Often when I tell people that I practice and teach martial arts, they respond with something like: “Please, don’t beat me up.” I think they are mostly joking, though I suspect there is something more behind their response. Many people associate martial arts primarily with fighting and feats of physical strength. Breaking boards and cinder blocks, knocking the other
guy out, Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee.
All Martial arts – eastern fighting and black belt arts, combat arts, marksmanship, archery, and western fighting - train the body, and demand strength. The kind of strength that is necessary to do remarkable things with our body, and to defend our life with it if we needed to.
But that is only a part of what martial arts training and practice is about. In addition to training for strength, we learn and practice balance, flexibility, timing, speed, precision, accuracy, breathing, and focus. These, arguably more so even than strength conditioning, are the hardest and most rigorous arts to learn. We train not just to be stronger, but also to be faster, more precise, and more adaptive.
And even deeper still, we train for discipline and humility. We learn to control our bodies and not to be controlled by them. We learn how to fight, AND we learn NOT to fight unless we absolutely must. We learn that even if you grow in strength there will always be someone stronger and someone weaker. We learn to respect where we are, to strive for more, and to know our limits.