“Fake” spirituality in martial arts and Parkour

Martial arts and Parkour are different things but share the same load of bullshit when it comes to the spiritual side of the practice. For example, there are many people within martial arts that view MMA as savage, brutal, lowly. Something that’s beneath them, their level of skill, their profound spiritual development. These are the people that talk about transcending conflict and not using martial arts to fight, but as a way of life. To them, MMA fights are primitive and they don’t encapsulate all there is to the martial arts: the meditative practices, the psychology of conflict, the philosophy of yielding and so on.

Much the same in Parkour. You often hear that the media wants you to see the big stuff, the flashy moves, but it’s actually about achieving awareness of yourself and gaining control, right?

I hear a lot of this mindset with older Parkour practitioners: there’s more to Parkour than simply doing big jumps, it’s about the mentality, the toughness, the discipline, the longevity. They have this image of a Parkour samurai on a spiritual path towards enlightenment.

How is it that these “spiritual” martial artists and traceurs are always the ones that never actually fight, the ones that never seem to do any big jumps? I mean, I know their story: it’s not about fighting and it’s not about doing big jumps. But what is it about then?

Imagine being a programmer. Alright, so you code in several different languages, in C, in Lisp, in Perl and so on. Now imagine that you start talking about these programming languages not being used for programming but to understand the world around you better and help you grow to be a better person. Weird, but acceptable, nobody has a problem with that. UNTIL you stop programming. Because, you see, programming languages serve us so that we can program things. Of course, we can see them in a spiritual way, but only if their primary function – and that is programming – is well satisfied.

Martial arts serve us so that we can fight. That’s it. That’s their primary function, and if you haven’t got the primary function covered, I don’t want to hear about any sort of spiritual development through martial arts. If you’re not interested in fighting but only spiritual development, then you should take up a meditative practice, not a martial one.

martial

/ˈmɑːʃ(ə)l/

adjective

adjective: martial

1. relating to fighting or war.

Relating to fighting or war. That’s the primary function. But, but, but, there’s more to martial arts than just fighting, you know… Yes, there is, but I’ll say it again: you have no business looking for some advanced spiritual practice if you don’t have the basic idea (fighting) covered. And at this point, many people will make the same mistake as I have done before, and conclude that they can in fact fight without ever testing it in a real fighting situation (dojo fighting excluded, ring fighting included). As I’ve said before, you have to test what you’re doing. You absolutely have to, and no pacifism or spirituality should be your excuse for not testing it. Be spiritual after you’ve tested it and know for certain that it works for you.

And as for Parkour, it’s main purpose is to move efficiently. There is a lot of fucking efficiency in doing an enormous jump that other people wouldn’t even think about doing. Why is doing big stuff associated with lack of control or discipline? Most of the guys I see doing big stuff are the most controlled and most disciplined Parkour practitioners. In fact, I don’t remember ever seeing someone do something really big and impressive while at the same time being undisciplined and lacking control. Do you know how much mental focus you need to have if you want to do big stuff? Much more than for your pussy-ass tiny rail precision repeated 200 times (because it’s more spiritual to repeat one thing 200 times than it is to do a big jump). And imagine the level of control you need to have if you start doing flips along with your Parkour! That shit is so demanding!

I feel like everyone is just trying to find excuses for being losers and not pushing themselves enough in both of these fields. I’m definitely at fault for having done this in both Parkour and martial arts.

It’s not better to practice your tiny cat leap a zillion times instead of doing big scary stuff, if you haven’t already done the big scary stuff, but are able to. (Note: if you’re weak and can’t physically do the big stuff safely, then you need to get strong ASAP – before you do it).

It’s not better to practice your meditative forms instead of fighting in a cage, if you haven’t already fought enough in the cage. It’s more spiritual, yes. More meditative, more elegant. But it’s not the way of martial arts.

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4 thoughts on ““Fake” spirituality in martial arts and Parkour

  1. Hi there,

    This is Fagan, the one you were writing about in this article. I just came across this and decided to contact you. I’m here to share my opinion with you, just as you have done through your article. I respect that you have your own views and rights to say what you want on your blog. I do wish however that you had contacted me to get to know me before you used me or the interview done on me as an example of ‘fake’ spirituality.

    Perhaps the article gave an impression that I do not do big jumps, or detest the act of doing so and others who do it. I did loads of them in my Parkour journey. I still do, though not as often because I am getting older and I respect my body in a different way now. More to preserve longevity than to seek my highest physical limit, as I have already experienced going down that path. I just wanted to share with you a bit more of who I am, as compared to trying to validate myself to you. If you are still interested, I’d be happy to meet up with you for a chat to share our philosophies (if you live in singapore), or otherwise to connect via other means.

    Thanks for reading and I hope to connect with you for a constructive and open-minded conversation!

    Regards,
    Fagan

    • Hey man. Sorry if it came across as insulting – I don’t know you, and I didn’t intend to say that you specifically are an example of being fake. I was commenting on your message as it was presented in this interview because I regularly hear people who avoid real challenges in Parkour, opt for something they know they can do JUST TO AVOID challenging themselves, and then they JUSTIFY it by the message you gave (“it’s not about the big jumps”).
      I actually do agree that the discipline is much more than just pushing yourself to do as large a jump as possible.
      Anyway, I didn’t intend to bash you or your video, I just needed an example of this sort of message, not because the message is factually wrong but because it’s often used as justification. I’ll edit the article to be more clear what I’m saying, and I can remove the video if you want.

      • Thanks for responding! I do see where you are coming from, and I actually agree with you that we all as practitioners should keep challenging ourselves and seek growth outside of our comfort zone, rather than only continuing to do what we already can. I believe both are necessary, but one should not exist without the other.

        May I request that you do not reference me or the interview of me for your topic of “fake spirituality”, as it implies directly that I am as such even if you didn’t mean to. I would appreciate it a lot if you took down the video as offered.

        Thanks for understanding!
        Fagan

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