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Martial Arts: a lifestyle, not just an activity.

The term ‘Martial Art’ is a synthesis of discipline and art. It normally resides in a building and exists for a couple of hours once or twice a week. It’s primarily consumed as an activity. Like most activities, martial art engaged with as an activity like this does not show long-term effects. Imagine there are two 70-year-olds walking down the street. One of them practiced a Martial Art for 10 years when they were younger, and one of them did not. Would you know the difference? What differences do you think you could look for to figure it out? Most likely, it would be no more noticeable than if one of them had practiced woodworking for 10 years. Activities and hobbies don’t change the way you live your life.

How much more can practicing a Martial Art be if we make it more than an activity? What difference should you see in the 70-year-old that did practice? If they made it a part of their lifestyle rather than just an activity, it will show up in every aspect of their lives. Inside the Ebanmu (or Dojo), a student will learn not to flinch when a blow is coming toward them. In their lives, they should learn not to freeze when something unexpected or hurtful comes. Inside, a student will learn to bet their lives on their own blow rather than amplify their fear of their opponent. In their lives, the student should do what they believe is right with the same confidence and earnest. Inside, a student will gain fine control over their movements. Outside, if they took the lesson to heart, every step they take should be perfect.

If the 70-year-old who practiced took the lessons to heart, you’ll probably see them being certain of their footsteps. They will not be looking down at their feet, but rather they’ll be taking in the world around them confidently. They will not be so preoccupied that they are unable to enjoy the walk; they learned to keep their attention free enough to maintain situational awareness. They will not walk with a mindset of frailty or old age, as they know that they have the conviction to handle anything in front of them with their mind, body, and spirit aligned. They are an artist, and life is their canvas.

How does a student make sure they engage in Martial Arts as a lifestyle rather than just an activity? It starts by accepting the challenges life gives. Inside the Ebanmu, training is a dictatorship. Whatever the Instructor on the floor says goes. In life, that is the same relationship we must have with ourselves. We must be in absolute submission to our own will. Getting up on time in the morning is one of the most common challenges life poses. Technology has provided us plenty of crutches to help us compensate for lack of mastery of our own will (i.e., the snooze button). This makes the way of life of a Martial Artist even more vital to practice. How likely are you to get up on time with just one alarm and no snoozing? Or, without any alarm at all? How ready are you to deny yourself?

The lifestyle of a Martial Artist is a life of constant self-denial. Self-care without self-awareness is just self-indulgence. You must love yourself enough to hate yourself. You must care enough about your ability to overcome not to indulge your feelings. Snoozing to indulge sleepiness is very common, but it builds a habit of giving in to your feelings and emotions. This only makes it harder to do the things you need to do when they are difficult. Loving yourself enough to hate yourself means choosing not to do what relieves your adversity and instead embracing the challenge and letting it teach you. A person who does Martial Arts will be ready to kick and punch, but a Martial Artist is always ready to rise above.

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