I have wanted to write up my own personal take on why one might consider practicing martial arts and how it helped me in my life for quite some time now. As we all know, the health benefits of regular physical activity are numerous and obvious. Exercising can help us control our weight; improve our mental health; reduce risk of injury; decrease insulin resistance; strengthen our bones and muscles; increase our life expectancy; and reduce the risk of cancers, heart disease, and many other health issues. I do not want to focus too much on the obvious health benefits of practicing martial arts because they are indeed obvious. As a form of physical exercise, one would benefit from practicing martial arts in much the same way they would from other forms of exercise.
To expand upon one of the previously recognized benefits, it has been my experience that martial arts is immensely beneficial to one’s mental health in a variety of ways. Learning Taekwondo and later Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at a young age helped me to learn self-confidence, self-discipline, and self-esteem, and self-respect. It focused my mind and taught me the lesson of mind over matter, as it has for many others throughout history. I remember I used to struggle a lot with anger issues as a very young child. However, after several years of martial arts training, those issues dissipated from my life. It was a transformative experience for me, and I maintain to this day that earning my black belt in Taekwondo was the best thing which ever happened to me. Perhaps one day becoming a father will top that, but I have yet to experience anything which does.
Undertaking that journey, the first year was the hardest. Getting started, there were many months where it felt as if I was making no progress. After the first year, I began to recognize I was excelling, albeit slowly day by day. Still, the feeling of wanting to stay home and rest instead of attending a class where I felt nothing was changing crept into my mind from time to time. There were many days when I struggled to shake the feeling that I was just going to a place where people bigger and stronger than me would have fun tossing me around like a rag doll, and every inclination I had was telling me to just go home. Overcoming that desire to stop and powering on through, no matter what, shaped me to be a better person than I would have otherwise been.
I found I reaped numerous benefits from undertaking that training and sticking through it. It increased my resilience, conditioning me to be stronger not just physically, but mentally as well. My threshold for pain tolerance increased and I was able to focus under pressure and pain without panicking or losing my train of thought. I could withstand punishment and maintain my composure; handle myself in hostile situations better; and think more clearly than ever before. After toughing it out through that training which pushed me past my limits, all the simple stressors in life started to seem more trivial, and the major stressors in life became far more manageable. The perspective it gave me at a young age was invaluable.
More recently, I have been thinking a lot about what I can do as a father to my future children. To that end, I certainly intent to teach martial arts to my children someday. It can be a fun family activity for everyone to enjoy and learn practical skills at the same time. Learning how to use historical weapons like swords also opens up the possibility for lots of silly fun and games. I have even discussed the possibility of having a mock knighting ceremony for the kids once they are able to beat me and my adult friends and family members in a duel. It would be a joy to pass on such knowledge to the next generation.
Even if the idea of practicing a combat art seems daunting, I would still strongly recommend giving it a try. You never know if you might enjoy it, after all. When I was young, I tried many different athletic activities. However, I never found myself intrigued by sports like basketball, baseball, or traditional exercises. For me, practicing martial arts was a natural decision because I was learning practical skills which could help me defend myself in dangerous situations; I was improving my physical and mental health; and, perhaps most importantly, I was having fun. Enjoying your exercise is key to keeping you motivated and passionate about your health so that you stick with it instead of quitting. If you have been struggling to stay active and have yet to try practicing martial arts, I would recommend giving it a try! You may just find, as I did, it is the perfect physical activity for you.
Even if it turns out one does not particularly enjoy practicing a combat art, I would still recommend it regardless due to the practical benefits alone. If not for oneself, one may do it for the greater good of their community. After all, as Thucydides once said: “The society which separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.” I love that quote. It speaks to me of the importance of teaching ourselves and our young how to read, write, and also to fight! Knowing how and when to effectively wield the pen and sword is key to maintaining serenity within oneself within one’s community.
Overall, my experience with martial arts was that it made me a better person in more ways than one. It improved me mentally, physically, and emotionally by giving me greater mastery and control over my body and mind. Knowing oneself and having a firm sense of control over one’s conduct is vital to enhancing our relationships and finding a fruitful place in our community. After all, it is strong and disciplined individuals which are the backbone of any productive society. Bettering ourselves is a pivotal first step in bettering the world around us.
There are other related topics which would be prudent to discuss. What kind of mindset would help one succeed in martial arts, how to find a good school, and what are the pros and cons of being professionally trained versus self-trained? These topics and others will no doubt be discussed further in future posts.
At this point, for those still curious about martial arts, a great place to start would be by reading about different arts and seeing what kinds of schools are available in your area. Even if you live in a remote area and cannot find a school nearby, if you can read this blog post, you can likely attend classes remotely with a webcam nowadays. The Internet is a powerful tool when used to cultivate our skills, knowledge, and wisdom.
What do you think about martial arts? Have you ever trained in a particular art? Which art do you think you would prefer?
All posts by The Pen and Sword are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.