Masonry & The Martial Arts



by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor

Brother David Pugh


Freemasonry and traditional Martial Arts are two of my passions and favorite subjects to practice and study. On the surface they may appear to be completely different. Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols, while the martial arts are a system of deadly self-defense techniques.  However, it is this author’s position that they are very similar in structure, philosophy, and goals for their students. The aim of this humble paper is to present their benefits and similarities to my fellow Freemasons, with the hope of inspiring new and continued interest, study, and participation in both disciplines. Please note that for the scope of this work when the term Martial Arts is used, it is referring to traditional martial art styles like Taekwondo,Shotokan Karate, or Wing Chun Kung Fu.

Let us first examine the structure of both entities. Historically both Freemasonry and the martial arts required a screening process before letting people join their ranks and obtain their “secrets”. General Hong Hi Choi the founder of Taekwondo states “A close scrutiny is made on the mental make up as well as the background of any applicant prior to his or her admission to the gymnasium. While Freemasonry still has this practice, most modern martial arts schools especially in America will allow anyone with the financial means to join their “Dojo” and start training. Historically however, this was not the case as the martial arts were passed down within a specific family line or clan and if someone outside of that group wanted to learn they had to be “vouched for”.  

Both of these systems were also practiced in secret. "Training in karate was always conducted with the utmost secrecy in Okinawa, with no one teaching or training openly in the arts as done today. The reason for this secrecy was a matter of life and death for both the Freemason and the Martial Artist. During the time of operative masonry, the knowledge the Freemasons possessed was their trade and subsequently, how they fed their families. If cowans and eavesdroppers were allowed to gain their secret information, they could take work away from those who were duly and truly prepared. In a very real way this was a matter of life and death for the Mason and his family. In the same way, if the martial artist’s techniques or “secrets” were revealed to a hostile person, tribe, or village, they could use that information to defeat them in combat and once again, meeting the Angel of Death becomes a real possibility.

Both disciplines have a Master and Grand Master that sets the adherents to work and gives them good and wholesome instruction for their labors. They both are a progressive science with grades or degrees and in order for a student to advance they must show suitable proficiency in the proceeding level’s material. In addition part of that material involves memorizing  physical movements in a certain order which Freemasonry calls due guards & signs, and the Martial Arts call forms, kata, or poomse.

Finally  both present their information in a exoteric and esoteric format. For example the public can see a martial artist demonstrating a form or kata that may have movements that look like dancing (exoteric) but they are really deadly fighting techniques (esoteric). The true meaning is only taught to the initiated which is the esoteric knowledge. As a martial arts instructor I still teach by this traditional formula.

Freemasonry aims  to make good men better, and it’s design is to make its votaries wiser, better, and consequently happier! Our ritual teaches us that Masonry is concerned with developing the internal qualities of Man. The martial arts also have the same goal as stated in the following quote from Master Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate and often referred to as the father of modern Karate.

“Those who follow Karate-do will develop courage and fortitude. These qualities do not have to do with strong actions or with the development of strong techniques as such. Emphasis is placed on the development of the mind rather than on techniques. In a time of grave public crisis , one must have the courage, if required for the sake of justice, to face a million and one opponents.”

In addition Taekwondo has the five tenets of Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control, and Indomitable Spirit, which each student is charged to inculcate.  These are very similar to the four cardinal virtues of Freemasonry which are  Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice. They do not correlate directly but there is significant overlap. For example Integrity relates to Justice, as Perseverance & Indomitable Spirit correspond with Fortitude, and Self Control with Temperance. In addition to internal development, improving one’s community is also something that both systems encourage.

As Masons we learn the following from the Volume of Sacred Law, And now abideth faith,hope, and charity,these three: but the greatest of these is charity. Grand Master Hong Hi Choi in his Taekwondo Master text stated the following regarding community service: “...by rendering their labour to the public work and to the poor villages during their leisure hours so that they may teach themselves the spirit of the public service and mutual help. Both Masons and Martial Artists as they labor to subdue their passions and improve themselves in either respective systems, should also help to  transform and build their communities. For those of us who labor in both quarries we have a double responsibility to extend our cable tow in service to others. The best example of this and the harmony between  Masonry and the Martial Arts is Shotokan Karate Lodge 9752 UGLE.
In conclusion, both Masonry and the Martial Arts are progressive sciences with similar structure and goals to develop the moral character of their votaries. As the student cultivates the internal attributes of brotherly love, relief, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, justice etc., it is hoped that these will be extended to his fellow man and the community at large. It is my hope that after reading this brief comparison, my Brothers who are not martial artist may consider taking that first step and begin training in a style of their choice. For my Brothers, who travel on both paths, may this discussion increase your interest, focus, and passion to study and train harder-- to become the best Mason and Martial Artist that you can be!

References: 
Choi,Hong HI(1965) Taekwondo The Art Of Self Defence,Los Angeles California: Masters Publication
Gichin Funakoshi(1973) Karate-Do Kyohan The Master Text, New York New York: Kodansha America
Tedeschi,Marc(2003) Taekwondo The Essential Introduction, Trumbull, CT: Weatherhill Inc
Holy Bible 1st Corinthians 13:13 KJV

Yours in Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth

Brother David Pugh SW
Plumbline Lodge#116
Subordinate to the
Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Illinois and Its Jurisdiction

Master Instructor
Warriors Martial Arts
5th Degree Black Belt- Taekwondo (WTF)
Black Sash- Ip Man Wing Chun( under Master Sam Chan)
Certified Instructor- Jeet Kun Do Concepts (Harris International JKD Federation)  


Brother David Pugh serves as the Senior Warden of Plumbine Lodge No. 116 in Chicago,IL subordinate to the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Illinois. He is also a member of Eureka Chapter #3, Holy Royal Arch Masons, a subordinate Chapter of the Most Excellent Prince Hall Grand Chapter, Holy Royal Arch Masons. In addition Brother Pugh is a member of the Phylaxis Society and currently serves as the appointed Director of the Commission on Bogus Masonic Practices. He can be contacted at warriorstkd@gmail.com



Freemasonry and the Game of Thrones Pt. 1

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


I am, as well as many of you, very excited to see the how Game of Thrones ends on HBO. The television series is based upon the Fantasy book series called “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George RR Martin. The show currently has surpassed from a plot standpoint where the last book which was published in the series, “A Dance with Dragons”, had left off. For those of you who haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for? For those of you who have, I see a lot of parallels between Freemasonry and themes within the show and the books. I will attempt to break some of these down over in this series of articles. For those of you who haven’t seen the show or read the books, be warned that there are spoilers below.

First and foremost, the show features prominently an organization called “The Night’s Watch”. They are a military order dedicated to holding the Wall, which is an immense fortification along the Northern Border of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros which has 19 castles. They are tasked with defending the realm of men from the threats from beyond the wall, which historically has been a people called “Wildlings” by the people of the seven kingdoms.

However, there is something more sinister that lives beyond the wall as well. Creatures known as the "Others" in the books, and "White Walkers" on the show, who are described in the books as tall and gaunt, with flesh as pale as milk. They have cold blue eyes that have been described as burning like ice or being as bright as blue stars. In the show the “White Walkers” are depicted as emaciated and zombie like with the blue eyes as described above, many of them are dressed in black. They are led in the show by a White Walker called the “Night King”. What makes the White Walkers or Others so dangerous is that they have the ability to resurrect the dead through a form of necromancy which occurs when they touch the corpse. The newly raised undead are called Wights.

The "Others" have not been seen for eight thousand years, when they came from the Land of Always Winter (the area which the wall separates from the kingdoms of Westeros). At this time, the others brought with them cold and darkness which lasted a generation, and this time is known as the Long Night. They were defeated by the first men of the Night’s Watch and the children of the forest, at a battle called the Battle for the Dawn where the forces of men were led by someone called the Last Hero.

The Night’s Watch wear only black and they are known as black brothers. Those who join the Night’s Watch are said to take the black. The Watch consists of three orders, rangers, builders and stewards. They all report to the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and each of the orders are led by its own officer, known as the First Ranger, the First Builder and the Lord Steward. The Lord Commander is responsible for appointing the above officers. While taking the black was once thought of as being an honorable thing to do, and you would see knights, honorable men and nobles taking the black, it has now become a way for some to avoid punishment or death, and you see only disgraced nobles, bastards and criminals taking the black.

The Night’s Watch recruits take vow either in a "Sept" (church for the seven gods of Westeros) or before a heart tree (which is a holy place for the Old Gods). The vows are as taken from A Game of Thrones, Chapter 48, Jon VI.: “Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.” They have their own funeral rights as well, as it is customary to say “And now his watch is ended.” at the end of the deceased black brother’s eulogy.

The similarities between the Night’s Watch and Freemasonry should be pretty clear at this point. Both organizations have vows which are taken before God (or Gods). Both organizations were formed to help keep the darkness of the world at bay. In our case, our allegories revolve around the builders of King Solomon’s Temple, while the builders of the Night’s Watch are responsible for maintaining the Wall. Both organizations have seen declining membership, whereas the Night’s Watch was once able to staff 17 of the 19 castles; it now can only staff 3. Both organizations have left their West Gate unguarded, so that less than honorable men are now members of both organizations. The Night’s Watch has Stewards, and we have Stewards. The Night’s Watch seems to be based upon the Templars, and depending on which Masonic history you subscribe to, there’s a good possibility that some of our ritual comes from the Templars. In fact, you can be a member of the Knight’s Templar body within the York Rite if you desire.

In the next installment, we’ll discuss some of the Masonic Symbolism hidden within the Heraldry of some of the Major Houses. Be sure to check back Next Wednesday!

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.

Setting the Bar Low

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


"Congratulations on your first degree!", we tell the candidate. A round of hearty handshakes ensues. By the end of the meeting, the Worshipful Master delivers the line we know he'll give, "Well, Brother...You've just heard us talk for two hours. The floor is yours if you have any thoughts or observations on what you've just experienced." The funny guy sitting in the North yells out, "Keep it under an hour, okay?!"

Alright, wipe all that away...that's just me griping on the same old same old. I was chatting with my Sr. Warden, Spencer the other day and it came up again--setting the bar low from the get go. What does that top paragraph have to do with this short essay? Well, it's what leads up to the next part of the story. The Worshipful Master assigns the new candidate an Intender or a coach to learn his catechism. Let me stop here for a quick moment and address the readers. I know there are jurisdictions that do not have catechisms. The candidate simply waits a month in between degrees. You guys...you're all nuts, and this piece isn't for you. (I would insert an emoji of a face sticking his tongue out here if I could.)

So here we are, the coach comes to the new Entered Apprentice and says, "Here is what you need to memorize. I will work with you, don't worry." Awesome right? Then, in the same breath says, "But if you can't, there's a short form. And if you can't do that, I just need to make sure you understand it."

Whoa, buddy! Put on the breaks. Are we just assuming out of the gate our candidate isn't adept enough to memorize this thing? Isn't this the candidate that ran through the entire dialogue of the latest Marvel installment? Yes there are men who have legitiate issues. Let's not get hung up here.

Something else Spencer and I talked about was when before the man ever even petitions, we say things like, "Yeah, the meetings are once a month, but don't worry if you can't make it." Or one of Spencer's favorites, "Oh, the dues? Yeah don't worry, they're cheap."

Spencer told me, "We want good men right? You might just characterize a “good” man as someone engaged, bright, curious, dependable, and eager to work. In short, someone who values and understands hard work and investment leading to achievement and satisfaction. So why then do we make it a point to tell our new “good” men that in this Masonry thing, there’s really no challenge, no personal investment, and actually we’ll go out of our way to make it as simple and non-committal as possible?"

Spencer continued, "That will really have them knocking down our door, bic pen-filled glossy petition barely dry. If we’re actually honest with ourselves, we know what the proverbial membership riddle is and how to crack it, but we're either too proud to admit we jumped the shark from the initial candidate investigation, or too lethargic to change our practices and attitudes."

What in the world are we doing? Why are we always looking to cut the obligation of being a Freemason to the lowest possible difficulty?

This is my question. Let's start a dialogue. What have you witnessed? Why do we do this? Comment below!

In my opinion, this is done to ensure we don't lose a man. But honestly, when someone tells me how cool something is and then immediately follows it all up with how unimportant showing up is, how cheap it is and how easy it will be...I'm left asking myself, "Who the hell wants that?"

"What we attain too cheap, we esteem too lightly." - Thomas Paine


~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183 UD. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatrewhich focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

A Sunday School Lesson For Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

A year ago, I never thought I'd be sitting here--I thought piano playing was in my distant past.
I recently joined a church for the first time in more than 20 years. I started attending this church back in August. I liked the people I met there. I liked the Pastor. I enjoyed the service. And I particularly enjoyed the weekly message. It’s a small church with a very traditional service in an even smaller town—there’s no concert every Sunday morning with flashing lights and drum solos. It’s what I’ve been looking for. A place to worship. A place to serve. A place to be involved.

As I said, I started attending in August. I’ve not been the member of a church in over twenty years, but I have attended on a regular basis. My wife has belonged to a local church since she was a little girl—sometimes we go there. And there are a few other churches I attended regularly. But none of them offered what I was looking for. So I never joined my wife’s church, or any of the others.  I'd go for the service, and the sermon.

The first time I attended the church I recently joined, I realized immediately that it was different. And I knew a few members there also. . . in fact I knew a couple of them really well. My old Boy Scout leader is a member there. So is my 4th grade teacher. So is one of my oldest friends—we met the first day of kindergarten (I won't say what year out of respect for her). I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to attend that church previously. It’s ten minutes from my house, and it's not as if I didn't know it was there. I went to Cub Scout meetings there as a boy. I’d been to a number of weddings at that church. I’d been to funerals there also.  I even attended a service when I was in about third grade.  I spent the night with a friend whose family attended there, and wore my purple corduroy pants and matching vest that next morning!

I was pretty surprised when a couple weeks after I first attended, I got the church newsletter in my mailbox (they’d quickly figured out who I was and where I lived). A couple months after I’d been attending each week, there was a knock on my door one Wednesday afternoon. The Pastor. We had a long conversation at my kitchen table over coffee. A couple weeks after that, the Pastor pulled me off to the side after the service and told me the church pianist was going on a cruise for two weeks. I had certainly never mentioned it, but I think my old friend from kindergarten told him I used to play the piano (tattled on me). I hadn’t played much in decades—music took the backseat when I started writing. It took a tremendous effort and a lot of practice, but I managed two Sunday morning services a couple weeks later (including a communion Sunday which is a lot of piano playing in my church). I joined the week after the church pianist got back from her cruise. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about that church. I’m involved in the Good Friday program coming up. I played an offertory piano piece last Sunday. I’ve enjoyed the weekly Bible studies. My wife and daughter even enjoy attending. It’s what I’ve been looking for. I’ve found a church home, and a church family.

That’s a great story, right? But what’s this got to do with Freemasonry?

This has everything to do with Freemasonry!

Let me tell you about one of the other churches I’ve attended over the last twenty years. I’ve probably averaged twice a month attending their early service—so I’d say I’ve attended roughly 500 services going back to the late 90s. It’s a very large modern church, and it’s really nice. They have an early traditional service, and a later contemporary service—so I go early. The members of the church are always friendly to me. But in all those years, not once did anyone try to involve me. I’ve put checks in the offering plate every time I’ve gone—my phone number is on them. Not one call. No newsletters in my mailbox. No invitation to a picnic or a Bible study. You know what that church’s biggest problem is? Attendance. Membership. Money. They have a huge sanctuary that they can’t fill, and they don’t know why.

Freemasonry has the same issues this church does. We don’t serve the membership. We get somebody at the door, but we don’t involve them. We don’t show up at their house and have coffee with them and find out why they were interested to begin with, what they’re looking for, what they’re good at, how they’d like to contribute. We focus so much on the social aspects of the Fraternity that we fail to realize it’s what Freemasonry teaches that attract new members. How many times have we seen a new Master Mason attend a few meetings and then vanish? Often? I’ve seen it over and over myself.

It’s because we haven’t delivered on that promise of making good men better—the reality didn’t live up to the expectation. We don’t teach enough. We don’t mentor enough. It would be like a church that is so focused on Sunday morning concerts and potluck dinners that once you’re baptized they no longer teach you anything about the Bible—if you want to learn more about that church stuff, you can study it on your own. That may sound silly. A church like that would without question fail, but isn’t that how many Freemasons learn about Freemasonry? That’s exactly how I learned it--on my own. Here’s the basics in three degrees, congratulations you’re a Master Mason—there’s the library. There’s books and such in there.  Knock yourself out!

I’ve learned a lot watching the Pastor of my church over the short amount of time I’ve known him.  My experience in that church didn't happen by accident.  He’s been a Pastor for fifty years, and he is a master at knowing his congregation. He knows every member well from the oldest member, to the newest visitor who walks in the door. He learns about them. He knows their skills. He knows how they like to participate, and what they enjoy doing. He even knows when a member needs a shove to the next level (like me back behind the piano again). And above all, he never losses sight of the mission of the church--everything is purpose driven. So much of what I’ve learned from this little church and its Pastor I realize can be applied to Freemasonry as well.

Think about it.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° is an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series.  He is the author of the the From Labor To Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he currently serves as Secretary.  He is a a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research (FMLR).  He is a charter member of the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and currently serves as EHP.  He is also a member of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org