The influence of Daoism, Chan Buddhism, and Confucianism on the theory and practice of East Asian martial arts

Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 48 (2):235-246 (2021)
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This paper discusses the impact of East Asian philosophical ideas on the origins and development of martial arts. The article argues that the ideas of Daoist philosophy were developed into ‘soft styles’ or ‘internal schools’ that are based on the doctrine of ‘wuwei’ (action through non-action, effortless action) which follows the path of Yin. These styles are in opposition to ‘external’ or ‘hard styles’ of martial arts that follow the path of Yang. Daoist philosophy of ‘ziran’ (naturalness, spontaneity) influenced ‘animal’ or ‘imitation styles’ and the paradigm of natural, unplanned, and unforced combat movements. The influence of Buddhism on martial arts is found in techniques of mental tranquillity training for the extreme conditions of combat. The work also shows the significance of Confucianism for the formation of a code of honor for warriors, which includes the ethics of duty and respect.



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Anton Sukhoverkhov
Kuban State Agrarian University

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