I am pretty sure most of you do an activity or sport you particularly like. Maybe because it makes you feel good, maybe because it is a way to let go of stress. Are there activities that can be both a great way to stay fit while being able to have a positive impact on the mind? I believe martial arts provide this kind of benefits, and that’s the topic of today’s post. Have fun reading it!
Why martial arts?
I am a firm believer that in order to be fulfilled in life, one must find balance between the physical body and the mental body. Only then do we feel much more calm and peace of mind, and we find by ourselves the tools the achieve what we want. I write this because each and every time I didn’t do much physical activity, I always felt kind of disconnected with myself. I had less motivation, a harder time to reflect and be alone with myself. And when I used to do a ton of sport but took no time for myself, the result was pretty much the same. Even though I was happy that my body was well-functioning, I could somehow sense that something was missing. Indeed I wasn’t in touch with my deep self.
Now which type of activity allows you to train both your body and mind? Actually there are many of them, but martial arts are particularly interesting because they have been around for multiple centuries. They evolved tremendously throughout the years, and more than just being about fighting, they encapsulate an entire philosophy that has accompanied millions of people through the journey of life.
Usually, the first time one sees or hear about martial arts, the fighting aspect is attractive. Some people may have difficulties to manage their anger, and punching and kicking makes them feel relieved. Others will be interested because of a lack of confidence for example. Myself not being a tall person, I remember struggling when I was younger as others would sometimes make fun of me, and as a consequence my confidence was really low. Learning martial arts not only increased my confidence, it taught me about being a better person, to not judge other people myself, and to know how special and unique each of us is. I learned the very valuable lesson that we all have the capacity to guide others, physically, mentally, and even emotionally. More than just about fighting against someone else, you discover that you can listen to your body and that it teaches you a lot. For most people I know, martial arts started with the desire to learn how to defend oneself, but with time it evolved into a desire to understand oneself and share this knowledge with others.
Understanding your body and mind
Remember my very first post? I talked a lot about humans being quite distracted nowadays, myself included. We are much less in touch with our body and mind, and we tend to fill this void by watching funny videos, reading news that actually are of no interest, and so on. This is really sad in a way because it is hard to get out of this vicious loop. It is much easier to watch many short videos and feel content on the short-term than putting a lot of effort into something and only later reap the benefits which will lead to long-term satisfaction. All of it is rather counter-intuitive, but let me not digress too much. I will probably write about this in a future post.
So, body and mind. If you are able to know yourself in these two dimensions, you are well-equipped to be fulfilled in my opinion. Martial arts can give you the opportunity to get this knowledge, and actually much more.
For the body, martial arts teach you to listen to it. Is there a particular spot which hurts on your body? Does your body tell you to rest it, or on the opposite to use it a little so that the possible injury does not become worse? It is extremely useful to know when to engage into physical activity, and when not to. To be able to listen to all of this, martial arts often involve a “meditation” aspect in their practice, which allows you to do so. Actually I would invite you if you don’t already do it to regularly meditate, there are amazing resources online to learn about this practice.
Being in touch with your body allows you to completely understand certain movement in the martial art you are studying. When should you release your energy when throwing a punch? How can you redirect the energy of an opponent? I am always amazed by great practitioners who are able to break wooden planks by throwing a punch while being only at two centimeters from the plank. How is that physically possible? Most of it is because of the years of practice, but also because of their complete understanding of their energy and body, giving them the ability to be extremely effective.
A great way to understand more about yourself is to first understand others. This is the same in martial arts. Many exercises involve two people, and the goal is to feel the other’s body, to feel how the energy flows between individuals. By understanding the motions and movement of the partner, you better understand how to improve yours. You learn from others by noting how they react and what they feel.
But let me stress once again that to be able to do this, you need to already be at peace with yourself and have a certain understanding of how/what you feel. Otherwise it is much more difficult to learn when practicing with someone else. That’s when the mind comes into play, and I urge you once again to take some time during your day to do some kind of meditation. It could simply be to sit down and listen to your breath, not thinking about anything else.
5 values martial arts taught me
Beyond just yourself
By now, you should be pretty convinced that martial arts bring value to your person. But does it stop there? Well if you want to, of course your practice will continue to help you grow, but you will find that there is much more to be learned by sharing all this experience you have inside of you. That’s maybe the greatest beauty in any skill one can develop: the ability to transmit knowledge to those who are eager to learn. One of the lesson is that you don’t need to be a master to help someone else. And it’s not because you are a beginner that you don’t have something to teach to someone really advanced. Learning is a never ending activity that also teaches you to stay humble.
So if you discovered something crazy about yourself when practicing, share it with the other students or even your friends! You will probably help them in their own practice, and their feedback will be more than valuable. This brings me to another aspect of martial arts being more than just about yourself.
When practicing with other people in a club, you meet all types of people. From all sizes and ages, coming from different cultures and continents, with a different education, …. Trust me that’s wonderful. Even though we are all so different, in martial arts we all come and learn together and it sometimes feels like a family! I had the chance to practice Wing Chun (which I will talk about in an upcoming article) in different continents, and I have always been amazed by the fact that wherever I go, I feel like I have so much in common and so many things to learn from all the people I meet. That’s one of the power of martial arts, and this is possible because of the respect we have for each other.
Where to start your own journey?
I hope that by now, you are a bit more interested in martial arts. If yes, where should you begin? Which martial art to pick? Should you practice at home or in a club?
I think a good first step is to decide why you want to pick up this activity. Is it because you feel anxious and you think that it could help? Is it because you want to learn how to fight? Each one of us has her/his own reasons to do so, and I believe you should take the time to figure it out because it will help a lot down the road to persevere and keep improving.
If you don’t know which martial art to choose, you can check it online to get an idea of what each martial art is about. This article presents a list of popular martial arts with a short description for each of them. Don’t hesitate to also watch videos online to see which one really appeals to you.
The final step is then to find where you want to practice it. You should be able to find different clubs around where you live, searching online will again definitely help here. I would advise you to do a lesson in each of the clubs you are interested in to see which one fits you most. Each teacher is different so you may as well try all of them and pick the one you like most.
When you finally found a place that fits you, you all ready to start your journey through martial arts! I can only wish you to have fun, learn, and meet great people while doing an activity that makes you feel happy.
And that’s it for today! I hope you liked this article, let me know what are your thoughts about it. Which martial arts or activity do you practice and what do you like about it? How did it help you in your daily life? Please share your journey!