Have Some Woo-Woo With Your Whoop-Ass

Question from Ras:
Message: Hello, I as an atheist want to ask a question concerning martial arts.

My question (or should I say ‘problem’) is that I have a huge interest in Chinese, Korean and Japanese traditional martial arts (Shaolin, Takkyeon, Koryū, Tai chi etc.) but I don’t know if I should do them because of the Buddhism and Taoism involved, and I too am interested in learning Zen and Shingon.

Now don’t think I am contradicting myself, I seek evidence and knowledge first but because atheism doesn’t involve woo and all that I feel restricted from doing what I want, namely what I have mentioned before.

As an atheist what is your take? Sorry if my question isn’t making sense, I am being as coherent as possible.

Answer by SmartLX:
Many martial arts as set down by their creators have strong spiritual components, and I honestly don’t see the harm in learning about this aspect as you train physically. Indeed it can be beneficial, as the spiritual perspective of what you’re doing often informs the way you do it in a very practical way. The most common example is that visualising “chi” moving through your body is a great way to shift your momentum and force to the right places at the right times. My personal favourite is a Qi Gong exercise where you’re moving around an imaginary “dragon ball”, which of course is the basis for a long-running manga and anime.

Speaking more generally, since the creators had these images in mind when they designed the movements, if you use different imagery you might end up with subtle differences which make it look somehow wrong, and even cause it to be less effective in combat. So go ahead and learn the whole kit and caboodle, and then you can decide what is real and what is simply a mental aid to performance.