If you are a law enforcement agent or a military person or someone involved in this line of work, this article is not for you. You play by much different rules. You train in martial arts (among other things) for much different reasons compared to many of us. You stick your neck out so people like us are protected and safe. For this, we are extremely grateful and always will be. Regardless of what politicians or anyone else who speaks ill do or say, we are forever appreciative and proud of you. Somehow, the words “thank you” are not enough. It is the best we can say. Know you have our support and always will.
For the rest of us, we train because we love the art. We are doctors or engineers or managers. Often our biggest challenge is dealing with customers or house breaking the dog. We have no idea what it is like to be shot at or have a weapon pointed in our face. We hope to never have this experience either. When we work with our plastic knives or rubber guns or wooden swords, we can stop pretending that we know. Unless you had the experience, you don’t know. Most of us hope to not know.
Truth is blunt and stinging at times isn’t it.
So why do we train? What is the real purpose?
“Just in case. . . . “ scenarios? Maybe. You are better off getting a gun. Or a dog. Or a dog with a gun.
“Self discipline?” Maybe. Meditation is much more challenging. Doing 100 pushups pales in comarison to calming the endless chatter of the mind.
What is the purpose then? Of course, each person must answer this for him/herself. 20 people may translate into 20 answers. All accurate, all personal, all truthful.
For some it is about the belts or dan rank. It may seems shallow, but earning something of (personal) value always feels good. Nothing wrong with that, assuming it is actually earned.
For others, it is about the challenge. Learning forms, weapons, taking strikes etc., are often difficult tasks that few are willing to undertake. Even fewer are able to get to mastery.
For me, it is primarily about one thing – The end of my life question. My belief is that at the end of my life, I will ask myself and be responsible for one question — Did you help others?
Teaching martial arts has become that vehicle in my life to be a conduit to assist others. Yes, it is also about kick defense and stick work and all of the other challenging fun that comes along with martial arts. It is also about being compassionate, respectful, patient, kind and all of the other qualities that usually gets only lip service when it comes to the arts. Seeing someone who “doesn’t fit in” transform into someone who is at ease with themselves and is accepted by the group holds more value then any black belt ever has. Showing respect for fellow instructors or fellow students is worth more then learning the greatest punch defense ever known. Practicing courage and overcoming fear is a skill that may never be used in a self defense situation, but may be the difference between a happy family and a fear-driven one.
Perhaps it is time for those of us living in the yin side of the martial arts to re-evaluate our priorities and begin to focus on what is truly valuable in the martial arts. Maybe then we will truly be honoring the masters who have come before us and help develop those who will follow us. In the meantime, treat someone with respect today. Have a lesson mixed with laughter for a change. Let someone know they matter or they are doing a great job. In other words, be a real martial artist.