Looking back, there are so many benefits from practicing martial arts – too many to count. Strong health, clear mind, calmness, assertiveness, empathy and service, emotional self-control, delayed gratification, and camaraderie just for starters. But the only way to know the benefits is to experience them yourself. While there are a few questions to ask before starting, the most important things to ask come from why you should start learning and practicing a martial art in the first place. I’ll do my best here to share why you should practice martial arts.
1. It’s Yours.
No one can take it away from you. You can practice whenever and wherever. As Sensei Chinen always said, “You can always do karate. Even if no hands, no legs, you can still do karate in your mind.” If you understand how imagery and envisioning works, practicing basics, kata, combos, whatever in your mind still excites nerve pathways and coordinates muscles in an ever-so-subtle way. While sole practice is nowhere near the whole picture of martial arts training, there’s SO MUCH you can do just by yourself. All the benefits of training, failing, pushing, meditation, repetition – you carry with you through your life and shapes you into a better and better person day by day. Stronger, more patient, more assertive, more self-control… You have the decision-making authority to practice martial arts and cultivate these qualities.
2. Physical Health & Survival.
To practice martial arts is to unify the body and mind in cultivation, expression, and growth. It’s in the name! “Martial” carries sentiment of hard, rigid, structural, directed, instruction, repetitive. “Art” carries sentiment of open, personal, natural, original, creative. The “martial” is learned and entertained in the mind. Watching and learning, listening to the teacher. The “art” is expressed through the body. New movements, blood, sweat, tears become triumph, perseverance, and fun. Martial arts facilitates, I argue, the best environment for training your body and mind in unity. Not only do you breakdown and build up your mind and body, but what you learn and how you practice helps you become a better survivor. The martial arts originated in military combat for offense, transformed and taught to civilians for self-defense, and can be cultivated privately for self-expression and general health. Not only do you become a more capable human being, but you can use these skills to protect you in so many situations. Imagine, feeling confident, competent, and safe anywhere you go with whomever. You know how you feel safe and normal in your own home? Imagine that feeling everywhere you go in the world. You can grow that character by training martial arts.
3. Translatable Skills.
Speaking of growing character, along with the literal skills you learn through martial arts, they are accompanied by intangible character traits and feelings. Peace of mind, patience, assertion, present obedience, empathetic leadership, firmness of voice and response. As you train martial arts, the character you are growing and shaping serves your activities and desires in all of your life. You become the controller of your emotions and reactions, instead of the victim. You create your circumstances, instead of being victimized by them. You become the dominant energy presence in the world – no longer will someone’s nervous energy make you feel awkward! You know how to make decisions and take actions, instead of sitting around with no idea of “what you wanna do.” You’ll carry yourself with friends, family, and strangers alike with a self-confidence of “I am capable. I am enough. I am good. I am helpful” and will attract good energy, good will, good relationships. Sure you may still fear new experiences and “the unknown,” but you will be equipped with physical and mental skills to cultivate courage and confidence so that you can engage through the fear, into the unknown – you don’t know what will happen and that’s ok, you’ll be just fine no matter what. All from showing up to class everyday and giving your best to practice martial arts.
4. Marketable Skills.
Also, the martial arts are valuable enough that people will pay to learn. There are plenty of men and women just like you who have cultivated their own art and now teach others who wish to learn what they have learned and become who they have become, in their own way. Whether you wish to make a little money on the side through a small dojo, private lessons, group workshops or make it a primary living (and life!) by growing a substantial school that serves many students and the community, you can do so through learning, teaching, and practicing daily your martial arts.
5. Constructive, Creative Outlet.
Where I live, there wasn’t much for kids to go and do. Mostly alcohol, the gym, tennis courts. While they’re all worthy of some merit in their own right, needless to say my hometown left much to be desired in terms of “fun things for kids to do.” If only there was a more significant presence and environment for parkour and martial arts! If you haven’t noticed, most troublemaking stories start with “we were bored, so…” It was through martial arts and parkour that I found a constructive, creative, physical outlet for expression and immersion. the days of climbing malls and running through backyards at night were over. Martial arts consumed and still dominate my mental and physical faculties. I strengthen myself and empower others by teaching martial arts at every opportunity. You don’t need a place to practice – you are the place. You don’t really need anyone to practice with – you are the practitioner. Not only is it useful for your immediate health, but you can pass it on and pay it forward for others to benefit as you have.
Inspired by: The Unexpected Lessons of Parkour | Global Citizen
Critical Thinking Step: Do I like where I’m at in life now? Am I tired of feeling weak? Nervous? Anxious? Disrespected? Incapable? It’s time I made a change.
Action Step: Do you like punching & kicking or grappling & throwing? Ask around your community about dojos or schools that offer what you’re looking for and attend a couple classes to see if you like it. Not sure what you like? Look into karate, wing chun, or brazilian jujitsu. I’ve found that these are great if you’re new to martial arts.