCET regularly rebroadcast “Lilias.” And still, decades later, I still manage to have a Pavlovian aversion to her monotonous affirmations and purple leotards. I realize I lack a certain self-actualization but can you imagine Clint Eastwood saying “Namaste” – no way – perhaps maybe “make my day.” Or can you visualize Arnold Swartzenneger doing “downward dog.” Or what about Sean Connery requesting a lemon grass shaken not stirred. The point being is that the typical male stereotypes that I identify with or the quintessential American male stereotype, is generally not inclined to accept meditation, yoga or any other new age approach to life and fitness. Although fading, the American narrative is still that of a gunslinger with a Colt 45 riffle and solid right cross. Generally speaking, American male culture is not open to a vegetarian Shaolin fighting monk, tofu, gongs, incense or robes. American culture needs to identify with the New Age mentalities in a different way. This can be done. Hollywood occasionally gets it right. For example, in the 1971 movie Red Sun, two cinematic icons Toshiro Mifune and Charles Bronson partner together to hunt down bad guys, but eventually conflict their two opposing styles conflict (see link.) East Meets West Although it may be an overgeneralization, Western culture is more deeply rooted in the scientific method, whereas Eastern cultures are more ying-yang theorybased on a century-by-century individualistic to approach health and healing – but please do not to be confuse this with Western individualism – typically, an Eastern approach is more holistic (see link). Western cultures are more outward and Eastern more inward in their approaches to health and spirituality.

Typical Western Handsaw and Typical Eastern Handsaws Something as simple as a handsaw can reveal deeply rooted cultural differences between East and West. A Western handsaw is a steel blade with sharp teeth

pointing outward and the cutting action is on the outward stroke, whereas an Eastern handsaw is a steel blade with sharp teeth pointing inward with the cutting action on the inward stroke. Perhaps a more violent or graphic example is the difference in the traditional approaches to suicide. In the West suicide is often done in public by jumping off a building or a bridge, whereas in Japan suicide is and was often done in the centuries old tradition of seppuku (see link) where a self-inflicted fatal stab wound often done in seclusion. Karate Chop New Age Barriers Although there are cultural barriers preventing full acceptance of New Age practices and methodologies, the martial arts is perhaps the most marketable way to promote and persuade people to accept alternative approaches to meditation or New Age approaches. Think about it. What makes a better ad campaign – an image of Bruce Lee or Dr. Andrew Weil?

VS

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Who would you pick? Perhaps some might choose Dr. Weil’s image over the Bruce Lee’s, but obviously Bruce Lee is one of the most iconic individuals of the modern world. For millions, Bruce Lee is the embodiment of the martial arts and he is identified with health, strength, spirituality, eastern methodologies and perhaps the most progressive style of martial arts ever witnessed. Despite Eastern cultural shunning of individuality, Bruce Lee was a rebel. After

mastering the ancient art of Wing Chun (see link), Bruce Lee selectively chose various techniques from the vast array of martial arts, such a Wing Chun, Boxing, Fencing and Jiu-Jitsu, creating his very own “composite style” of new age martial arts called Jeet Kune Do (see link). Bruce Lee discouraged anyone from calling his martial arts a “new style” instead he preferred describing it as a composite style - a mixture of eastern and western approaches. Ever adapting the mind and body to the situation, Bruce Lee’s philosophy was to become “water”. Water flows, bends, splashes, cuts, strikes, adapts and water becomes its surroundings. Akin to the New Age movement, Bruce Lee demonstrates that Eastern and Western philosophies can be intertwined and adaptable to the individual. Bruce Lee’s popularity soared in the 1970s. Culturally, the 1970s is perhaps one America’s most significant decades and a decade that marked a greater acceptance of alternative approaches. From Motown, to classic American movies, to the creation of carrot cake, America and the West gradually became more open and more accepting of non-traditional approaches towards philosophy, vitamins, yoga, spirituality and the martial arts. Independent films surged in popularity during this time. The film, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” questioned institutionalization and individuality. “The Deer Hunter” portrayed individuals affected by the Vietnam War and de-glorified battle. It was during this era that Bruce Lee changed the martial art genre with movies like “Enter The Dragon”, “Fist of Fury” and “Return of the Dragon”, but more importantly, Bruce Lee enabled million of people to be more accepting of Eastern influences.

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu The origins of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are vague. Some theories believe the martial art developed in Indian by Buddhist Monks as a method of self-defense as they traveled spreading the teachings of Buddha. Eventually Jiu-Jitsu spread to Japan, where it was further modified by the Samurai, evolving over hundreds of years into the sport of Judo.

Mitsuyo Maeda circa 1910 For centuries, the secrets of Jiu-Jitsu were hidden and only parts of it were allowed to be learned by the public and adapted to Judo. It was during this time, the 1910s, that Mitsuyo Maeda, a Judo and Jiu-Jitsu master, immigrated to Brazil and adapted the art to a more realistic martial art. It was this martial art that Carlos and Heilo Gracie further transformed and harmoniously combined the techniques of East and West into what is known today as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or the “gentle art” – the most effective self-defense method in the world (watch video) and my very own personal gateway into a new age personal enlightenment and meditation.

A Means to an End It was through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that I learned my personal means to a new age end.

Previously, I mentioned that I had tried traditional forms of meditation and subsequently, failed to incorporate this into my daily life. I was unable to identify with Buddhist Monks or the stereotypical New Age Hippies. I needed something that was more relevant and indicative of who I was and what I felt. I could not sit down and meditate on a daily basis. I am too active to just sit and clear my mind in such a passive manner. Just like Coach Tresko said, “If you don’t like doing something, chances are you are not going to keep doing it.” Meditation has changed for me – thanks to Coach Tresko, Bruce Lee and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Personally, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is my mental and physical salvation. Despite sprained ribs, multiple broken toes and a devastating ACL tear to my right knee, I practice my gentle art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu weekly. Through Jiu-Jitsu I am calmer, physically fit, 20 pounds lighter and increasingly more at peace with the world. So if you are unable to identify with the New Age Movement and its traditional forms of meditation, and you want to change your life by developing a different attitude towards the world and who you are, I can attest that you can find it through the “gentle art” of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

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