Recently, our Sensei asked, “what is the purpose of martial arts?” That got me thinking. I know, Sensei did his job well.
There are hundreds of websites outlining the benefits of training. Most of them focusing on the physical end. Those are all good. However, I have a different list that may not be so apparent.
Perseverance is the power to overcome.
In my martial art, persistence is one of the first things we learn. After four months of basic training, we go through our first two-minute randori. It is a test. It answers the question, “Do you have what it takes to continue training?”
Practicing perseverance doesn’t end with the first randori. Each month students are tested.
Class attendance is another testament to our determination. How often do we skip class because we don’t feel like training? How often do we make lame excuses?
There are two types of awareness, outer and inner.
Outer Awareness: In the dojo, you must be cognizant of your surroundings at all times. Students are training on the mats. It can lead to bumps and crashes. Think of your local bowling alley. Necessity cultivates awareness.
Inner Awareness: You have to listen to your body and your emotions. How far can you push yourself? When is the pain just soreness and when it is detrimental?
Inner awareness goes beyond how you physically feel.
How does an attack by a padded uke holding a training knife affect you psychologically? Does it freak you out?
Story: There was one lady in our dojo that would freeze and panic when training knives came out. However, through awareness, she came to understand her fears and ultimately conquered them.
Exploring our reactions to situations can help us learn their causes and overcome our fears. Awareness is more than spatial; it is essential to understanding who you are.
Learning to move your body effectively has many benefits in and out of the dojo.
Good coordination can prevent you from getting hit. Nobody in their right mind wants a solid fist making contact with any part of their body.
Many exercises in our dojo are geared around expanding our coordination. We roll and evade sword attacks.
Story: Sensei likes to tell a winter tale of ice and the benefits of practicing rolling every day. He slipped and rolled. It saved his tailbone.
Angles, distance, and timing are all essential parts of coordination.
You learn to accept that you can never control what comes at you, but you can learn to react in positive ways.
This skill goes so far beyond the dojo.
Story: I know a young lady who is full of fear. She fears the unknown, of not being in control. She continually works to manage who and what is around her. Ironically, the more she tries to rule over others and situations the more she is out of control.
As you can see this kind of behavior is unhealthy.
The only person, anyone, can control is themselves.
Training in martial arts promotes self-mastery through physical movement and mental/emotional challenges.
You learn how not to fight.
Martial arts does not promote violence, especially so in non-competitive arts. It is the exact opposite.
Some of you may disagree with this statement. Hear me out.
In Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu it is pounded (almost literally) into our heads that we are not a fighting art. We learn to escape, to protect.
In our dojo, ego has no home. As soon as ego enters a room, negativity (squabbles, anger, and hurt feelings) inevitably follows. Nobody enjoys those moments.
Understandably ego is checked (most often by our Sensei) then kicked out the door.
By being intolerant of inflated egos, our Sensei teaches acceptable behavior that goes way beyond the walls of the dojo. Students learn how to walk away when provoked.
There is a vast difference between ugly words and real physical danger. We do not fight. We protect ourselves and others.
While martial arts teaches how to avoid violent situations, it is still aggressive; there is no getting around it.
People tend to get hurt, not from harmful intent, but because of the nature of training. People make mistakes. It is all part of learning.
However, understanding the potential danger brings a sense of empathy for fellow martial artists and by extension other people.
Let me explain. When you uke for your Sensei, chances are you will feel some pain. He wouldn’t be doing his job if he did not bring a touch of reality into the dojo. It is not barbaric. It is realism within the safety of the dojo.
The goal is not to harm. It is to give a sense of what it feels like or what you could do to an attacker (or uke) thereby building empathy.
Trust is a significant component of martial arts.
You have to trust your uke has learned enough control not to hurt you while practicing techniques and strategies. On the flip side, you have to learn enough self-control to be trustworthy.
Learning who to trust and when to trust is an important life skill.
As you learn to combine techniques, strategic thinking comes into play.
Like playing chess, you learn to think several moves ahead.
You learn to flow with the movement lulling your attacker into a false sense of control. Then, at the right moment, you crash back much to the demise of the fool who attacked you.
The above is not your usual list of the benefits of martial arts; however, I hope you find my list insightful.
Can you think of any other benefits of training? Leave a comment.
Thank you for reading.
J. R. Lowe
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