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Martial Arts is About Transformation

Having studied martial arts for many years, you are often asked why you continue to study. Over the years as the question gets asked repeatedly you answer the question differently. This is because of an evolution of your perspective and to some degree just in order to have variation in a conversation that can become overly repetitive otherwise.

It is common that as soon as someone finds out you train in martial arts that a follow up question comes. How many times have you used martial arts in a fight? There is a paradox of martial arts where “the person who is always ready to defend themselves rarely has to” and so usually the answer is that you have not had to use martial arts in a fight to protect yourself. When you answer a person’s question this way they often look at you with a sort of “well martial arts must be useless” type of way.

The paradox is that the reason that you don’t get into fights is BECAUSE of martial arts, not because martial arts training is useless.

“Martial Arts is Internal, it is a way of life and living, of thinking and behaving”. Master Tom Garriga.

The way of life behind martial arts is transforming. It moves you past fears and limitations, increases your judgement and commitment, makes you more formidable, yet more trustworthy at the same time. Having more capability to use heavy degrees of physical force if needed, paradoxically you feel less aggression when there is no need to be aggressive. When you get past fear, you realize that people who are overly aggressive, who are violent are drowning in fear and the aggression is to throw others off the scent.

Why do people play an instrument for years, why do they play sports, why do people pursue all the hobbies they pursue? Of course it is for enjoyment, but the best hobbies are more than hobbies, they are avenues for transformation and the practice of them seems to enhance your own outputs across many other mediums of performance. Martial arts in its correct form is such a pursuit.

When they first came over to the United States from China there was a rumor that all the Chinese people practiced gong fu (功夫pronounced Kung Fu by westerners). The reality is that gong fu roughly means hard work or effort over time to achieve mastery of self through mastery of a particular pursuit. If you are an artist but practice art, or dancing, or music for more than just fun, but for self-mastery then you would say that you do practice Gong Fu from the old way of understanding.

武術Wu Shu on the other hand means martial/warlike/warrior arts. Since the 1940s Chinese culture has changed almost night and day and many of the old practices have been shifted. Wu Shu became a national sport, no longer really allowed to be taught in their combat forms, but only in acrobatic sport form. The old notion of Wu Shu was almost inseparable from gong fu.

When people ask the question as to why you practice martial arts and train day in and day out for years and years with no apparent external reason to validate the effort, they miss the main reason that anyone should practice martial arts. It is about the most positive and powerful type of transformation.

It is about being responsible and accountable for oneself on a total basis. It immediately brings empowerment and many other positive attributes in tow the longer you train. It is a path that trims away glaring ignorance. It forces you to pressure test your ideas and make sure they are going to work under pressure. The habits you pick up in the martial arts may not need to be tested in real combat ever over a lifetime in a peaceful society but this does not point to failure in the art but rather to success.

In the end it is all about a positive and powerful transformation through the study of violence and strength. It is a study of power (what you can and can’t do) and morality (what you will and won’t do). Through that study, you transform and grow. That growth allows you to enjoy life more and to contribute more. Feeling that ability to contribute more makes you want to train more so you can continue to grow and contribute. It is a powerful and positive cycle that when practiced correctly (in balance) enhances not only personal growth but all other aspects of your life (family, social, vocational, recreational, etc.).

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