Martial arts, druids and everyday life

I am a pagan druid. I have never felt this relevant to mention on my martial arts blog because until recently I viewed druidry and martial arts as two very different aspects in my life.  A book as a Yule present this year gave me pause for thought.  (Yule is celebrated on 21st December when pagans celebrate the shortest day of the year and the return of the sun.)  The book  was Flashing Steel by Masayuki Shimabukuro and Leonard J Pellman.

As well as addressing technical aspects of Eishin-Ryu Iaido (the style of Japanese swordsmanship I practise) Shimabukuro and Pellman explore the philosophy behind Iaido.  From the book I learnt that the kanjii for martial art breaks is derived from the terms prevent and conflict, making the idea of sport martial arts seem an oxymoron!  The authors also explain the importance of Heijoshin (peace of mind) in martial arts.  This be expressed through a balanced mental development in:

  1. the intellect,
  2. the emotions,
  3. our character.

Mental development is something that will last us a lifetime (or for most of it), where as physical development will inevitable peak and decline as we become older.  Good mental development allows us to “win” in many situations long beyond the point where brute force dominates.

To read this in a martial art book was fascinating.  My jiu jitsu teachings have never really emphasised mental development, it’s implied but rarely specifically mentioned.  Aikido touches on the subject occasionally, but the iaido has certainly bought the importance to the fore.  Yet the principles of heijoshin discussed in Flashing Steel are the very things I seek to cultivate in my druid practice.  While I carry those druid teachings over into my daily life outside of work I rarely put them into practice in my work and I have never consciously applied them to my martial arts.

As humans we have a habit to compartmentalise things.  (Think how confusing it is to meet a work colleague when out food shopping, they belong in the work environment not the bakery aisle.)  Yet segregating thought patterns limits our understanding so we perceive only the surface of a subject rather than develop a deep understanding.  Core skills are transferable and these include the mental disciplines we develop.  Theoretically I am well aware of this but my application has been lacking.

As an example.  It is easy for me to apply peaceful negotiation when someone tries to be confrontational down the pub but trying to find the peace within my own antagonistic mind at work or in the dojo?  I can use the same techniques for calming my mind but have frequently failed to do so.

I guess my point is that we should not take our martial art lessons as only something for the dojo or for combative situations.  We can use them anchor ourselves in life more solidly.  Similarly it is foolish to ignore lessons from outside martial arts because they lack immediate obvious relevance.

So don’t think this…


Doesn’t relate to this…


Because it does on so many levels!

Now it’s over to you to think of connections between your martial arts and other aspects of your life.


First image:  [OBOS Summer Gathering 2016, with yours truly in the picture.]
Second image:  [Yes, spot the druid now wielding a sword.]


By a complete coincidence Andrea Harkins published a very similar post on Google Plus today to promote her new book, The Martial Arts Woman.  Great minds think alike Andrea!

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