Many people associate martial arts with brutality or fights. Something like bouncers or biker gang members perhaps. But this is not true, because the idea of martial arts in Asia was not only to defeat others, but it also served to educate the own self. Discipline, respect, attention and concentration – that’s what they’re all about.
Why it is worth learning martial arts
Asian sports and martial arts in general should always be seen against the background that this region of the world is very strongly influenced by Buddhist culture. Virtues such as respect and discipline are highly valued in these latitudes. Buddhism as a philosophy cites meditation as an important part of the way of life. Training there is also meditation, just as in Tai Chi. The art of fighting has the same background – everywhere in the world. Krav Maga Sydney, Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil or Kung Fu in China – it´s all about mental strength, discipline and self confidence.
When you enter a dojo for karate or aikido, the first thing you do is bow. You show your respect for the place, you show respect for the master, for your fellow fighters and even for your opponents. Where else are you taught this these days? Certainly not in school and probably not in companies either. Loyalty and trust is usually a one-sided track that is only demanded of the employee. From the employer’s side, one only feels obliged to make a profit.
In this context, martial arts opens up a completely new perspective on life. When I was younger, films like “Ghost Dog” fascinated me and I also read Hagakure again and again. But it wasn’t until I had tried karate and aikido myself and attended courses in Zen meditation that I got a deeper idea of the interplay between these things. Of what was in the Hagakure. Why he Samurai Tsunemoto Yamamoto thought the way he did. Why calmness, concentration and discipline are so important in life.
Bruce Lee had once put it this way:
“Man is made to accomplish great things when he learns to defeat himself.”
Our sensei in karate quoted a similar wisdom: “Man is like a piece of wood flowing down a stream. Every time he scrapes a rock somewhere, a piece of the edge is ground off him.
For me, Asian martial arts was a kind of illustration in miniature of what life is all about: you swim through life. Then there is a painful experience. You learn something from it and swim on. Through the learning effect, you swim on with more ease. To become better on the inside – that is the basic idea of Bushido and also of Kaizen. And this is best achieved through attentive practice and learning.
The fact that you can defend yourself against an attacker purely physically is almost just a nice side effect in this day and age. Which in turn can be very important for children. They are easy victims for bullies and for bullying. It is very important for their self-esteem that they can free themselves from a situation where they are threatened with humiliation and pain.
So there are many good reasons to practice martial arts. Pick one of the many I have mentioned.