We talk a lot about the benefits of the Martial Arts. Training improves your strength, flexibility, and discipline, just to name a few reasons to participate in the Arts. Not to mention self-defense, which is of course, a primary reason for studying. But what are some practical everyday ways in which spending time in the dojo dramatically affects your life?
The first thing that comes to mind when we hear the word “strength” is most likely physical strength. Though martial arts do help to cultivate physical strength, I would suggest the mental strength one develops in the arts is of greater overall impact. Life has a way of beating people down. Whether we want to admit it or not, things happen in life that are out of our control, and we either fight or fold. If you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you and I are cut from the same cloth and battle back when life tries to knock us down.
As we occasionally get knocked to the mats in class, we develop the strength to get back up. This serves us well in real life when we’re caught off guard or dealt a tough hand. We play the cards we’re given and get back up to fight again. As a result, this improved mental fortitude gives a Martial Artist a great advantage in life in all that they may face. Always getting back up and always fighting forward is true strength.
Similar to “strength,” most people think of being able to do splits or touch their toes when they hear the mention of “flexibility.” I want you to think beyond the physical and focus on the mental again. As humans, it is easy to get fixated on a singular objective. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The trouble ensues as we become married to a singular path towards reaching that goal.
There are times when we must keep pressing forward to achieve success. It is often cumbersome, but through the continued application of our “mental strength,” we press on repeatedly until reaching our objective. Unfortunately, there are time when we are figuratively beating our heads against a wall with no hope of success. This is where the “flexibility” we learn in the Arts can be one of the greatest lessons we learn from training.
When sparring or working through techniques with a partner, things frequently don’t go as planned. This is when we learn to be flexible in our approach. We come up with new solutions spontaneously in the physical world on a micro level, which teaches us to mentally be able to the same in life on a macro level when needed.
I like to think of “discipline” as doing what needs to be done today to yield the results we plan to achieve tomorrow. We often know what we should do, and we need the “discipline” to just keep putting in consistent effort. At other times, we need to course correct and then start down a modified road towards our goal with plodding effort.
You may see how this correlates to both the “strength” and “flexibility” mentioned above. Discipline is simply the application of both “strength” and “flexibility” as needed to achieve your ultimate goals. Discipline is pushing through with “strength” when possible and redirecting with “flexibility” when required.
The ultimate physical goal of the Martial Arts is “self-defense.” We all know the story of a kid being bullied and then taking Karate and standing up for himself. This is how many get their start. It is a worthy goal and frequent outcome. This is great, but there is more. The person that builds the ability to defend themselves gains something just as important in the mental realm. They gain “self-confidence.”
You can immediately spot people who have confidence in comparison to those who lack that all important ingredient for a happy and healthy life. When a person has confidence, they are not only able to defend themselves or avoid the need to all together, but they also have great success across many areas of their lives. Confidence is the secret sauce in executing the bravery necessary to ask for that raise, start a business, make a big move, or ask that girl out. Obviously, your application of “confidence” may be different, but I hope you get the idea. It is through applied confidence that we obtain our greatest achievements and live our lives to the fullest.
The take-home message for today is that the Martial Arts are far more than just physical. It is through the physical which we strive to become all we’re meant to be mentally and spiritually.
Ian Lauer CSCS
Martial arts training, Philosophy, Martial arts philosophy
Black Belt Magazine