BY KATIE MARSHALL
My martial arts renaissance happened a little over 2 years ago. I was looking for something to wake me up from my autopilot existence of snoozing my alarm, half-assing it at work, and maybe hitting the treadmill for half an hour afterward. I was searching for a way to not just do more, but to be more. I found it in the Nan Sho Budo system at the Southern Pine Institute of Martial Arts in Greensboro, North Carolina. I study several styles, including Progressive Arnis,Tai Ji, and others that I learn while attending seminars and gatherings across the country.
Martial Arts is powerful. Train enough and you will see everything in your world differently than you did before. It bleeds into everything that you do like water color paint on paper. Nothing will be the same, especially not you. From meditation to facing your fears to practicing the same move literally thousands of times, the Martial Arts encourage us to embrace our inner power and become exactly who we were meant to be, but not without knocking us down a few million times in the process.
While I am in no way expert, nor do I ever expect I will be, not even when I’m 80-years-old and doing Tai Ji in the park or levitating up stairs, I do know that Martial Arts is so much more than kicks and punches. Here is what the Martial Arts have taught me about life so far.
1. There is so much more to learn.
My teacher says this every so often: “There is something that I do not know; the knowing of which can change everything.” This is why we stick with the Martial Arts, or anything that is important to us, even when it’s hard, even when there are morning classes, even when we’re tired. There is more out there to learn than what we currently know. Let this inspire you. Let it motivate you. To be a lifelong student is to commit to this idea and remember it in moments of discouragement.
2. The key to problem solving is adaptability.
At its core, Martial Arts is a set of problem solving techniques. Someone wants to punch you in the face – that is a problem you have to solve. You want to achieve a goal, but you are impatient – that is another kind of problem you have to solve.
3. Resilience is an art form.
The thing about training is that to really learn anything, you have to be willing to get your ass kicked and go back for more, again, again, and again. Get hit; keep going. Get knocked down; get back up. To really get something out of life, you have to be willing to venture out of your comfort zone, get uncomfortable, and keep going. It is not easy, but it is worth it.
4. Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
It is fantastically difficult to do things slowly, especially in our world of immediacy. Think about how easy it is to jump to anger at a stranger who cuts you off on the highway. Now, think about how long it takes to calm back down. The Martial Arts teaches that doesn’t matter if you can do something fast, at least at first. What is important is whether you can do it slowly and correctly. Eventually, the slow motions will become faster and more effective, because they were done correctly.
5. The importance of humility.
Humility is of the utmost importance to the warrior spirit. My teacher often provides several options to the same attack. In one of my first classes, I watched him demonstrate responding to a knife attack with a strike to the neck and head, followed by more responses to the arms, back, and legs. I didn’t understand; why would you need to attack further if you already choked the attacker or struck an important artery? He posed this to me: “What if you missed? What if it didn’t work?” In the dojo we train for a perfect 10 so that we could execute a 4 or 5 under duress on the street. In life, it is important to remember that you could be wrong, and the best plans are the ones with multiple back-up options, just in case.
6. Everyone can teach you something.
There is always someone who will know less than you and always someone who knows more than you. We can learn from both of them. Remember to be kind to both because you have been both more informed and less informed in many instances throughout your life.
7. The real fight is with yourself.
Budo or “Martial Way,” is a Japanese term for modern Japanese martial arts. Translated, it can also mean “Way of War”. There is an external side to the Martial Arts, where the “Way of War” explains dealing with an attacker or multiple attackers. However, the internal arts are just as important, including healing, meditation, and facing your own demons. The majority of the times I have quit mid-class or given up on a technique were not because my training partner required me to fight them. I quit because I was fighting myself. Doubt, lack of confidence, and the inability to let go of previous failures are just a few of the ways I hinder my own success. The real fight then is not others or the environment, but with myself. When I get to a place where I can encourage and support myself, I can win.
8. Hard work is hard.
…and it’s supposed to be. It helps to acknowledge when something is difficult, but it is important to keep going. The challenge cannot be enough of a reason to quit. Acknowledge the difficulty and do it anyway.
9. Take pain as a compliment.
You help your training partner when you push them out of their comfort zones (sometimes literally). If you train for an attacker that will go easy on you, you will be unprepared when the real thing is in your face. When your partner or teacher or life does something that stings or hurts, take it as a compliment: they see you as strong enough to handle it.[Important note: this does not include physical or emotional abuse. When that starts to happen, shut it down, because…]
10. You are worth protecting and fighting for.
Martial Arts taught me that I can say “No.” without explaining myself further. I give myself the permission to defend my body, my space, and my life. It is important enough to do so and I am the person to do it. No one can convince me otherwise or make me feel less valuable than I know I am. You are important. You are valuable. You are worth all the love in the world. Remember that.
Read the other 10 here.
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This is one of my favorite things I read last year.