Martial arts is about hitting people right? Wrong. The essence of martial arts isn’t learning to hit people, it’s learning to take a hit…figuratively speaking.
The bottom line is that we don’t learn when we’re on top. When you have nothing to look towards, there’s nowhere to grow to, nothing to aim for. You don’t have a challenge to push you forward. In order to rise, you must have something to rise to. When training in martial arts, falling down isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually how we’re able to grow.
Sparring partners challenge us, and in order to be challenging they have to offer enough of a threat to our position to potentially overpower us. It offers us nothing in terms of growth when we face an opponent who we will certainly defeat. We cannot know our limits, where to push and what changes to make without testing them. This is something that we experience again and again, that it is by truly testing our ability in the training hall and seeing the point at which we fail that we can discover new techniques to get better at.
There is ALWAYS someone out there who is stronger or faster, who has spent more time practicing. In order to get to the next level we need to find those who are further down the path to challenge our own position. It’s not that we as martial artists want to fail, it’s that we realize that growth isn’t possible without it.
While we do indeed seek out opponents who will have the potential to knock us down, what really makes a martial artist is the wherewithal to get back up when we’ve fallen. Working out isn’t the hard part. Learning martial arts isn’t the hard part. Throwing a punch isn’t the hard part. The hard part in martial arts is recovering after taking a hit. It hurts to fall down! Not nearly as much physically as psychologically.
When you spend your days training in this kind of discipline, it’s easy for the ego to get out of control. People are naturally protective of that ego, and it’s much easier to run away and lick our wounds than it is to stand up and face our own failure.
The physical bruises that we get during a fight are connected to the emotional bruises that we get, even the big tough black belts. However in martial arts we form coping mechanisms that allow us to effectively get over struggles that we face. We’re seeking out chances to get back up so that when we do find ourselves needing to get back up, be it during a physical fight or during one of life’s trials, it’s a skill that we’ve honed. Learning how to get back up is something that we can learn to do through martial arts in the same way that we learn to punch or kick, by practicing it with intentionality.
This process of pushing ourselves to grow by seeking challenges and then rising to meet them, even after they’ve knocked us down, is really what marks martial arts as different from other pursuits, and what makes it such a valuable teacher.
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