MMA announcer Michael "The Voice" Schiavello of HDNet Fights takes a look at the similarities of Freemasonry & The Martial Arts
In February 2009 I became an Entered Apprentice Freemason (first degree). In July 2009 I was passed to the Fellowcraft degree (second degree). In February 2010, I was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason (third degree). My journey through Freemasonry’s three degrees has been an extraordinary experience. Involvement in the world’s oldest and largest fraternal order gives me incredible joy as both a means to enhance my knowledge of the world and the way it works through Masonry’s allegorical teachings and knowing that the steps I have walked were walked by millions of men before me and will be walked by millions after I’m gone.
Some of history’s most prominent men once spoke the same words I speak in Lodge; once undertook the same solemn oaths to ‘always conceal and never reveal’; once circumambulated the checkered lodge floor; and once wore a pure apron, a hoodwink and a cable tow. Presidents, actors, singers, composers, sports stars, billionaires, kings, princes and every day men throughout a long and illustrious Masonic history all called one another “brother” and all once stood in the North East corner without a coin in their pocket nor any jewelry on their body -- “divested of all money and metallic substances” -- in the first step toward receiving “light.”
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This “light”, the great reward for the dedicated Mason is, in my interpretation, the illumination of the soul and the creation of upstanding character. As part of a global fraternity that welcomes men of every race, colour and creed, the one prerequisite of being a Mason is that you must believe in a Supreme Being, be it the Christian God, Jehovah, Allah or any other deity. Through allegorical stories played out in dramatic rituals and utilising the tools of operative stonemasons of old such as the square, compass, pencil, plumb rule, chisel and level, a Mason symbolically cuts away at the rough stone (rough ashlar) of his own character and becomes what we call a perfect ashlar, or a perfect stone who serves as a solid brick in the framework of society. It’s a beautiful collective aspiration of Masons that in making ourselves into perfect ashlars, we will create a better world based on the principal tenets of Freemasonry, being brotherly love, relief and truth, and supported by the three great pillars of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. We are taught that there should be wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings. The Mason is sure to prosper if he has the wisdom to plan with judgement, the strength to resist evil tendencies and influences, and extolls the beauty of brotherly love and charity.
Over the years Masonry has gotten a bad rap due to the perception that ours is a secret society. This, of course, is ridiculous. There is nothing secret about a society that keeps minutes of its every lodge meet; that places its symbol (the square and compass) on the front of its lodge buildings for all to see; and whose rituals are largely available for the reader on the internet and in countless books. Masonry is, however, a society with secrets, not that the word secret should conjure any sinister images of devil worship, sexual ritual or illuminati gatherings in preparation for a world takeover, as many conspiracy theorists would have you believe. Any religious or political talk is banned at lodge meetings (pretty hard to take over the world when you’re not even permitted to discuss politics!) and the only secrets a Mason swears an oath to keep are those signs, grips and words by which we can recognise each other. But you can find these grips and signs and all the “secret” masonic words on the internet, right? Of course you can, but reading a website and seeing pictures does not make you a Mason, just as seeing The Karate Kid or reading techniques in Black Belt magazine does not make you a martial artist. As any martial artist will tell you, martial arts is not merely about kicking and punching, just as Masonry is not about secret handshakes and passwords. To understand Masonry and receive the “light” so often mentioned in its rituals; and to understand martial arts and receive the enlightenment so often proclaimed by instructors, one must realise that there is more to each respective craft and art than handshakes, words, kicks and punches. Also it is the Mason’s ability to keep safe the secrets imparted to him -- even safe from friends and family no matter how much they demand them -- that help build character and go a long way towards creating that perfect ashlar. For what sort of man are you if you cannot keep safe simple secrets you have taken an oath to protect in the repository of your own bosom.
In my short but wonderful Masonic journey thus far, I continually see examples of a certain synergy between Freemasonry and martial arts. Indeed having spoken to some martial artists who are Freemasons, they too are attracted to the many similarities between the two and believe that any martial artist would find an immediate affinity with the discipline, ritual and structured teaching of Masonry, as such is found in the martial arts.