Oriental martial arts mirror many of the beliefs and customs of the orient. More than merely combat techniques, most martial arts offer their practitioners a way of life based on Eastern philosophy. Martial arts can be best understood if the following aspects of Oriental thought are understood:
Belt: Before the 20th century, most belts were colorless, but since students were prohibited from washing their belts, the belts grew steadily darker through the years of accumulated sweat and soil. If the belt, or OBI in Japanese, becomes undone during practice, martial arts etiquette is observed. The wearer turns around, facing away from his partner, and while kneeling on one knee, reties his belt before, again, facing his partner.
Bowing: The importance of bowing is an important part of any martial arts training. It is an indication of courtesy and respect to the art, the dojo, the sensei, other students, and to yourself. There are many situations where you should bow. The ten basic ones are:
Bowing into and out of the dojo
Bowing onto and off the mat
Formal class bow-in and bow-out, at start and end of class
Bowing to partner before and after working out with him/her
Bowing to your sensei or black belt, after you received individual help or had a question answered while on or off of the mat
Bowing to a seated student, to indicate that you would like him/her to be your partner on the mat
Budo: Broad term, encompassing the Japanese phrase DO (way) arts. Unlike fighting systems before the 20th century, Budo was designed not necessarily to be used in warfare, but as a means of physical and spiritual perfection. Budo, from the mid-18th century, grew out of more deadly arts, called bujutsu (military arts), as a dispassionate, idealized discipline. Its goal is to free the mind of fear and consciousness of self. Budo requires continuous study of technique.
Ch'I: Ch'i manifests itself in the five elements of the universe to give substance to the world, but flows through the elements in the form of a life energy which, if understood, can be controlled. Ch'i is everywhere, it surrounds us and binds us.
Do: When it follows any particular style of the Japanese martial arts, this term means the "way" or more clearly, the way to enlightenment, self-realization, and understanding.
Dojo: Facility in which Budo is practiced.
Ju: Applied to combat, the principle of ju is one of adaptation, taking advantage of an opponent's method and force to defeat or neutralize his purpose. Martial arts chronicles confirm, through ju, a Chinese influence upon that school of thought in Japan which held the principle of nonresistance to be superior, not only in a moral sense, but in the practical reality of combat.
Ki: Japanese work meaning "spirit;" energy believed to be the source of life. It was generally held that this powerful source of energy could be tapped only if a man had stabilized that position of inner centralization in the hara. In China, this energy is known as Ch'i and in Japan KI. The coordinated energy of the hara could infuse a man with tremendous vitality and make him powerful in action, more so than the man who had developed muscular power alone KI or CH'I, is essentially a common property of all human beings. Learning to release and utilize Ki is where the difficulty lies.
Yin-Yang: The opposite forces that exist in harmony, complement each other, and are dependent on each other. Yin is characterized as the negative force of darkness, coldness, and emptiness; Yang as the positive force of light, warmth, and fullness. Yin-Yang represents the two primal, opposite forces; hard and soft, masculine and feminine. The binary list is endless. The configuration is enclosed in a circle, which is indicative of the cyclical evolution of nature. The transmutation of two opposites is represented by the dark area blending into the white. Harmony between these opposite attributes is shown by the equality of the two areas. The white dot in the dark area, and the dark dot in the white area show the interdependency of the two.
Zanshin: State of total awareness, cultivated in all martial arts. Zanshin is not a state achieved through analysis, but rather through experience and instinct.
Zen Discipline: that stresses meditation, and direct transmission of teachings from master to student. Zen, as it is known in Japan, was introduced by Buddhist monks returning from China, in the 13th century. Attracted by its austerity, many samurai sought to perfect themselves in its study. They hoped in this way to face battle and even death without expressing fear. The aim of Zen is complete control of the mind - to attain a state of enlightenment and a sense of detachment from the physical world. This is achieved by constant meditation and strict self-discipline. In relation to moral conduct, however, Zen had little or nothing to add to the code of loyalty and obedience that ruled the life of a samurai. Instead, it sustained them morally and philosophically. Morally, because Zen teaches one not to look backward once the course is decided upon; and philosophically, because it treats life and death indifferently.
Mushin: No mind, the ability to perform a technique automatically, without self-awareness. Subconscious thoughts become part of your conscious mind.