Here is a link to a very interesting podcast from the BBC on Zen. I’m a regular listener to “In our time” and this one will be of interest to martial artists. The later part of the podcast touches on Zen and the martial arts, and is clear that it is a connection that was invented relatively recently i.e. there was NO historic connection between the martial arts and Zen. Among other things, the podcast covers the fact that the Eugene Herrigel’s seminal book “Zen in the Art of Archery” was written despite his archery teacher, Awa Kenzo – who Eugene Herrigel credits with teaching him Zen precepts via archery – being on record as saying he hated Zen! The conclusion being that a significant part of this “link” was superimposed by western thinkers.
As karateka, it is also important to note that the very first line of Anko Itou’s 10 precepts of karate (1908) is “Karate did not develop from Buddhism or Confucianism”.
Whilst I am firmly of the view that the austere and challenging nature of the martial arts can develop character, it is wholly wrong to make a religious / philosophical link. The martial arts have no connection with any one faith, religion or philosophy and hence can be practised by people of all faiths and none.
The whole podcast is interesting, but the martial arts element starts at 33:40 for those short on time.
All the best,