Tag Archives: dragon

The Three Reasons Why Martial Arts Are Always Spiritual (and WOOTW #67)

I’ve had many conversations with my son, my friends and my workout partners trying to get to the bottom of this question:

Why do martial arts have a profound spiritual effect on people?

In 9 out of 10 folks there seems to be a correlation between practicing martial arts and feelings of spiritual improvement — even when the specific martial art an individual is studying has no obvious spiritual components.  In addition to the aforementioned conversations I’ve done some research and some reading on the subject.  But what I’ve done mostly is a ton of soul searching and meditation.

My conclusion is that there are three primary reasons for this.

Exercise is spiritual medicine.  Exercise creates the ideal brain chemistry for spiritual experience by stimulating the production and release of endocannabinoids (the primary chemical responsible for runner’s high) and endorphins (natural pain killers).  This sets the stage for the next two reasons why martial arts correlate with spiritual experience.  The second one is…

Fraternity is a shared spiritual experience.    Working out with other people, in fact just being with other people, stimulates the production and release of vasopressin and oxytocin, the so-called “bonding molecules” which are linked with feelings of attachment, friendship and love.  Physical touching seems to be extra good and stimulating this release, and there’s a lot of touching other people in the martial arts.

That’s two reasons.  Now for the final one, the big one, the monster reason why martial arts and spiritual development go hand-in-hand.

Martial arts are about being a hero — doing battle with the Chaos Dragon — and that’s about as spiritual as it gets.  Sure, there’s some more brain chemistry involved here, but it’s more than that.  Setting goals and achieving them releases dopamine into your brain and overcoming challenges releases serotonin.  Dopamine is creates the sensation of pleasure and positive rewards, while serotonin, body’s natural anti-depressant, is tied to feelings of self worth, belonging and most of all confidence.  Fighting releases adrenaline, and that’s kind of fun and energizing too.  But the thing to focus on is that martial arts are another version of the hero myth.  As Joseph Campbell described it, the myth goes like this:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

When you’re doing martial arts you’re venturing into the unknown, facing down God-knows-what potential challenges, and practicing how to protect yourself and the people you care about from harm.  That’s the essential, central story of human civilization, starting with Marduk fighting Tiamat — the world’s oldest known story! — up through Hercules vs. the Hydra, Beowulf vs Grendel, St. George, and so on.

When you’re doing martial arts you’re acting out a story so ancient, powerful and important — how could it not be spiritual?  That’s why in Cabal Fang we fly a flag with a black dragon on it.

Here’s a great article that sums up, and backs up, the assertions about brain chemistry I just made.

And now for the workout of the week.

Cabal Fang Workout of the Week #67

  • 250 kicks as fast as you can.  If you want to kick as fast as a snake and as hard as a mule, you need to do more than 10 or 15 kicks a day.  My prescription is a minimum of two kicking sessions per week, one light (say a hundred kicks) and one heavy (approx 250 kicks) to a max of 1,000 per week.  More than that you’ll be wasting time and putting unnecessary wear and tear on your body.  Split your kicking time between heavy bag, shadowboxing, and focus mitts/pads.  Advanced folks should be able to get these done in under 12 minutes, but if you’re just starting out it’ll probably run more like 20.  If you’re not sore the next day you’re not working hard enough.
  • 10-Count Bodybuilders.  Beginner and intermediate players, do 50.  That should take you 7 to 12 minutes.  Advanced folks do 100.  See if you can beat my record of 16:54 or my son’s record of 16:11.
  • Confront the dragon and make a Hero’s List.  Restriction and adversity breed creativity, not freedom!  This is why your teachers gave you assignments like, “paint me a picture using just these three colors” and “make something functional from this pile of wood parts.”  Set a countdown timer for 5 minutes.  Before the timer beeps, list of 10 things you could do in your life that would exemplify the hero myth.  You might not make it to 10 but you’ll definitely have a list of things that you know you need to do but have been putting off.  Start being a hero today.
Did you like this article?  Then my book will blow your mind.  Buy a paper copy on Amazon or from Createspace or download the ebook here.
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2017 New Year Message: Are You Ready?

When I founded the martial art of Cabal Fang back in 2008, and then started the Order of Seven Hills martial arts club in 2009, I did it because I thought my martial art could change the world.  I still do.

Sound crazy?  It ain’t.  Don’t believe me?  Watch this video.

And when you’re done, and you want to know more about Cabal Fang, pre-order a copy of the new Cabal Fang manual that’s releasing on 2/1/2017.

Happy New Year!

Riding the Dragon and Workout of the Week #35

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The logo of the Order of Seven Hills, the founding order of Cabal Fang martial arts

When we founded the Order of Seven Hills back in 2009, we chose a black dragon as our logo (on the right) and that’s what we put on our flag.  We did that because the dragon symbol is so very important.

The dragon is chaos.  It is the serpent, the snake of snakes, and it’s symbolically connected to darkness and the underworld.  In old English we called it a wyrm — a worm — which explains why dragons live in caves.  They hoard gold and keep women captive, which means they symbolize the fundamental drives of the subconscious.

When the hero  — the knight, St. George, Sigurd, Beowulf —  overcomes the dragon to save the village, he is taming chaos and subjugating his fundamental drives in the service of something greater than himself.  And what does the get as a reward?  Well he gets status and success, which means power, money and women throw themselves at his feet.  And so the dragon is reborn, which explains why knights are always having to go fight another dragon somewhere.

We do love our dragons, so much so that we particularly like the idea of taming them.  The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McAffrey is one of the most popular fantasy book series of all time, as are the Game of Thrones books by George R. R. Martin.  Females, like the characters Lessa and Daenerys Targaryen from these two examples, seem more likely to tame them than slaughter them over and over, which may be a smarter way to go about it.  This line of thinking sort of begs a comparison with Eve in the Garden of Eden, or maybe Mary standing on a serpent — but that’s for another article!

At any rate, dragons have wings and they can fly!  So when you learn to accept, tame and harness your drives for power, money and sex  you rise above them.  When you tame the dragon and make peace with it you reach a higher state of awareness.   You make the dragon tow the line, and when you want to unleash it’s power you can.  It doesn’t eat the villagers any more because you feed it a little and then let it sleep.

And isn’t that what the ultimate martial artkist does?  Not only does she defend herself and others, she leaves peace and greater awareness in her wake.

Cabal Fang Workout of the Week #35

  • As many 10-Count Bodybuilders as you can in 20 minutes (aim for 100)
  • A Dragon Meditation.  Set a timer for 10 minutes and assume your chosen meditative posture.  Close your eyes and regulate your breathing.  Then imagine that you are creeping into a dark cave to confront a dragon.  Visualize the scene fully in your mind’s eye.  Immerse yourself in this exercise fully.  Imagine all of the sights, sounds and smells and allow yourself to participate with the mental image and allow it to unfold.  Do you fight the dragon or tame the dragon?  Record the results of your meditation in your training log or journal.  Then take the time to review your life story as a mythological tale.  Have you been spending your life in endless contention with the dragon, or have you been trying to tame it?