You can learn a lot from Disney films through the power of magical storytelling. That’s one of the main reasons why I love them. Recently, I went to the cinema to watch the remake of The Lion King. Having missed the chance back in 1994 to watch the original animated film on the big screen, I certainly wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity!
Watching the film left me thinking deeper about the character Mufasa and the various messages he wanted to teach his son, Simba. As I was reflecting about this more at home, I began to see connections between Mufasa’s words and the theme of tradition within the martial arts. This article explores this connection through drawing upon three of Mufasa’s most memorable quotes.
Mufasa’s quote #1:
While others search for what they can take, a true king searches for what he can give.
This quote’s core message is to prioritise serving others. Thinking about this for martial arts, a key emphasis in many systems is character development and reducing self-focused behaviours.
This is evident in many ways through our training.
For example, when I began martial arts, I found it interesting how senior students would teach others during the session. In fact, some would happily volunteer to teach during most classes. It intrigued me because I thought that since they were teaching others, they wouldn’t then be able to use that time for their own training. It was only when I became competent enough to start assisting others during classes that I realised the most rewarding lessons are those in which you are giving something to others. This is how martial arts tradition is passed down from practitioner to practitioner, and is kept alive.
Mufasa’s quote #2:
You must take your place in the Circle of Life.
Mufasa’s original quote was to tell Simba that he must take responsibility and assume his position as king. By comparison for martial arts, being ‘one with nature’ springs to mind. The more that I explore the mindset and spiritual elements of martial arts, the more I’ve heard the message about aiming to live in harmony with nature and our surroundings. Perhaps you’ve heard this too.
To expand, the aim of living in harmony with nature leads to exploring and understanding our place in life itself. This doesn’t just relate to our own actions and behaviours in the environment, but also what we can do to ensure that the tradition of our martial art lives on for future generations. This includes thinking about our conduct in line with the values of our martial art, and also our responsibility to pass on the knowledge accurately and in accordance to the intensions of its founder. Therefore, we are a piece that makes up a much larger picture in the Circle of Life.
Curious to explore the environmental view of martial arts further? Check out this interview by Élodie Mollet SBN of the French Moo Duk Kwan here.
Mufasa’s quote #3:
Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars. So, whenever you feel alone, just remember, those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.
Drawing upon the Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan system in particular, the Art has a series of hyungs (forms/katas) called ‘Chil Sung’. These were introduced by the Founder, Hwang Kee. Translated, this means ‘Seven Stars’ (from the Ursa Major constellation), with the North Star being the guide. Undoubtedly, other martial arts may have drawn influence from the stars in a similar way. Personally, I love the philosophical connection between the martial art history of the Chil Sung hyungs and how Mufasa refers to the stars serving as guides in the film.
The underlying message, I feel, is that as practitioners, we’re not alone. If we were to train outside under the night sky, we could connect with the spiritual element of our art and tune into a source of inspiration from the founder (where relevant). Also, we can reflect on training under the stars as a shared experience with many practitioners around the world – whether they train in the same art or not. Our immediate environment may differ, but we share the same view when training under the night’s sky. Not only that, but this view is generally quite similar for the practitioners of the past, us who are the present, and the practitioners of the future. It is therefore something special. That connects us.