By Jasmine Lee
When the modern Angelino thinks about the martial arts, visions of Tae Bo, Cardio Kickboxing, The Ultimate Fighting Championships, or even Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan kicking butt on the silver screen is generally the first thought which comes to mind. Moving beyond kicking butt or firming one up comes Scott Shaw, who’s new book, Samurai Zen, published by Samuel Weiser, Inc., takes the reader beyond the self-defense aspects of the martial arts and into the refined realms of meditation inherent to these ancient systems of self-defense.
Shaw, a native of Los Angeles, began training in the martial arts as a young boy. He spent the first decade of his life in South Central and his adolescence in East Hollywood. From these gritty street environments he readily came to understand the level of unnecessary violence which is prevalent in the modern world. Whereas these unforgiving surroundings have sent many a youth down a road to destruction, Shaw saw it as a pathway for the development of inner strength and self-reliance. With martial arts as a central focus, Shaw rose above the limitations of his youthful atmosphere and additionally became deeply involved in the spiritual aspects of Eastern Mysticism. Martial arts in association with spirituality would eventually lead Shaw to spending many years in various geographic locations of Asia.
Shaw integrates the meditative wisdom he gained in Asia into his teaching of the Martial Arts. When asked why more modern martial art instructors don’t incorporate meditation into their self-defense classes, Shaw states, “I believe it’s because in the Western world we are so dominated by immediacy. Few people are willing to sit down and really learn how to focus their minds to the degree which is required in meditation. In American everybody wants recognition for their accomplishments. In meditation there’s no external reward for your advancement, so most martial artists blow it off, believing that it’s just not important to their overall development. They are wrong.”
In his first book, detailing the spiritual elements of the martial arts, The Warrior is Silent: Martial Arts and the Spiritual Path, published in 1998 by Inner Traditions International, Shaw began teaching the way of the Spiritual Warrior. In it he states, “Those who see the martial arts as solely a method to overpower somebody are really basing their life on the most animalistic level of existence. Martial arts trains your body to become acutely in tune with your mind. From this, you can raise your being to a much more refined level of consciousness not possessed by the average individual.”
Samurai Zen picks up where The Warrior is Silent left off and continues to instruct the reader in further techniques of ancient movement meditations and advanced breath control which lead to the harmonizing of the body and mind and the harnessing the universal energy known as Ki.
Not left solely to the martial arts, Shaw had a second book released in 1999, Zen O’clock: Time to Be, also published by Samuel Weiser, Inc. In this text no instructions for swinging a sword, punching, kicking, or even formalized movement meditation are discussed, all the teachings are mental and detailing how the modern individual can peacefully come to terms with the never ending passing of time. Scott writes, “How many time have you stepped outside and not even noticed what the weather was like? How many times have you traveled to some destination and, due to the fact that your mind was on another issue affecting your life, you didn’t even notice how you felt or what you saw? How much of life do you let pass by without a thought?”
When asked why he wrote a book like Zen O’clock, Shaw says, “Everybody is pressed up against the wall of time. Everybody is worried about getting older, not enough time complete whatever project must finished, and what will happen when they die. Everybody looks at time as it if were a thing, an object. But, what is time, does it really exist? Time can only be defined in terms of history, comparing where you were then to where you are now — even if that now was only a second ago.”
With this ideology as a foundation, in Zen O’clock, Shaw takes the reader through conscious methods of dealing with time in terms of life, death, aging, desire, and emotions — ultimately illustrating that human existence should be perceived in terms of an accepted cosmic perfection — that everything is as it should be. Once an individual can come to this realization, then cosmic consciousness is immediately embraced.
Although many of his beliefs are seemingly based in Buddhism, Shaw is reluctant to accept any labels. “I’m not formally religious in any regard,” he says. “Religion is a lot like school — the structure keeps people from seeing the truth.”
Veering between the physical, the spiritual, and the uniting of the two, Redondo Beach based Scott Shaw guides his readers on a path of illumination and self-discovery.
In the first year of the new millennium Shaw has two new books that will be released: Simple Bliss (Element Books) and the Tao of Self-Defense (Samuel Weiser, Inc.). In them, he again pushes the realms of human limitations and guides the reader to look at life from a new and more profound perspective. He says, “Most people falsely believe that enlightenment is some distant plateau, obtainable only be holy men who lives in caves or ashrams deep in the Himalayas. Enlightenment is Right Here and Right Now. All you have to do is open your eyes and embrace it.”
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