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Journal of Theatrical Combatives May 2005

What Makes a Martial Activity an Art?

By Paul Turse
E-mail:  SamuraiRaider@comcast.net  
Editor's Note:

Paul Turse attended Teachers College at Columbia University, where he earned his doctorate in theatre arts.

While in the Army, he was stationed in Japan, where he studied Japanese theatre and martial arts.  His experience led to his dissertation topic: Shakespeare: Kabuki-style, which presented guidelines for performing Shakespeare via the Kabuki production mode and by utilizing martial arts to create fight choreography.

Turse is a former writer/editor for Raiderdrive.com and Bay Area Sports digest, but occasionally still contributes his Oakland Raiderette interviews, many of which are still archived and can be accessed at www.raiderdrive.com/raiderettes.htm.

 A 6th dan in both judo and jujutsu, Turse is an auxiliary coaching staff member of the Spirit of the Eagle International Judo Camp, held at Bluffton College, in Bluffton, Ohio (http://www.judocamp.org/).  He is also available for instructional clinics through the United States Judo Association's program (http://usja-judo.org/).

Paul Turse can be contacted at samurairaider@comcast.net.  

“Man injured by attacker using martial arts”—the headlines of a daily paper read.  The story goes:  “Witnesses reported seeing an unidentified man leap high in the air and, using a flying karate kick, strike the victim in the head, causing a severe concussion...”
The contradiction in the above headlines should be apparent to some martial artists who believe that their art forms should not be confused with reality.  If a person is purposely injured with a judo or karate technique in a mugging, then the scenario is neither art nor even sport.  Indeed, if an unskilled individual uses nunchaku in an equally unskilled manner to dispatch an adversary, would that person be considered a martial artist and would the technique be a martial arts technique?  More than likely, it would not.
Furthermore, if an individual picked up a lead pipe, twirled it with all the aplomb of a pro twirler, and then deliberately injured an innocent person, there is a good chance the headlines reporting the incident would read:  “Lead-pipe wielding attacker injures hapless victim”—without any references to the martial arts.
Finally, just because the above-attacker in the first instance flew through the air with a flying kick does not make the technique necessarily karate.  In fact, it could have been the old pro wrestling drop kick, a technique that might not necessarily qualify as martial art.
It is not just writers and reporters who do not understand the full ramifications of what actually constitutes martial art, but also some practitioners and teachers as well.  This does not mean that all artists, martial or otherwise, must understand what art is to be able to create it, no more than a seagull needs to understand aerodynamics to fly.  However, in most cases, theorists who attempt to interpret the standard graphic, pictorial, and dramatic art forms generally have some formal and valid basis for determining what constitutes artistic behavior, even if only on an unconscious, or intuitive, level.  It follows, then, that the practitioners of the Asian fighting techniques should have some basis for determining when their activities constitute an art form.
The question which now arises is this:  What formal, valid basis do practitioners of martial activities have for referring to karate or judo, for example, as an art?  Certainly, karate and judo do not necessarily become art forms because one chooses to give them such a label.  The purpose of this essay is 1) to provide one formal theory (based on behavioral psychology) in support of the contention that karate and judo behavior can become art.  The following discussion is limited primarily to karate and judo, yet this Western aesthetic rationale presented can readily be applied to any martial activity, and perhaps help all practitioners and teachers gain greater insight into the form and spirit of their martial activity and 2) help them to more clearly define their approach to teaching, performing, or practicing.  An understanding of this artistic basis will also aid the layperson to gain a proper perspective concerning the true nature of the martial arts and to understand the difference between fighting techniques and art.
Driving off his right leg, a martial artist in a black cotton uniform flies feet first, high into the air, above a sandy beach.  Twisting his body to the right, he sails forward as his right leg tucks under his body, and his left leg thrusts straight out.  His body parallel with the horizon for one moment—silhouetted by the setting sun—he appears transfixed in space, suspended by some master magician.  Then, as lightly as a butterfly lands on a flower petal, he glides to the sand, poised for his next move as the waves clap their approval upon the deserted beach.  Where are the practitioner's opponents, spectators, and fans?  They are non-existent, for this solo karate performer is practicing kata, one aspect of martial arts training, in which a pattern of basic principles is formalized into a dance-like series of movements.  This lone figure on the beach becomes an artist because the karateka seeks only the perfection of self through the perfection of technique; thus, the martial behavior of this practitioner becomes an art form because emphasis is placed not upon the effectiveness or end result of a technique, but upon its process or aesthetic excellence.  The prime purpose of martial art is the creation of beautiful movements that will enhance the physical, mental, and spiritual growth of the practitioner, and not the destruction of another human being.  Art is creative, not destructive.  The beauty of the technique, therefore, is the sole criterion for the artistic evaluation of the martial arts movement, and not the successful end result that may be achieved.  The only opponent for the martial artist is himself or herself.
In The Psychology of Art, R. M. Ogden presents a view of art, based on the theories of behavioral psychology, which appears highly relevant to the martial arts.  According to this view, inherent in all art activity is this basic behavior pattern:  the fulfilling of a need, or the seeking of an end.  Although all behavior appears to have a basic end orientation, not all behavior is necessarily art.  Behavior becomes art, according to this theory, when, during the action of fulfilling a need or seeking an end, the action of fulfilling or seeking becomes more important than the actual fulfillment of the need or the completion of the end.  In other words, behavior becomes art when the means becomes more important than the end.  The perfection of the means as formal excellence is a partial behavior pattern that begins the cultivation of an art; when partial patterns arise from a need to seek an end and continue to help achieve that need, they function as art.  1
The development of the theatre as a viable art form is a prime example of this theory at work.  In primitive times, theatrical behavior had, as its prime purpose, a utilitarian function:  to alter or influence natural phenomena or to appease supernatural and divine forces.  In order to cause rain and thus ensure good crops, primitive man created rhythmic dances and songs designed to bring about the necessary atmospheric conditions that are conducive to rain, or which would make the rain god happy so that he would come down to visit his worshipers.  Later, in the Greek period, at the festivals to worship Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility, it became clear that the great enduring tragic dramas of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were enjoyed and developed for their own sakes, not necessarily for the dismembered and resurrected Dionysus, great inspiration that he might have been.
After theatre died in the 7th century, conditions parallel to the Greek period did not occur until the Catholic Church presented the Passion play in the 11th century to celebrate the death, suffering, and resurrection of Christ, who, like Dionysus, had attempted to bring a new religion to the world.  Whether these performances did much to aid the growth of Christianity is uncertain, but what is relevant is that the theatre tradition was reborn.
Although the theatre today has, essentially, become devoid of its religious end, the original need or impulse that gave rise to the drama is retained in those plays that present a seriousness of purpose, such as tragedy.  This need is the desire on the part of the playwright and audience to clarify the nature of humanity's existence and its relationship to the “gods”— divine, social, or natural.  Those plays that are most enduring and most satisfying are those that deal most intimately with the protagonists' physical destruction and their struggle to spiritually overcome and transcend all the forces that work to destroy them.  It was no accident, perhaps, that the rebirth of theatre was intimately connected with the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Let us now examine karate in terms of behavioral psychology.  In early times, karate forms began as elementary and fundamental patterns of utilitarian behavior arising from a very practical need:  self-preservation in a life and death situation.  Today, however, many forms of modern weaponry have diluted the efficacy of karate, and relatively few experts have the need to flaunt their skills in a relatively peaceful society.  Why then do the martial arts continue to grow in popularity when they have essentially lost much of their utility?  The reason lies, perhaps, in the very fact that Asian martial activities have become divorced from their utility—at least as far as practice is concerned.  The end of martial behavior has become separated from its means.
In all martial arts behavior—full contact activities excluded—the rhythm and movement of the body is essential to the proper performance of each technique.  In the practice of karate, this movement or process becomes more important to the practitioner than the actual result, or effect, of the technique.  In the two basic forms of practice, kata and jiyu kumite, this striving for formal excellence is pronounced.  In kata training, since there is no opponent against whom to test one's skill, the only proof of mastery and excellence is the creation of new techniques—or the re-creation of classical movements—and their perfection.  In non-contact jiyu kumite (free sparring), since actual contact is not made between the opponents and since the practitioners pull their punches and kicks (in theory anyway), the true test of the practitioners' ability is to be in the proper position to deal what could be a potentially effective technique.  The ultimate behavior pattern of karate—to kill or main—cannot be realized; otherwise, a master would run out of training partners.  Thus, the partial behavior pattern has become of primary importance in the martial art of karate.  Since the form has been removed from the context of killing, it becomes dominant and thus capable of being polished and refined into art.  In other words, the beauty of a technique becomes more important than its utility, and karate becomes a creative force, rather than a destructive one, and creation becomes the essence of the art.  This concept does not mean that art is useless, nor does it rule out other important, though somewhat incidental, values that occur in the study of the martial arts, such as the development of learning skills, concentration, and character building.  Nor does it rule out the efficacy of any art or kata.  
Not all Japanese art forms, for example, have lost their utility completely.  Certainly, the function of the tea ceremony, after all the ceremonial aspects are completed, is to drink and enjoy the tea.  However, the point is that the emphasis is not on the drinking but rather on the preparing.

The same is true in the martial arts.  Along with the development of the aforesaid aspects of self-development, kata has embedded, in its forms, many of the building blocks, so to speak, to fundamentally sound performances in either contest or self-defense application.  The emphasis, however, is on the beautiful creative aspects.    
The creative aspects of karate are manifest in the symbolic meaning of the Chinese ideographs that make up the word, and in the spontaneity of the infinite number of inspired, life-giving moves generated by the artist in reaction to an opponent's attack.  Karate was originally written with characters that translate as “Chinese hand.”  It is now more commonly translated as “empty hand.”  Most individuals interpret empty hand to mean simply “bare-handed” or “weaponless.”  However, an in-depth analysis of the ideograph kara may render a new and viable interpretation for the term karate.  Kara may also be pronounced sora and translated as the “sky” or “heaven.”  The concept of emptiness that is implied here is one of infinite creativity:  the divine or heavenly hand.  To totally comprehend the Asian concept of emptiness in relation to the martial arts and life in general, one must comprehend the meaning of emptiness in the Zen concept of mushin (no-mindedness) and mushin no shin (a mind unconscious of itself).2
After observing a student's careless mistake, caused by a temporary mental lapse, a karate teacher often chides the student by saying, “Karate means ‘empty hand,’ not ‘empty head.’”  The irony of this jest may be that karate does mean “empty head,” not in a literal sense but in a spiritual sense.  Mushin literally translated means “empty head” or “senselessness.”  However, the concept of emptiness that pervades Zen is not emptiness in a concrete sense, but rather in an abstract sense.  To have an empty head in Zen means to be able to relate to phenomena as they occur in nature without any preconceived notion or reaction.  A true martial arts reaction is a spontaneous one, evoked purely as a reaction to each movement of an attacker.  Since each action of an attacker is a new and different action, a martial arts movement cannot be created until the proper stimulus is provided.  This martial arts movement is creative because it is a spontaneous product of the unconscious and preserves the artist's life and perhaps that of the attacker, since the artist did not have a preconceived lethal technique in mind.  The possibility thus exists to merely control or momentarily disable the attacker, rather than destroy the attacker.
One's thinking and feeling (because shin also means “heart “or “emotion”) are not subject to or restricted by conventional and orthodox modes of expression.  Each society predetermines for its members the appropriate response to classic life situations.  In the Western world, the phenomenon of death is supposed to evoke feelings and thoughts, ranging from despair and fear to the extremes of horror and terror.  Fear, however, can be an ally if it guides one to follow a proper course of action.  Yet, fear can be a devastating “opponent” if it paralyzes a martial artist during an encounter.  Fear and its concomitant adrenalin rush need to be controlled and channeled into correct action.  In a fear-provoking situation, many martial artists have noted that they had responded to the attack coolly and calmly, but then trembled with fear after the situation was over.
An untrained person might become afraid first and thus may not be able to fight, and perhaps remains transfixed in the same way that a deer freezes on a highway after being blinded by the oncoming headlights of an approaching vehicle—with the same disastrous results.
However, to be able to transcend the fact of death, to be able to stand detached from the life and death situation, and to respond correctly and expediently to save one’s life, or that of a loved one, would be the ultimate martial arts reaction and perhaps exemplify the state of mushin.  Furthermore, the highest level of detachment would be to respond aesthetically in such a situation by noting the beauty of the opponent’s technique at the time of the attack, just before eliminating him.
The Japanese custom of writing a jisei (a last poem) before death represents the quintessence of this attitude.  Some samurai were known to have written deathbed poems as they lay dying, mortally wounded by an opponent in battle or by their own hand in a ceremonial act of seppuku (ritual suicide, also called hara kiri).  This unconventional response demonstrated not only the warrior's defiance of death but also his ability to perceive a sense of beauty and worth in all of life's rhythms, even death.  It was this ability to detach themselves from the reality of a situation (especially in a life and death encounter) that made the samurai the fierce and efficient warriors that they were.  
All martial arts activity is an imitation of a primal battle—the original life and death struggle between two combatants.  Since the object of a karate or judo match, for example, is the creation of movements that will symbolically “kill” an opponent, the original impulse of survival is retained.  Nevertheless, the end of the original behavior pattern—kill or be killed in a life and death struggle—is transcended through the symbolic and ritualistic nature of the art form.
This very same rhythm is the essence of the Passion play.  This Easter-time performance is a symbolic re-enactment of Christ's death and resurrection.  Actors and audience members identify with the struggle and project their own suffering into the tragic and heroic figure of the Redeemer.  The personal tension and fears that they feel on an unconscious level are transferred to the suffering hero.  The emotional and psychological crosses borne by the audience members are symbolically lifted and carried up Calvary by the Savior.  In that moment, the human burden is transferred to the Divine Figure, and the weight of human suffering is relieved, momentarily at least.3  Moreover, the promise of life eternal is fulfilled in the demise of the Redeemer.  When Christ finally gives up his human spirit, there is a moment of repose and tranquility, for the audience releases through empathy all the tension that Christ has endured, and they share in a momentary heaven, the tensionless state caused by the cathartic effect of the art form.  Christ dies, but the participants in the ritual are free to go on and perhaps bear their own crosses in life with a bit more resolve and courage.
When martial artists and dramatic artists concentrate on the ritualistic and formal aspects of their respective art forms, they become unmindful of the result.  Thus, the artists (and their spectators) learn to overcome the fear of death.  Both tragic dramatic art and martial art represent what Freud might call a rehearsal of man's final achievement: death.4
While the solo kata performer in the example offered earlier is content to perform on the beach in isolation, art is eventually revealed as it defines itself in the “eye of the beholder,” and the aesthetic attitude carries over into those who view the art form or the kata.  Langfeld’s prime example of the aesthetic attitude is when the spectators who have cultivated that approach to art and life see a statue with an outstretched arm.  In this instance, they are not inclined to put their own hand out to the statue, but feel as if they, too, are stretching out an arm.5
Ogden explains that in the appreciation of any art form, the behavior of the observer parallels that of the artist.  This phenomenon of empathy causes the observer to respond, not to the practical end of the art but rather to its form.  "The technical name for this attitude is empathy, a translation of the German word Einfuhlung, which means feeling oneself in a situation rather than feeling…against it."6
This writer must admit that while totally involved at the Terminator 2 exhibit at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, he lost his aesthetic attitude when he attempted to block the shooting fist of one of the robot’s illusionary arms, which had appeared to shoot out into the audience and into the writer’s face via the 3-D effect.    
However, when it comes to the martial arts, the aesthetic attitude is pronounced when watching a beautiful karate kata; the trained observer does not cringe nor move to defend when the karateka moves toward the spectator while throwing punches.  The observer is, rather, unmindful of the end of the striking technique (death or destruction) and empathizes only with the form, or the means.  The observer identifies with the strength and rhythm that flow through the karateka's body.  The same impulse and need—strength, flexibility, and repose in the life and death struggle—are reproduced in the observer and satisfied through the beauty of the kata.  Art, then, according to Ogden, becomes beautiful when it defines itself in the eye of the spectator as a completed form.7  Following this line of reasoning, one might say that completed ends are not necessarily aesthetic, for ends are never fully achieved in art because an end is complete, and not subject to perfection.
Karate, as kata, becomes beautiful because the impulse leads to the suggestion of an end.  This suggestion or means is never complete.  Therefore, it is always subject to improvement.  Thus, mere play or martial-sport activities, such as boxing and full-contact karate (with or without protective gear), do not appear to be in line with the aesthetic basis presented herein.  Boxing and full-contact karate are concerned with the destructiveness of a technique, and not with its creativeness.
This is not to say that some sporting events cannot have aesthetic moments or create a change in the subject-object relationship (or the spectator-game relationship).  Langfeld clarifies this point:
A football game is not generally considered an object of beauty, yet it is quite conceivable that an expert may be so thrilled by the smoothness of the play and by the exact execution of the well-drilled attack that for the moment even the thought of victory will have no place in his consciousness.  The exclamation “Beautiful!” which escapes his lips will have been used in a sense as legitimate as the most critical purist can desire.8   
It should be noted here that the exclamation “beautiful!” might occur even when the reaction is to a play by the opposing team.  An appreciation of art can develop in sport when the spectators are able unconsciously to comprehend a certain game play aesthetically rather than realistically, causing them to momentarily forget the personal ramifications of that particular play.  Of course, not just a few sensei, while outwardly showing disappointment, will admit to secretly coveting a thrill upon seeing a beautiful throw accomplished, even if to the detriment of his own student and team.
Ogden notes that playing, too, can verge on art:  
We have, instead, indicated that play is an activity in which a means to some end has itself become an end.  This new emphasis, leading to the perfection of a means, is the origin of art.  However, it can also lead to mere playfulness, which enjoys but does not perfect the means...  It is not the mere employment of means apart from their usual ends, but the effortful refinement and perfection of these means, that results in a work of art. 9
Detachment and psychical distance are terms that refer to those moments when individuals do not allow their personal feelings, or involvement, to block the aesthetic aspects.10    Indeed, an actor identifying too closely with a character in a play could cause serious injury during a fight sequence.  And, of course, should a martial artist think a match is a life and death encounter, serious injury might occur.
In fact, martial artists react better in a combat situation when they remove themselves emotionally from the conflict; when they are able to, in a sense, move outside their bodies and feel as though they are actually observers rather than participants in the struggle.  They could even feel as though there is no opponent and that they are merely performing a kata.
Even though there may be no opponent during a kata, karate artists must make the ki flow continuously through their bodies and strike with power, be it a punch, kick, or block.  This energy flow is a significant aspect of most Japanese arts, even in painting and calligraphy.  Bowie explains this concept:  
A distinguishing feature in Japanese painting is the strength of the brush stoke, technically called fude no chikara or fude no ikioi.  When representing an object suggesting strength, such, for instance, as a rocky cliff, the beak or the talons of a bird, the tiger's claws, or the limbs and branches of a tree, the moment the brush is applied the sentiment of strength must be invoked and felt throughout the artist's system and imparted through his arm and hand to the brush, and so transmitted into the object painted; and this nervous current must be continuous and of equal intensity while the work proceeds. 11
When scribing ideographs in the Rei Sho style, the above principle is followed, notes Bowie:  “The characters must be executed with the feeling of their being carved on stone or engraved on steel-such must be the force transmitted through the arm and hand to the brush.  Thus executed the writings seem imbued with living strength.”
In the above quotes, the word sword could be substituted for brush.  Even though in sword kata, the practitioner does not strike an opponent, but slices the air, the actual power to do so still generates through the body of the practitioner—through the back, arms and hands, into the tip of the sword, and, perhaps, through an imaginary opponent.
While the kata of karate is normally practiced solo, all of the kata in judo are performed with a partner, with this fundamental goal:  the harmonization of tori, (the performer of the technique) with uke (the receiver of the technique).
Judo, like karate, developed from a purposeful pattern of behavior:  the preservation of life in the primitive struggle for survival, in the form of jujutsu.  However, in order to learn to kill an opponent, a practitioner must concentrate upon polishing the means to that end rather than the end itself during practice.  Jigoro Kano, the creator of judo, refined the earlier styles of jujutsu by eliminating those techniques that depended upon attacking vital organs and joints for successful application, thus making the activity a viable sport, as well as self-defense form.  
These original jujutsu techniques must be practiced with extreme caution, or else serious injury can occur and, as pointed out earlier, a master will soon run out of training partners.  Thus, the jujutsu practitioners could not practice the end of the techniques to their fullest.  In order to derive the maximum from training and to insure the safety of the practitioners, the combatants must adhere to certain agreed-upon conventions.  For example, an ukemi (falling techniques) symbolizes a defeat.  And when one combatant gives up by tapping his opponent, the action constitutes defeat and symbolizes death.  It is the perfection of these conventions and the concentration on the techniques apart from their end results that mark the beginning of a sport and eventually an art form.  The evolution into an art form is exemplified in ju-no-kata, where the techniques have become so stylized that they are primarily appreciated for their beauty rather than for their effectiveness, which is the goal of combat judo, or jujutsu.
In the combat style, tori might, in a variation of ippon seoinage (one-arm shoulder throw),  manipulate an opponent's arm so that the impetus of the throw comes from a locking action on the elbow, causing injury or dislocation, to effect the throw, and not just the skillful twisting of the body (see picture #1, below).  In sport judo, tori clamps uke's arm between the elbow and the armpit; and then utilizing the controlling lock, tori creates leverage from the skillful twisting of his or her body to effect the throw (see picture #2, below).  While sport judo is somewhat removed from the reality of the life and death situation, seoinage is still designed to be practical and to bring about a contest victory.  In a shiai (competition), seoinage, for example, is carried through so that one dashes an opponent to the mat.  If, in order to complete the technique, it is necessary for the attacker to drop to one knee or to roll on his side (makikomi), it is permissible to do so and is good contest judo (see picture #3).  In other words, in a contest, where winning is the sole objective, the thrower improvises any way necessary to make the technique as effective as possible without regard to the formal requirements of seoinage; if the thrower is a skillful wrestler, a move or takedown that may remotely resemble the shoulder throw is as good as a pure seoinage and serves the same utilitarian purpose, a chance for victory, and not necessarily the creation of art.
Turse figure 1
Picture #1: A Jujutsu Version (seoinage)
In this version of seoinage, the left arm of uke (Shawn Wentworth, black belt) is twisted so that the elbow joint is pressed against the shoulder of tori (Rachelle Hulette, purple belt); thus, the impetus for throw will be effected as much from the painful lock on uke's elbow as from the leverage created by tori's twisting body.

Turse, figure 2
Picture #2:  Sport Ippon-Seoinage
  Rachelle Hulette demonstrates the clamping action in the sport version of ippon-seoinage.  Note there is no pressure on the elbow joint of uke, Shawn Chiatto, who is free to fall without fear of injury to his elbow.   Of course, all judoka must be trained in ukemi (falling) in order to practice judo to it fullest and to do so as safely as possible.

Turse figure 3
Picture #3  Makikomi (rolling to the mat)
Brown belt Robert G. Martinez, Jr., drops to one knee to affect a sport judo ippon-seoinage on his dad and black belt sensei, Robert G. Martinez, Sr., black belt.  To gain more impact on his throw, Robert Jr. could follow through by rolling to his right side and "crash-landing" on his dad.  However, Dad taught his son not only good judo but also respect for his elders; thus, Robert Jr. maintained control and completed his fine throw on one knee.

While Kano envisioned judo as a form of sport and physical education, he did not intend the removal of the aesthetic and formal aspects.  That Kano still regarded judo as an art is evidenced by his creation of kata forms, an integral part of judo that many judoka have virtually eliminated from their study and training.  Thus, the de-emphasis of kata in training and practice might be one important reason that has led many trainees, and even sensei, to consider judo to be a sport only, and not a martial art.
The quintessence of art in judo and a prime example of the behavioral psychology approach presented herein is exemplified in the ju-no-kata (forms of gentleness), a kind of martial ballet in which various judo fighting principles are displayed, not in a realistic sense but rather in a conventional or near symbolic manner.        
In the shoulder throw technique (kata mawashi) of ju-no-kata, tori must lift uke in a very formal fashion that is not subject to improvisation.  Then after tori has lifted uke, tori poses as if performing a ballet support for uke, who arches his or her body somewhat in the manner of a prima ballerina (see picture #4).  The judo technique is not followed to its logical conclusion:  the dashing of uke to the mat.  In that poised moment, form stands isolated from a martial situation.  The end is not realized in actuality but in the minds of the spectators and performers.  In fact, spectators are likely to forget that they are watching fighting forms.  In kata, harmony and gentleness take precedence over strength and victory.  The momentum of two bodies mutually in accord with each other and the universe interact with no thought of victory or defeat.  This interaction is the essence of all kata and the art of ju-no-kata.
Turse, figure 4
Picture #4: Kata Mawashi (ju-no-kata)

After posing in this "tableau " moment, tori (Shawn Chiatto) and uke (Rachelle Hulette) return to their original positions to be ready to demonstrate the next technique in the series.  There is no throw, no dashing of uke to the mat, as there is in sport or combat judo.  There no thought of victory or defeat; there is only the union of two bodies harmonizing in the rhythm of judo.

Thus, it appears that ju-no-kata meets the requirement of art in terms of behavioral psychology in these three ways:  1) the form of a technique takes precedence over its effectiveness; 2) the form of a technique is conventionalized so that it departs from realistic considerations; and 3) the end is often left for final definition and realization in the minds of the spectators and performers.
It has already been pointed out that partial behavior patterns become art when they arise from a need to seek an end, continue to strive toward the fulfillment of that need, and can be perfected.  Utilizing the behavioral psychology line of reasoning, it should follow that when partial behavior patterns are enjoyed without any effort to perfect them, they become diversions; and when partial behavior patterns are cut off from the original need that gave rise to them, they become perversions.  12
 The martial arts, then, become diversions when they are regarded only as an exercise activity or as a night away from one's spouse.  They become perversions when they are practiced solely as a means of winning trophies, purses, or prestige in contests.  Moreover, when they become a way to destroy another human being who has committed a minor transgression, they cease to be creative but become destructive.  In all of these contexts, the original impulse and need are lost, and so is the essential quality in art behavior:  the regard for formal perfection.  The socializer seeks ego gratification, the competitor seeks fame and fortune, and the street fighter seeks an anti-social outlet for aggression.  None of them want to seek perfection for its own sake.
The martial arts are ends in themselves.  A throw in judo, for example, is its own end, regardless of its effectiveness.  A judo artist can strive his or her entire life to discover and perfect only one throw which he or she will be able to execute effortlessly against all opponents—large or small—at any given moment, even when completely exhausted.  The judoka may have at his or her disposal many other polished techniques that can be used at will.  But the judoka has often identified with one technique that, in a sense, becomes his or her “totem.”  Even if the throw may be impractical in a standard self-defense situation, the judoka strives to perfect it.  The perfection of this move is synonymous with the perfection of the judoka, a lifetime goal.  Ideally, the throw that the judoka has chosen embodies the most basic and comprehensive of judo principles, the perfection of which leads the development of all other related techniques, as well as to the perfection of self.  It was no accident that some samurai often identified with their swords, which were considered to be their souls.  A rusted or tarnished sword meant a tarnished or rusted soul.  Through the art of swordsmanship, the warrior polished his blade and body by hours of rigorous training in order to prepare for death and to die leaving no regrets (isagi yoku).
For many individuals, the fact of death may cause a radical change in their daily routines.  In order to determine the degree of seriousness developed by his adult students, this writer would ask them this thought-provoking question:  “If you knew that tomorrow would be your last on earth, would you still come to judo practice?”  If judo has been practiced as an art for its own intrinsic value, the ideal answer to this question will be “yes.”  However, the fighter has nothing to gain from practice, since honor or ego will no longer need to be defended.  The socializer has nothing to gain from practice, since judo training does not gain instant social gratification.  However, judo, or any martial art practiced for its own sake, is its own reward.  For the judo artist, one last practice would be one last chance to experience the thrill of the big throw that has been so important thus far.  The fact of death does not alter the true judo artist's perception of values.
When asked what they would do instead of practicing judo on their last day, several male students provided the following four responses:  “I would go out and get smashed.”  “I would go out and find a hot babe.”  “I would sit down and write something.”  “I would want to tell my wife how much I love her.”  The first response comes from the socializer.  For him judo has been only a diversion.  Thus, on his last night, he seeks the ultimate escape:  inebriation.  The second response comes from another type of socializer.  Judo for him has become a way to enhance his macho image and to attract women.  The third response comes from the fame finder.  Judo has been a potential means of achieving success and gaining prestige.  Thus, on his last night, he would try to gain immortality by writing a literary masterpiece.  The fourth response comes from another type of ego-gratification seeker.  He has been practicing perhaps to gain the respect and admiration of his wife.  The first two responses, as reprehensible as they may seem—get drunk and get sex—are not as serious as the latter responses, for these diversions simply reflect an immature attitude toward the martial arts and life in general.  These students will be happy to escape any way they can.  
However, the latter responses, which represent perversions, are serious because the practitioners still have some great need to be understood or fulfilled.  At the time of death, they still have regrets.  It is unfortunate that the would-be-writer cannot write Hamlet overnight and that he could not have written his innermost thoughts before.  It is tragic, perhaps, that the husband has not told his wife before this last day how he feels about her.  This is not to say that a dying husband should not tell his wife that he loves her.  The point that has been hyperbolized by the examples above is that the true martial artist, in theory at least, practices for purely intrinsic reasons:  he or she strives for the perfection of self, knowing full well that perfection is unattainable.  So, on that last day, the martial artist transcends death by still focusing on his or her art, and by seeking that elusive phantom, perfection.
While the last example may seem to be the ideal, there have been cases of terminally ill martial arts practitioners who have trained right up until the last days before death defeated them.  Lilly is a prime example of this enduring desire to seek perfection.  Diagnosed with cancer and undergoing therapy, Lilly continued to train right up until shortly before she died, knowing full well that she did not have many days left.  Although she looked debilitated and worn, and was obviously in pain, when Lilly performed her kata, a seemingly miraculous transformation would occur, and the power of her form seemed to elevate her beyond the confines of her physical limitations.
Lilly never won any tournaments or any trophies, and her name will never go down in the annals of martial arts, but she, in her own quiet way, personified the essence and spirit of the “art” in the martial arts.  Although death may have defeated her body, it never destroyed her spirit.  
In conclusion, activities such as judo and karate may be said to be art forms when 1) they conform to the requirements of behavioral psychology by emphasizing the process rather than the end result of their techniques, 2) the training procedures called kata have become removed from the context of a practical martial situation and become creative rather than destructive, and 3) the perfection of the techniques are coincidental with the perfection of the artist.
Ultimately, if a practitioner willingly injures or kills an adversary with some type of martial activity that resembles karate or judo, for example, the actions have thus been removed from the realm of art and relegated to that of reality.  In those instances, it might be more accurate to refer to those activities as Asian fighting techniques, and not martial
Note:  The author wishes to thank both Sensei Robert Martinez and Sensei Joan Martinez, along with their students from the St. Jude's Judo & Isshinryu Karate Academy, for their help in making the following photos possible.

1 Robert Morris Ogden, The Psychology of Art (New York:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1938), pp. 9-16.  The behavioral psychology theories on art are Ogden's, but the application of these theories to the martial arts is my own interpretation.
2 All Zen terms defined in this essay are taken from this source.  Daisetzu T. Suzuki,
Zen and Japanese Culture (New York:  Pantheon Books, 1959).  
3 This Freudian interpretation of audience response is discussed by Roy Morrell in “The Psychology of Tragic Pleasure,” in Tragedy: Vision and Form, 2nd edition, ed. Robert W. Corrigan (New York: Harper & Row Co., 1981), pp. 176-185.  The application of this transference principle to the passion play is my own interpretation.
4 The Freudian release of tension and the overcoming of death theories are implied in the commentary by Morrell.  The application of these theories to the martial arts is my own interpretation.
5 Langfeld, pp. 64-65.
6 Ogden, pp. 18-19.
7 Ogden, p. 260.  
8 Langfeld, p. 40.
9 Ogden, p.14.
10 Langfeld, pp. 58-59.  
11 Henry P. Bowie, On the Laws of Japanese Painting, as quoted in Quoted in Herbert Sydney Langfeld in The Aesthetic Attitude (New York:  Harcourt Brace and Howe, 1920), p. 129-130.
12 The diversion/perversion theory is a loose interpretation of Ogden’s discussion of sentimental, abnormal, and perverse behavior patterns, pp. 9-12.
Bowie, Henry P.  “On the Laws of Japanese Painting,” in Herbert Sydney Langfeld in The Aesthetic Attitude (New York:  Harcourt Brace and Howe, 1920), p. 129-130.
Langfeld, Herbert Sydney.  The Aesthetic Attitude (New York:  Harcourt Brace and Howe, 1920).
Morrell, Roy.  “The Psychology of Tragic Pleasure,” in Tragedy: Vision and Form, 2nd edition, ed. Robert W. Corrigan (New York: Harper & Row Co., 1981), pp. 176-185.
Ogden, Robert Morris.  The Psychology of Art (New York:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1938).
Suzuki, Daisetzu T.  Zen and Japanese Culture (New York:  Pantheon Books, 1959).  

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JTC May 2005