The Purpose Political Science and Martial Arts Share (part 2)

In one of the posts I touched upon the commonality between seemingly divergent fields of political science and martial arts.

I re-iterate the idea in the current post.

What is common between political (social) science(s) and martial arts?

In a fascinating academic article (these two adjectivies don’t always go together) “Security and Emancipation” Ken Booth argues that the basis of security and peace in the new times is that governments, concerned individuals, NGOs and global civil society in general act as “local agents of the world common good” (phrase borrowed from another notable scholar Hedley Bull).

In other words – act local, think global.

The highest goal of any martial art is to generate peace both within and outside. This has been claimed by many accomplished martial artists, and by the founding fathers themselves (I am sure diligent practitioners will agree with this proposition).

Just as two quick examples, consider the taekwon-do oath (“I shall build a more peaceful world. I shall be a champion of freedom and justice.”) or read “The Art of Peace” by the aikido’s founder Morihei Ueshiba.

Both traditions – those of social science and martial arts – put peace as a critical issue on the agenda. Both offer their unique ways to promote it, and strive for it.

I find this extremely interesting, inspiring, and worthwhile to walk on both ways simultaneously.8T65rg5kc



The Purpose Political Science and Martial Arts Share

El-camino-del-guerrero-2According to Calos Castaneda, man must become a warrior before he becomes a man of knowledge.

A scholar warrior has a trained body and spirit, as well as a sharp analytical mind.

Two obvious spheres for developing such properties are martial arts and academia, or science in general.

And what really interesting is this.

When I look at the academic discipline I am currently engaged in (political science), and the martial arts I practice (taekwon-do and aikido), I can see a subtle yet profound unity in purpose.

What is that?

Compare this.

  • Part of the taekwon-do oath says: “I shall build a more peaceful world”.
  • The main goal of aikido is to pacify an opponent, according to Tsuneo Ando sensei.
  • It can be also claimed that the purpose of political science – at least how this discipline was originally conceived – is to make this world a place void of conflicts and full of cooperation among nations.

So on the one hand political science – whether directly or indirectly – strives to reinforce peace, or at least understand how it can be achieved. On the other hand, the highest purpose of martial arts is to create peace both within ourselves and outside.

Does this mean every academic should now put on a kimono and start kicking some ass? Or an aikido-ka should start digging in the theories of international relations?

Not at all.

What this simply reveals is that there are several paths towards the same direction. Yet while it may seen reasonable to choose only one of them, it is ultimately more efficient to embrace both a warrior’s and a scholar’s way.

Efficient both for ourselves and the world.


Razor Edge


According to Carlos Castaneda clarity is one of the enemies of knowledge.

This applies to all fields of human activity, including academia.

If you know the answer in advance, there’s no point in arguing or doing a research. A scholar or a a scientist needs to stay puzzled, as well be aware of the limits of his knowledge.

At the same time, however, there must be a sense of commitment, perseverance, and even stubbornness with pursuing a research question. After all, what’s the value of a scholarly investigation if it’s given up easily?

So on the one hand a scholar needs to be determined in his inquiries and views. On the other hand he needs to keep an open mind for a fresh perspective.

Finding a proper balance may not be easy. The term “golden middle” is not appropriate here. Rather, it’s a razor edge, as slightest leaning towards either side can lead to a disaster.

Yet the efforts are worth the result.

After all, razor edge is just another challenge – although a tough one – on the way towards a man of knowledge.

Everyday vs. Scientific Thinking

Always Seek Knowledge Acronym

There is a common view of science that it consists of collecting experimentally verifiable facts arranged in some orderly manner… a telephone book or an airline schdule is an orderely collection of facts…[neither] is a science. Science is the formulation of general statements of explanatory power from which a multitude of veriable facts can be deduced…Science does not begin with facts, it begins with a perception of a problem and the belief in the possibility of an answer.

M. and I. Goldstein, “How We Know”

There are three types or levels of thinking.

The first one is common, or everyday reasoning. Most people use it to evaluate different issues and events. This is the so-called “kitchen expertise”. For example, if you ask an average person his or her opinion on a political topic, in most cases you will get some sort of an answer.

The second level is expert thinking. This type is mostly found in the media – TV, newspapers, and Internet. Various experts give their “expert opinions” on various subjects. While expert reasoning positions itself as “rational and professional”, quite often it rolls back to everyday thinking.

The third type is scientific thinking. Its main differences compared to the common one can be summarized as follows (Note: expert thinking is somewhere in between).

  • Common (C): faith in the obvious. Scientific (S): obvious is the first stage of knowledge.
  • C: “I personally know / feel”, “My friend said…”, “I like … S: testing information against all achievements in the field irregardless of emotional reactions.
  • C: Everyone’s opinion matters. S: It is knowledge that matters, not opinion.
  • C: If something’s unclear, it needs to be explained immediately. S.  Some scientific problems needs agree to sort out. This is normal.

With the overwhelming amount of information that needs to be analyzed today, it’s good to be aware of these different types of thinking. It’s even better to be able to switch between them depending on the circumstances and target audience.

And a final quote regarding self-knowledge.

Science is not to blame for men’s lack of self-knowledge. Giordano Bruno went to the stake because he told his fellow men that they and their planet were only a speck of dust in a cloud of countless other specks. When Charles Darwin discovered that men are descended from animals they would have been glad to kill him, and there was certainly no lack of attempts to silence him. When Sigmund Freud attempted to analyse the motives of human social behaviour and to explain its causes from the subjective-psychological side, but with the method of approach of true natural science, he was accused of irreverence, blind materialism and even pornographic tendencies. Humanity defends its own self-esteem with all its might, and it is certainly time to preach humility and try seriously to break down all obstructions to self-knowledge.

Konrad Lorenz (1963), “On Aggression”

Knowledge Dynamics

Knowledge is a key asset in the twenty-first century.

In the agrarian world the main value was attributed to the land. In the industrial world and still today – to the capital. In the emerging information society, development will be mostly driven by knowledge and intellect.

Knowledge here not only means an arithmetic sum of acquired theories from formal education. It also means a set of working skills, qualifications, personal attributes – anything that makes one competitive on the world market.

There is one issue here though.

We live in such a fast-changing world, that once you lean something new, i.e. acquire knowledge, it is already becoming outdated!

For example, I had to rewrite my PhD research proposal more than once in two years as life was constantly presenting new evidence, and new social developments were taking place that challenged my ideas. Today I understand that my research proposal is not entirely up-to-date, as political, social and economic landscapes have changed again!

So how to keep up with this “pace of the world”?

I am afraid – or should I say happy? – that there is no easy answer. Though it may sound simple:

Never. Ever. Stop. Learning.

From my experience (personal and by no means exclusive) this means:

1) Always staying up-to-date with the current trends in your field. RIDE THE WAVE or it will smash you.

2) Being open to conflicting opinions. FRESH PERSPECTIVE is a pre-requisite to keep your ideas and practices original.

3) Using every free moment to read. Less social media, MORE BOOKS.

And last but not least, we must keep in mind a well-known saying:

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Profanation Of Martial Arts

I remember watching a short video promoting a taekwon-do club in the US. The chief instructor was talking in an over-confident, even cocky manner. He claimed his school was the best because … it gave best rates. He also boasted his students could earn a black belt in three years.

Well, the cost of attending a dojo can be a factor in choosing a club to practice with. Yet that’s not the most crucial factor for sure.

More than that, instructors who claim they are best since they help to save money don’t cost much themselves.

In that particular case that I watched I would take away all the grades and dans from the “entrepreneurial sensei”. As there is a really big issue here that comes from the not uncommon Western approach to treat everything as a commodity that can be sold.

Even if it ought not to be sold by definition.

How can you say you are best because you charge less?

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, said that knowledge can’t be bought. The training fee simply serves as the right to attend a dojo.

What is observed in many cases though is totally the opposite. ‘Masters’ and ‘instructors’ are using marketing and promotion tools to attract students.

This seems to be especially true for the United States.

I am not saying there are no good martial arts instructors there. There are plenty of, I am sure. I m just saying that in the societies where advertising plays a crucial role things are not quite right.

I don’t know if I’ll ever would have an honor to teach someone. What I do know is I’d mention self-development, self-defense, health and spiritual growth, character forging, the wisdom of oriental philosophy embedded in the marital arts – anything except money!

I feel privileged to learn from Masters who are not only masters in their martial arts, but masters in life as well. None of them has ever mentioned money as a factor to consider their school.

In business focusing on cost cutting is totally fine.

In the world of martial arts that is totally unacceptable.

Can We Defeat Fear?

Everybody fears something. Whether we realize it or not, whether it is conscious or subconscious, we are all afraid of something.

I consider fear to be one of the biggest sins. As Carlos Castaneda put it, fear is the first enemy for the man of knowledge.

So the question is – can we defeat our fears?

I don’t think so.

I already addressed the subject in the post on the biggest virtues. Briefly, in order to deal with fear, one needs to practice courage. Think about darkness stepping away when there is light.

The key word here is practice. We all require courage in different situations. Yet I don’t think there will be a day when we can say honestly and sincerely: “I am not afraid of anything!”.

The point is not about having or not having fear.

The point is whether we face it or surrender.

Other posts related to Carlos Castaneda:

Castaneda And Frankl: A Bridge Between Esoterics And Psychology
Death Makes Life Meaningful
What Is The Way of The Marital Arts? (Part 1)
What Positive Attitude Really Means
A Cubic Centimeter Of Chance
We Must Never Stop Dreaming
The Four Enemies Of Knowledge