יום שלישי, מאי 09, 2006

The Torah of Martial Arts

Most people have a friend or two who has studies Martial Arts. Some form or another. Taikwando, Karate, Muy-Thai, or something else. With no disrespect meant towards those who study these arts, there are two things that any person studying them will confide in you, his friend: One, his teacher is the (pick one: best, most, highest) ranked ______ in his style. This will often be born out by a story or two of the teachers actions on a street corner or in some competition. Two, the particular style your friend is currently studying is the best. Why is it the best? Because it is a blend of (pick three: Japanese, Thai, Korean, Northern, Southern, or Brazilian) styles and is inclusive of all of the other styles that are out there. Interesting, no? Every one of your martial-arts studying friends will tell you the same thing. Hmmm.....

As I learn Torah I encounter many different ideas. What's amazing is that each of the idea have fervent adherents, each one claiming that his "set of Torah ideas" are the best ones out there. There may be an acknowledgment of other "styles" but "they're not the best way". "My Rebbi" is better than all the others. "My Style" of Torah can whup the ass of your Torah. This is how the world of Torah can look.

A different approach towards Torah can be as follows: Each idea you learn is a puzzle piece.

You hear a new approach to learning Medrash. It becomes like learning a new word - all of the sudden you start hearing it everywhere. The new concept you just gained begins to appear in every corner of your life. You attend a lecture and acquire a new understanding of free will and divine fore-knowledge. You ask yourself "How could I have been a religious Jew before I knew this?!" Again and again you watch as it all ties into your "Torah-world".

As the Martial Arts student progresses and learns more from more styles, he will usually stop denigrating the other styles. He understands that he can learn from Ju-Jitsu even though he only studies Nin-Jitsu. What the student is seeing, is that these are all parts of a huge puzzle. Each style fills in gaps in another one. To learn Muy-Thai and then to learn Tai-Kwan-Do can only help the good student become a more rounded fighter. Also with Torah cosmology - each idea you pick up can be fitted into a puzzle and added to the range of theological motion you have available.

I feel that this perspective is especially important in our current day and age of divisiveness. Assuming certain red lines, is the Torah of one rabbi less valid that that of another? No, they are all different pieces of one huge puzzle. The more we learn, the more we see it all fits together. The more it fits together, the more we see the greater picture. The more we realize that there IS a greater picture that we are trying to build from all the tiny little pieces, the less we will denigrate the other persons Torah. We see that each one of the different and even the contradictory pieces are all important. Each one in it's place and time helps us fulfill the will of God that is Torah.

6 Comments:

At 11:24 לפנה״צ, Blogger Elizabeth said...

And once you finish your Torah study, you can move on to the New Testament, the Koran, other religious texts, political science, philosophy, literature, and the rest. In other words, the other 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 per cent of the ideas out there in the big world...

 
At 11:24 לפנה״צ, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Hey I got cut off...there were supposed to be another 100 99s...

 
At 5:49 לפנה״צ, Anonymous אנונימי said...

Assume there are approximately 15 million Jews out of 6 billion people on Earth... That makes 0.0025 of the population. Assume that as a lower bound estimate, 1 in 1000 dedicates most of their life to Torah study. That would make Torah related learning 0.0000025 of world knowledge. So I'd amend those 9s to 0.9999975 ;-)

One should naturally study more than one subject, but I wouldn't wait until 'once you finish your Torah study', because I don't think you can finish. If you visited a Quranic College and asked "how long will it take me to study all their is to know about the Quran?" I think you'd get a similar answer.

And forums like http://www.martialartsplanet.com/ repeatedly state that there is no 'best' martial art ;-)

 
At 2:32 לפנה״צ, Blogger YS said...

Elizabeth, you seem to be getting very worked up and pluralistic in response to a post that I feel I was quite pro-pluralism.

The question I'm still developing an answer to is "How do I deal with contradictory bits of my puzzle?"

A possible answer is to think of a spiderweb with many paths towards the center. From each path the center will look different. Some paths may be longer than others. And one person may yell at the other person and tell him "Hey! You're on the wrong path! Don't you know that the real path heads north?"

My comment of "Red lines" is that at some point you are walking on a different web.

 
At 5:27 אחה״צ, Blogger Ezzie said...

Excellent piece, as I told S.

 
At 5:38 אחה״צ, Anonymous אנונימי said...

Very best site. Keep working. Will return in the near future.
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