The Spirituality of Martial Arts Series
by Dr. Silvia Reid (aka The Chi Whisperer) and Dr. Craig D. Reid
When martial arts rapidly grew during the 1970s (a lot of that had to do with Bruce Lee) and non-martial folks and friends found out that I practiced martial arts, the most asked questions were: “Are you a black belt? What would you do if I attacked you with a baseball bat? Do you think you could beat up so and so in a fight? Which is better, karate or kung Fu?” I knew if I’d answer any of these questions, that’s how people would judge who I am as a martial artist.
In 1973, when I began learning martial arts at age 16, I had thought that martial artists were all connected as part of a global brotherhood. As I read more though, I sadly learned there were bitter martial art enemies based on different countries, martial arts within the same country, school philosophies, styles and certainly anger or maybe hate between people based on the martial art one learned. Yet who was I to judge any style or martial arts practitioner?
Born into a Scottish family of veterans that lived through two World Wars, I was raised to be respectful, mannerly, don’t complain about our life’s situation and to be kind to others. I understood about war and how things escalate, yet to me martial arts was about learning not to fight and learning how to heal, and I believed that all martial artists could still be brothers. After I read that Lee firmly believed that one should spar with as many different styles of martial artists as possible, it made sense, it could broaden my understanding of combat and how to adapt to unfamiliar techniques and fighting styles.
When I arrived at Cornell University, I had never been in a place that had such a diversity of people from other countries. Throughout my whole life I had only met four African Americans and one Asian. Then something hit me.
The Chi Whisperer Judging is in our daily life. It is considered necessary or even positive. It is a process used to help us in evaluating values, making decisions, and solving problems. Judging is also the target practice of connecting with Chi! Judging concludes our understanding from connecting the dots. It’s our brain telling our Chi where we stand.
Effective and sound judging allows us to make choices for appropriate actions. They require information as the basis to judge. To judge we assess and evaluate available information or options, and analyze, evaluate, and interpret information or situations, then come to conclusions. By considering various factors, evidence, and logical reasoning, we can arrive at well-informed judgments, not based on assumption and biased interpretation.
Judging can be seen as negative in some contexts, judging with prejudice and stereotyping involves making assumptions and generalizations about people or situations based on limited information or stereotypes. They lead to bias, discrimination, and unfair conclusions. When we judge in a generalized way, judgement turns into condemning. These types of judging do not connect the relevant dots. In other words, condemning is a lack of exercising real judgement. Being judgmental arises from frequent condemnation.
One example of condemning, generalized judging, can be: A good fighter never loses a fight. If a fighter loses a fight, this fighter cannot be a good fighter. It connects loss with bad. There is no fact about the fight. There is no fact about the fighter. Simply connect the available dots: loss and bad. Following the logic of the example: Muhammad Ali lost a fight to George Foreman; therefore, Ali must be a bad fighter.
Generalized judging does not help us to connect with Chi. It makes us practice missing the target. The more precise our judging, the more we become connected with Chi. Thoughtful evaluation, constructive criticism, and making moral judgments based on empathy, understanding and kindness can contribute to personal growth, ethical decision-making, and fostering positive change. When we judge with kindness, it connects our brain with our heart. True kindness keeps the Chi in our heart alive and active. In turn, it keeps our heart healthy. When kindness is driven by guilt or we pretend to be kind, we are not connecting our brain with our heart. Sound judgement with kindness unites our brain, heart, and Chi.
Dr. Craig: Bouts of Judging with Kindness Helped Prolong My Life
In the Understanding Yourself and Chi Connection blog, I shared as I became m
ore self-aware in my search to understand myself and what makes other people tick, I recognized how one’s background or culture shaped who they were, and I would try to show support for those who were down and out.
Between 1976-1979, when I attended Cornell University, at that time 18% of the student body were Asian, and over the first few months, I asked every Asian male I saw sitting alone in a cafeteria (Cornell had four) if I could join them, hoping that perhaps they were into martial arts and/or Bruce Lee. To my shock, most were serious martial artists and also into Lee.
This is how I learned about martial art attitudes from Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Philippines, Asian Americans and non-Asian Americans. I ended up sparring with 50+ different martial art stylists.
In retrospect, I realize that although my approach started out from a stereotypical understanding, it ended up broadening my understanding.
After each match, there was a bond of brotherhood that came from exchanging blows regardless of the style and the country the martial artist was from.
I found that sparring was a quick way to get to know a person’s spirit and intention, and regardless of the style of martial art, we were all basically testing each other. It was never about winning it was about learning and getting to know someone with a mutual interest.
What I learned from martial artists from specific countries, practitioners mostly learned an art from their country of origin. It created feelings of personal identity, a sense of belonging and a tool for understanding their lineage, and for self-defense. Asian Americans found their Asian identity through martial arts, and many learned because they were being bullied. The one thing we all had in common was a pure love for martial arts and Bruce Lee. That was the time period.
I also learned to never to rush to judgement based on what I had read or heard from someone else about other martial artist styles, nationality, philosophy and who they were. At this juncture in my martial arts development, I reaffirmed to myself that all martial artists can be brothers, and to this day, I fervently believe that all martial artists are kindred spirits.
Being kind has positive effects on physical and mental health, and gives us a sense of well-being, yet what I never realized about Chi (How could I back then, I knew nothing about it.) that by making sound moral judgments with kindness kept the Chi in my heart alive and connected to my brain (even though my taking 30/pills a day was fogging it) and kept the Chi flowing in my body, which helped to prolong my life long enough so I could learn Chi Gong and finally defeat cystic fibrosis.