The “Relevance” of Training in the Martial Arts
You know insight and inspiration can come when you least expect it.
I am reading a book called “Radical Integrity: the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer”. He was a pastor in Nazi Germany and a member of the resistance against Hitler. In his University Days as he was studying Theology he decided he wanted to make religion relevant to a society that had written off religion as irrelevant to the issues of “modern” times. Now, you may be thinking that this is going down the path of a theological discussion; and as much as I would love to do so…that is a matter for another post.
What struck me was that I think our society thinks that about martial arts…which is why it can be a predominantly kid oriented activity. Why aren’t more adults involved in the study of martial arts? I personally did not begin my training until I was 20 years old…very young inin my adulthood, but an adult nonetheless. As I thought about this and read the piece in Bonhoeffer’s biography I wondered if many adults feel that studying martial arts is irrelevant to their life? Why would an adult want to learn to kick and punch when they have careers, families ‘things to do and people to see.’ As adults we can become too busy to bother with ‘trivial’ pursuits such as martial arts. As I thought about this I felt a bit sad because I have been studying for a bit over 20 years and I so love the skills, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, that I have been fortunate to cultivate from being a martial artist. Adults who feel the study of martial arts to be irrelevant are missing out on what one of my teachers would call an ‘embarrassment of riches’.
Now, admittedly, we do not live in a society where we are worried on a daily basis about running into a stranger who wished to do us bodily harm. Odds are most of us are going to go through our lives not having to use the skills we learn to protect ourselves, loved ones or neighbors. With that said, how can martial arts be relevant outside the context of a kids after school activity?
So, I went online and looked up the leading cause of death in the US…Heart Disease. I am particularly concerned about this as my Dad has this and his mom died from it. Martial arts is about learning how to defend one’s self against a physical assault. Well, I went online again and check out the list of leading causes of heart disease in the US.
Lack of Exercise
Diabetes (type 2…I qualify this because type 2 diabetes is preventable)
ALL of these are things we do that assault our bodies and kill us slowly. And what’s more is that we KNOW they are not good for us. But, we do it anyway. In our 3 circle metaphor for training we talk about Moral Conduct in 2nd Circle. This is intentionally engaging in behaviors that will allow me to perpetuate my training over a long period of time. In other words, as I am learning to defend myself against a second person attacker I am also working on defending myself against the first person attacker…me! That means getting rid of things that serve to hinder progress and replacing them with things that contribute to it. The goal in training in the martial arts is NOT to become more proficient at violent solutions to violent encounters (this is a benefit of the training, not the end result) but to become more proficient at becoming the best possible person we can be. From a physical standpoint one thing that means is learning to protect ourselves from things like heart disease and all of its contributing factors.
So, yeah…I think studying martial arts is VERY relevant to today’s adult culture.
See you in class…