Sunday, April 27, 2014

What is Martial Arts Really All About?

This question seems innocent and easy to answer. But the truth is that it is not an easy question to answer at all, because it must be answered on so many different levels. What is martial arts really all about?

Is it about learning some punches, kicks and blocks? Is it about memorizing endless forms? Is it about self-defense? Is it about health and fitness? How about making friends and socializing? And what about all of those buzzwords such as self-discipline, self-confidence, self-control, self-esteem?

Some of us have already done our research on this topic to find out what martial arts is all about and we have found many different but complimentary answers. Conventional martial arts wisdom tells us that practicing martial arts is about perfecting our character, being truthful and honest, never giving up, building strong spirit, trying our best at all times, adhering to strict discipline and etiquette, following the path or the Way, and reaching our potential in life.

I can guarantee that if I put this question to a room full of students, all of the above answers will be volunteered and probably several others. The point of the introduction to this article is that martial arts is about all of the above and none of the above. It all depends on who you are talking to. The problem is that the difference between most people's words and actions can be significant.

For example, saying that martial arts is about focus and discipline and then demonstrating weak technique and bad manners while being easily distracted tells me that someone isn't really being honest. Saying that martial arts is about health and fitness and then chowing down on junk food after class might be equally questionable in terms of an honest practice.

So what is martial arts really all about? I'd say it's all about YOU and it's all about what YOU make of it. You can make it a fun and challenging hobby and family activity by participating with other family members. You can make it a really worthwhile physical activity by training hard and improving your health and fitness. You can also make it an incredibly tedious and frustrating pursuit that becomes potentially harmful to both your self-confidence and your character by not trying to do your very best, and feeling like you are no good compared to everyone else in your class.

Or, you can make it a lifelong goal to try to capitalize on the strengths that you were born with and gradually improve your weaknesses through the honest and fully committed practice of karate.

Perfection of character doesn't mean that you never make a mistake. Trying to be truthful and honest doesn't mean that you never catch yourself being hypocritical at times. Nor does trying your best mean that you're never tired.

What is most important from all of this is your self-awareness. Through the template and practice of karate we should be able to constantly polish the stone that holds all of our skills, so that we can clearly see our own reflection in all its beauty and even all of its ugliness.

Gradually through consistent effort, practice and knowledge of ourselves that we develop through our practice, we can tip the balance of our life's scale to positive nourishment and self-improvement. This inevitably leads toward helping others and finding our own place in this world. Martial arts, although not complete in and of itself, holds many keys that lead us towards this goal.

Good luck and best wishes on your journey in the martial arts.

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