Martial Arts and Vegetarianism

Buddhist monks with their bowl

It is more and more common for athletes and generally people to follow a vegetarian diet. Some might ask if it this a good idea to do. But if you, according to your beliefs or health, want to go this path then there are plenty of good examples of that.


As many people know, Kung Fu, came out of the Shaolin temple. Since it is a Buddhist temple the monks there were restricted to a Vegetarian diet.  So how is it possible that they were and are practicing Kung Fu at least eight hours a day without eating meat? Well their diet was simple and peaceful and this was done not just because of health reasons but also as a spiritual source. In the temple they mostly eat rice, vegetables and fruits. Most of the vegetables were prepared simple, that means either raw or steamed. As protein sources, they used mainly soybeans and soy products, like tofu or seitan and of course nuts.


In their monastic life, members of the Shaolin sect, have been eating a diet similar to Chinese food with one main ingredient: rice, boiled, steamed or as rice flour for noodles and so on. It is everywhere in Chinese cuisine. The most typical Chinese vegetables are: bok choy, sprouts, taro and a variety of beans. They were generally steamed or boiled, sometimes raw. Fruits, like bananas, apples or figs are also common and were eaten raw or dried for long-term storage.


It is obvious that Shaolin monks decided to leave the commodity of a normal life for a stricter and simpler life which includes the diet. In their monastic vows, they agree to protect every being from being harmed or of suffering.


Buddhism and Vegetarianism


It might be a surprise but not all streams of Buddhism prohibit the consumption of animal meat. In the Theravada school monks are allowed to eat pork, chicken and fish. This comes with the restriction, that the monk or nun has to be aware that the animal wasn’t killed on their behalf. The Mahayana schools, which are mostly practiced in China and Japan, are stricter about the consumption of meat and think that every scenting being once was your mother, sister, father or brother which prohibits to eat them. In the last school, the Vajrayana, which is mainly practiced in Tibet, it is a bit more complicated. So, it might be strange but the actual 14th Dalai Lama isn’t a vegetarian. Since Tibet doesn’t provide with much vegetables, the Tibetan Buddhism was always a bit more flexible when it came to the diet. They don’t just allow to eat food but also to drink alcohol. However, a lot of leading monks, including the Dalai Lama, are encouraging vegetarianism.


To get more information about that, check out the page of the Buddhist organization Shakbar who is dedicated to vegetarianism as a Buddhist way of life.


Since I am not a nutritionist I won’t tell you how to design your diet. But the first step to eat right is to inform yourself, to get all the vitamins and minerals you need. To do so you can get a million books or search your way through the internet. Pages like nomeatathletes or vegkitchen can definitely help a bit. I got the book “The Vegetarian Athlete’s Cookbook” and feel much better ever since getting through its recipes. All I can say is, that you should have an eye on your level of vitamins (especially B12 and D), calcium, protein, omega-3, carbo-hydrates, fat and iron. But just looking at the list you can imagine that this is not an easy task.



Buddhist diet