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Homework - Compassion in the Martial Arts (due 30 April 2021)

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  • Homework - Compassion in the Martial Arts (due 30 April 2021)

    Compassion is a term rarely associated with the Martial Arts. What is the history of compassion in the Shaolin Wahnam Martial Arts? What benefits does this compassion have for the martial artist?
    by: Sifu Andrew Barnett

    Is compassion a weakness in combat? Why or why not?
    by: Sifu Chris Didyk
    May all beings be happy!

  • #2
    How come we have no replies to this important topic!?

    Compassion is a key element in improving spiritually and as a person.

    As high-level martial arts are a means for spiritual cultivation, it is no wonder that compassion, even in fighting, is deeply engrained.

    In my opinion, showing compassion in a fight is a clear indicator of one's high level that makes it possible to adjust just to the needed amount of threat.

    I'm happy to read more about other people's views on compassion!

    Best wishes,

    Sifu Leonard Lackinger

    Shaolin Treasure House

    Shaolin Wahnam Wien & Shaolin Treasure House


    • #3
      I thought a while about this one, and came to a similar conclusion, as Leo Sisook mentioned above:
      For me, in my current stage of development, compassion is the ultimate proof of one's superior skills, and therefore something every martial artist should aim for.
      On the other hand, I think showing superior fighting skills become more and more meaningless, the further the student ascends to his peak. Nevertheless, I think it is important, especially in earlier stages to gain confidence in his own practise.

      Best wishes,


      • #4
        I honestly have to say that in the past i had problems with the term compassion. I couldn't 'feel' compassion. Instead there was a feeling of indifference. In the past i was often bullied by classmates and i wanted to hurt them to stop the bullying. Although i thought i am a good person, i sometimes had bad thoughts. Somewhere Sigung mentions that the opposite of compassion is cruelty. My question is what exactly is compassion? How do i know i have developed compassion?

        All the best,
        "No matter what you do, you must be clear in your conscience." - Sitaigung Ho
        "Goodness begets goodness." - Sigung
        A single light can eliminate the darkness of millenia.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Bernhard View Post
          My question is what exactly is compassion?
          Dear Bernhard,
          thank you very much, this is a very important question.

          From my understanding and little experience I would like to try to answer it.

          As you grow spiritually, you will eventually experience that your self does not stop at the border of your skin. You are connected to everything in the cosmos and everything is connected to you. You are a part of the Cosmos with everything in it, and the Cosmos is a part of you. In the end, there is no difference between you and the Cosmos.

          If you harm someone else unnecessarily, you harm yourself unnecessarily. If you are kind to others, you are kind to yourself. When you give to others, you give to yourself.

          Therefore, compassion is the natural behavior. Unfortunately, the spiritual development of many people is very low. The ego is big and they cannot see beyond their own skin.

          Originally posted by Bernhard View Post
          How do i know i have developed compassion?
          By having the experience. Continue with your training and open your heart.

          Originally posted by Bernhard View Post
          In the past i was often bullied by classmates and i wanted to hurt them to stop the bullying.
          There is nothing wrong with stopping others from bullying you. Sometimes you have to fight, sometimes there are other better ways. But with compassion you only do what is necessary to stop this, without the feeling of wanting to harm the other additionally.

          All the best,
          May all beings be happy!


          • #6

            I think it is a very interesting subject and also very important. Thank you for bringing it up! =)

            I believe that compassion is a fundamental part of the basic principles of spirituality appreciated in all religions, which as Sifu mentions are: doing good, avoiding evil and cultivating the spirit.

            For me, compassion is feeling the pain of the other as your own, putting yourself in his/her place and wanting to offer relief, as something natural, when you feel pain.

            I believe that it is essential for our survival and also for a happy life and in harmony with those around us.

            To explain this last reasoning, I would like to give an example: If you understand why someone is hurting you (in whatever way) you can know that maybe they do it because they have problems that they cannot solve and then your attitude towards that person is compassionate. Instead of entering the circle of harm: getting angry, wanting revenge. etc.
            Does this mean then that we should allow others to harm us?
            Of course not. Sifu has taught us that in Kung Fu "safety comes first", so we have to make sure we are in a position of strength and safety, not only in physical combat, but in daily life. And in fact from this position is when we can be compassionate effectively.

            Personally, I don't like fighting, nor do I like violence. But I think it is important to know how to defend yourself, in the same way that it is important to feel compassion for others. And it's a balance.

            Both Kung Fu (including its application in daily life) and compassion provide a physical, emotional and spiritual healthier life. With Kung Fu we expose ourselves less, a real Master is not in the least exposed to receiving damages from others. And compassion is also a kind of protection in a way. Because we do not allow our heart to darken with negative thoughts or emotions towards other people or beings, because it gives us the ability to understand or even feel the other person, so you do not take it personally, you know that people have their context, their problems and you can only wish them the best.

            Without compassion we run the risk of entering vicious circles that are very destructive, of hatred, revenge, resentment, etc. That is not healthy for anyone.

            Now, in this world, we do not pay much attention to the consequences of our actions, so we live with a certain degree of ignorance and therefore we hurt each other (sometimes without realizing it). Therefore Kung Fu is very important, to have the strength and defense necessary to have well-being and also to be compassionate.

            Personally, I do not think that a weak person can offer strong support to another person in distress. You need strength and that strength begins with yourself.

            If you allow yourself to be hurt, even if you know that the other person does it out of ignorance or because of personal problems, you will feel devastated and you will not be able to offer any support. Because you will have to spend your time and energy in recovering from the damage.
            However, if you do not allow them to hurt you, it is more feasible, that from that strong and safe position, you can support the other person.

            On the other hand, using Kung Fu only to harm others, would be a terrible mistake, with dire consequences. I think it would make us very unhappy.

            That is why I believe that a balance is so important and necessary. Applying our Kung Fu with compassion gives us a happy, strong and healthy life.

            I consider genuine Kung Fu of our school a blessing, with extensive and very deep applications!

            Warm regards,

            Last edited by Paz; 11 May 2021, 06:54 PM.


            • #7
              Dear Mark Siheng (Shaolin Cousin) thank you for your wise answer.

              Dear Paz Sipak or Siguje (I don't know who is elder, you or my sifu) Thank you for your post. The last few days i wondered how kungfu and compassion fit together and now i have an idea.

              All the best
              "No matter what you do, you must be clear in your conscience." - Sitaigung Ho
              "Goodness begets goodness." - Sigung
              A single light can eliminate the darkness of millenia.


              • #8
                Hello Family,

                This is an interesting topic! Paz, thank you for your response, I really enjoyed it. It speaks so well to the balance between violence and compassion, and the spiritual ramifications of embracing violence. "Win the battle, lose the war" comes to mind, from a spiritual perspective.

                I am interested in the immediate ramifications of compassion in a fight. Siheng Chris once made a reference to the Netflix series Cobra Kai (terrible Kungfu, but great fun lol), for a perfect example of the mainstream view of what happens when compassion is used on the battlefield. In it, the protagonist decides not to issue the "finishing blow", and instead 'compassionately' turns his back on his opponent, is struck from behind and (spoiler alert) rendered partially paralyzed. This popular view, then, is that compassion creates an opening, because the opponent isn't neutralized, and is therefore a form of combat weakness.

                This is a frustrating perspective! It is entirely possible to maintain a solid guard, neutralize an opponent, and use compassion. The severity of the means of neutralization is up to us. To crush a throat or to break an elbow? Both will likely neutralize the opponent, but one can be considered compassionate, depending on the circumstances. However, there is no doubt that a higher level of Kungfu skill is required to fight with compassion. It is an extra layer of awareness, demands restraint and emotional stability, and acts as a filter through which combat decisions are made, or trained reactions are restrained.

                But what about the long term consequences of sparing an opponent who then harbors ill will towards you? In both Japanese and Chinese history, it was common to slaughter every friend and blood relative of a political rival, because not to do so was to leave the door open for future revenge. Was this wise? It certainly doesn't seem compassionate...but there are many stories of the single spared child, fortified with a thirst for justice/revenge, growing up to become the very person that destroyed those that killed their family. In this context, then, doesn't compassion become a weakness? I do not say that I believe that it does. But I am curious what other people think!

                Another film example that comes to mind for me is Saving Private Ryan. Set in World War 2, an American soldier spares the life of a German soldier shortly after the invasion at Normandy. But days later, that very same German soldier puts a knife through the American soldier's heart, killing him. In a state of war, is such compassion not a weakness, as it provides for an almost inevitable re-confrontation? How then does compassion translate to an actual modern battlefield?

                Also, I do disagree with this:
                Personally, I do not think that a weak person can offer strong support to another person in distress. You need strength and that strength begins with yourself.
                I believe that we are all capable of helping each other, despite our level of strength, should we choose to. And we are all capable of tapping into a deeper strength, especially in moments of crisis, even if we are not trained to do so. However, I think that often the price of such help is a high level of self-sacrifice. On the battlefield, I think of the junior soldier stepping in front of arrows to protect her senior. In daily life, I think of the social worker who operates the suicide prevention hotline, with great compassion, but is so burdened by the emotions he must process that he suffers from depression himself.

                I hope the conversation continues!

                Thank you for entertaining my thoughts.

                Much love,



                • #9
                  Thank you sisters and brothers for the beneficial discussion and sharings.

                  Compassion in Shaolin Kungfu Combat aims to minimize karmic repercussions : zero karmic transaction is not possible in combat especially if life-taking is involved . Not killing is better but killing swiftly with minimal suffering is better then deliberate slow painful killing . Even in friendly sparring , punching with detached emotion is better then striking whilst showing-off .

                  Compassion is a tool in Shaolin Zen to minimize the "I" feeling for another ( com-passion ) , i forget myself : the ideal of monkhood to reduce one to zero . Even in morbid evil doing , if serial murderer (who is trying to repent ) kills one less victim this year compared to 18 last year , that felon has improved in the compassion spectrum. After all , some Enlightened beings were once criminals.

                  Regarding helping others : helping is humane but one can give only what one has , whether monetary , physical service or imparting teaching . You can't give another what you don't have and it is one's responsibility to self care before emphasising on others care . The best martial artist or monks invested in their personal development before involving in others affairs.

                  Everything in Life is ultimately i needs-based : i'm hungry i eat , i'm sleepy i doze , i feel guilty being rich i do charity , my life is at stake i self preserve .... i'm spiritually ignorant i desire and work towards ultimate Enlightenment ( ie dissolve the self ) is also selfish but it is the only way to Zero ( ie measured egocentricity as tool to be egoless )

                  In Shaolin Wahnam we aim for the Scholar-Warrior Ideal and for those who are ready the Monk Ideal .
                  Last edited by Damian Kissey; 21 May 2021, 08:02 PM.
                  Damian Kissey
                  Shaolin Wahnam Sabah , Malaysia .


                  • #10
                    Dear Shaolin Wahnam brothers:

                    Thank you very much for the feedback, I think it is very beneficial and enriching. Everything that has been commented has made me reflect a lot.

                    I would like to say that what Siheng Demian said seems completely accurate to me. In the line with what he says: "one can give only what one has" it is really what I meant when I said that a weak person cannot give a strong support to someone who needs it.

                    Now, of course, anyone can try to offer help or support, but in some cases it may not be enough to alleviate or resolve the situation. In other cases, I think it can even be worse for both parties (the one who tries to help and the one helped).
                    But I would like to add that, in these cases, it occurs to me that we can help by asking for help, or we can refer him/her to someone who can handle the situation effectively and safely.
                    I believe that asking for help is wise and effective.

                    If, for example, I witness a fight in which a big group of thugs are beating a defenseless person, and I know that I cannot defeat them because there are too many of them and I get into the fight, probably we will both be beaten. It would be something noble but silly at the same time, since it would not stop the damage and I would also get hit. But what I could do to help is to ask for help, for example calling the police, so that they would stop the attack.

                    On the other hand, in a life or death situation, I think compassion can also be applied towards ourselves, or towards our loved ones.
                    -Towards ourselves for the life that has been given to us and all that we have done to enjoy it.
                    -Towards our loved ones (such as mother, father, siblings, boyfriend or girlfriend etc.) who could suffer because of our premature and unexpected death, or also loved ones such as children who could be left unprotected for example.

                    And even in this last position we still can be compassionate to our aggressor, as Siheng Damian mentions, with a quick death, rather than a long and painful death. But for that, we need to be very strong! hehehe. Otherwise either we will not be able to defend ourselves, or a lower force may cause that we have to do more damage to the aggressor in order to defend ourselves. That`s why I believe a strong position allows us to be compassionate more effectively.

                    I think compassion is a very broad subject, as are its applications. And learning how, when and where to apply it can depend on many many many factors!

                    All the best for you!

                    Warm regards,