The humankind history is full of religious and philosophical influences that have provoked countless social impacts. For unknown reason, human being feels necessity to connect to something that transcends his understanding since ancient times. Some researches say that it started at the moment of Neanderthal (prehistory) was aware of the mortality, but nobody knows for sure when it really started. Nowadays, maybe it is not about “facing the death”.
In old martial arts history it is not different. Most of those were influenced by religious and philosophical aspects. Today it is impossible to divide martial art of these aspects without sacrificing the deep understanding of the technique, even when it is practiced for self-defense purposes. Martial arts are close related to human being essence that is why these aspects need to be regarded. Of course, we are not saying that to practice martial arts you need follow a religion itself. It is enough look for the connections, such as: cultural influences, important manners, and other aspects that prepares our body and mind, and impacts on execution of the technique by reflexes for instance. Martial arts are not religions.
In the Japanese 武道 (Budo) there are many deities, spirits and gods (神, Kami) related to the war and martial arts, such as: 毘沙門天/多聞天 (Bishamon Ten/Tamon Ten), 経津主神 (Futsunushi no Kami), and 八幡神 (Hachiman Jin). It depends on the religious system and its sects, period, and location. Each martial art has its own history.
Nowadays, one of the most invoked deity is 不動明王(Fudō Myōō Sama) or “The Immovable One”. This Buddhist deity represents many ideas and feelings (like other deities), and those are largely described in Internet. Basically, he mainly describes the immobility facing the delusions of the life. Being one in the group of the 五大明王 (Godai Myōō, the five wrathful deities or deities destined to overcome human passions), he is also called “The destroyer of delusion”. Many Japanese martial artists worship him.
In the 仏道 (Butsudo, Buddha way or Japanese Buddhism) or 仏教 (Bukkyō, Buddha teachings or Japanese Buddhism) there are 顕教(Kengyo, external teachings, exoteric teachings) and 密教 (Mikkyō, secret teachings, esoteric teachings) aspects. Both of those promote several practices that unify mind and body, therefore developing the spirit of practitioner.
Year ago, I found a very experienced Brazilian master of 合気道 (Aikido) in the city of Fortaleza (CE – Brazil). It was a short and amazing period. A student of my Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu classes and a very blessed person, indicate him to me in order to help us to solve some urgent problems. The master knew about us years ago, but he had never heard about the name of our Dojo (it is called Fudo Myo Dojo: www.bujinkanbrasil.com). When we contacted him, he (surprised) asked us “Who has chosen this name”? We did not understand because until that time we did not know about his history. He already had passed for several awesome experiences. I will share only one avoiding telling the name in order to protect the privacy of this master.
He was trained by a worldwide famous Japanese master for a long time. The wife of this Japanese master (also Japanese), once woke up at the night talking to husband and son with a different voice, like a man’s voice, and acting completely different to her usual behavior. Summarizing, after sometime “she” decided to go out and take a cold waterfall shower. Since it happened, the Japanese master and some of his disciples frequently talked to this “personality”. This personality called himself as Fudō Myōō Sama. We could not have the pleasure to observe this phenomenon, but some other “coincidences” happened later. Other histories were also told us at the moment and later. In common sense Fudō Myōō Sama is an archetype usually invoked to fight against passions and bad feelings. In my view, researches and practices of meditation based on his archetype are very challengeable because it changes deeply us, mainly in emotional way.
Phenomenons like these are common in Brazil. Several researchers of religions and practices/rituals reported proven events along of our history, and published books. Personally, I examined similar phenomenon many times, long time ago. This was very important for me until now not just as martial artist, but also as human being.
For martial artists there are several interesting meditation practices based on Fudō Myōō archetype. In other posts I will discuss more about the effect of meditation itself and other practices physically and psychologically at least. Emotionally it has a very interesting effect too.
Finally, you should remember: do not be fanatic. In order to understand martial arts you do not need to be religious, but probably you will understand better if you look for the culture that involves the art, therefore historical related religions and philosophies need to be regarded. Moreover, never try to convert or prove something to someone. Spiritual insights rise naturally and things that transcends are not scientific.