Martial arts are mystic, the participants usually aren’t.
The notion that the facade is sometimes truer than reality is something I became aware of by imbibing vast amounts of philosopher Slavoj Žižek. Žižek has a concept that runs loosely like this: the mask is realer than the ‘authentic’ person behind it. Take for example the construction of an identity on social media. The persona that they digitally craft could be a closer reflection of their imagined or aspiring self, were they stripped of their social responsibility, inhibitions and so on. In other words, this kind of mask is their 'authentic' self, and the normal story they live is the BS and not truly them.
To keep things on point with the world of Žižek, let's explore this in film. We’ll go with the latest Batman series, as directed by Christopher Nolan, that Žižek himself has talked about although doesn’t particularly enjoy. Batman is obviously the public ‘mask’ and Bruce Wayne the real man behind it. Could we not say though, that the authentic self is the man who wishes to fight crime directly? It is only in response to social pressure (fear of retaliation against loved ones etc.), that Bruce Wayne must forge this dark personality. Bearing this in mind we can conclude that the Dark Knight is the authentic self and ‘Bruce Wayne’ is the real mask.
Understanding the basic idea, lets take and apply it to martial arts or cultural traditions where some form of ‘Guru’ is present. The idea of ‘Guru’ functions to motivate us to pursue a kind of excellence that potentially doesn’t exist: this is the ‘spirit’ of martial arts. The person the Guru happens to be in day to day life is not reflective of these real inward aspirations as the image - he is not the Guru in the office or supermarket as such, nor could he ever be expected to be. The Guru as a image or mask enables the idea to function, nothing more than a fictional narrative that leads participants to practice and train. Mainstream social and physical pressures prevent a person from being any more than a man or woman labelled by passive social roles.
We need grandiose ideas and misconceptions to push us to do things that we would not otherwise do; hours of martial arts training for example. Ignorance is the patron saint of risk-takers. If every prospective musician looked into the likelihood of success and rationally took this statistical information to the core, there would be considerably fewer of us. Humans, most of the time, are in possession of that kind of courage that grows out of incomplete knowledge. Rarely do you find true bravery in the face of known terrible odds. Blatant risk-takers have to feel on some level, however irrationally, that they will succeed; true for beginning martial artists, movers, musicians, and many others.
This is what people mean when they talk of dogma; a system of protocols, sometimes fictions and beliefs with the power to make bad people do good things, good people do bad things, or to make you do some exercise.
Find your mask.