Martial Arts: A Medium for Change

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Every one of us has a personal storyMedium for change; a journey we’re each walking. As such, many martial artists have their own reasons for beginning their training. I was recently confronted with the question – “What made you want to start martial arts?” Well, I decided to begin my martial arts journey in January of 2012. Life wasn’t easy for me, as I’m sure is the truth for everyone. I had a baby at a young age, I was ridiculed by my peers, and often times felt very alone. After dropping out of college in 2010, I spent the next year and a half the victim of two domestically violent relationships. Needless to say, after pulling myself out of a terrible situation, I was feeling very vulnerable. I looked around at what my life had become and realized it was time for a change! I decided I never wanted to feel helpless again, and thought learning how to defend myself would be a good place to start. Luckily, I knew my dad studied Kung Fu, so I contacted him, and started classes at Fingerlakes Shaolin-Do.

While my reason for seeking out martial arts was to learn self-defense, Kung Fu has taught me more than I could ever have imagined. I gained a self-confidence that had previously been sapped out of me; I learned that I have the capability to defend myself; I learned I could push my limits both physically and mentally; and I learned that the power to shape my life is in my own hands. With my newly found confidence I went back to school, graduated, found a job in my field of study, and this past March my fiance and I tested to second degree black belt. In no way was any of this easy – nothing worth doing is ever easy. However, martial arts was the first step in my journey for change.

Martial arts can be a medium for change for us all.tai chi

Ask yourself – why are you studying martial arts? What do you hope to gain? What HAVE you gained? And be honest! Let that drive you to train harder. Find a meaning behind your training. Set goals, crush them, and then set some more.

So, back to the question – why DO you train? If you’re training to simply learn how to “kick ass”, or to prove you’re the toughest wolf in the pack – you may be doing it wrong. (You are doing it wrong, in my opinion.)

As I said above, everyone’s journey is their own. We all have our own reasons to train. But we have to remember, our training progresses further when it has a deeper meaning. Maybe you train for a physical goal – to be able to achieve the balance and coordination with which you’ve always struggled. Maybe you train for a mental goal – to find an inner peace and confidence that was previously clouded to you. And maybe you train for both – to be able to perform the physical and prove to yourself that you can do anything to which you dedicate yourself. There is much to learn and much to be gained through our training. We simply have to allow ourselves to be open; we need to work through the negativity, to train hard, to constantly push ourselves, to want to be better than we were yesterday.

This notion can be applied to more than martial arts. We have the ability to train, and to transfer the lessons we learn in Kung Fu to our personal lives:

The beauty of Kung Fu lies in the fact that the skills and accomplishments you achieve in the training hall can be carried over into your personal life. We train to grow. We train to overcome obstacles in our lives. Honestly, almost no one will ever need the martial skills we acquire as we train. But all of us can benefit from the training itself:

Learning how to commit yourself to a process
Learning how to become a good student; learning to listen
Opening your mind to new concepts
Discovering a core of emotional and mental strength within you
Finding how courageous you truly are
Understanding that the point is the process and not about any specific goals

(Sifu Kevin Harris, Fingerlakes Shaolin-Do)

Yes, we are learning a martial art. And yes, the techniques we learn are dangerous – we learn how to break bones, how to manipulate joints, how to defend ourselves against an attacker – but if we take the time to train and understand the reasons behind our training, we gain more than we imagined possible. We must be willing to push ourselves and not allow our limitations to rule us. We must develop a willpower that can never be defeated! Remember –  There’s always a challenge to overcome, more to learn, and there is always room to grow. Allow your martial arts training to be your medium for change!

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