So I have been involved in Martial Arts for over 32 years in some form or fashion and I am asked frequently why so long…. what do you get out of it…. isn’t there an ending season to it like other sports?
So let me tell you the obvious whys. Martial Arts provide skills that give you confidence, value, character development, physical and mental stamina, strength and most importantly self-defense and protection skills. Most of these are lifelong skills and can always be improved upon; all of these skills cross over into other areas of your life. You never get good enough in any of those areas, there is always room for improvement. Those are the obvious benefits, but the reality is there are so many other perks to training than just those.
The greatest benefit, from my perspective, is what I want to share. Martial Arts creates relationships and an atmosphere unlike other sports or hobbies. There are instant connections with people, some are lifelong, and some people would say martial arts creates a healing relationship. I know healing seems weird to say, especially when we are teaching how to destroy the body. As a “martial arts lifer”, I have met people that were broken from emotional challenges life put in their way. I have seen rape victims who were searching for a new normal, abuse victims who needed to find value in themselves, soldiers who struggled with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, individuals going through divorce or loss needing to find stability. The one thing all of those individuals had in common is what they found in martial arts. They found people who accepted them for who they are and who enjoyed being around them, and they felt comfortable with a person without needing to share much personally. Over time, those same people became like a family – they were able to share experiences with martial arts classmates that no one else would understand.
When I mention healing, it is true that martial arts offer an emotional/stress release. It resets you emotionally, if you will, similar to any physical or challenging activity. That is extremely important, as stress can create havoc in your body. Martial Arts can also set a ground of trust (if done right) between people. I was always told not to take the outside world issues into class and not to let those things impact your training or your teaching. I know the purpose behind saying that was really more of a customer service, professionalism philosophy, but the reality of that statement is – don’t let issues keep you from being the best that you can be and don’t let issues get in the way with connecting with what you are doing. Those issues can steal joy and can steal potential opportunities. Whether that opportunity is a first impression, a new friend or a potential growth experience. This is true whether you are a student or an instructor and it is true for all aspects of life.
I trained with my dad and my brother when growing up, and as with all families, things were not always peachy between us, we had disagreements, arguments, differences of opinions, and what have you, but no matter what was happening in our lives, when we came to class that was all that mattered. It was a common ground, a neutral and safe place that we had together. It was a reminder that we were there for each other; no matter what else was happening we had each other’s backs, period. Generally, when we were done with class, we could hug and know what ever was going on, really wasn’t that important in the big scheme of things. I look back at those years with very fond memories, no different than when I look back at martial arts camps with some of my long-term students or reflecting back on some of my students who started training very young and 20 plus years later are still around as friends or even still training.
I have lifelong friends from my martial arts training, I run into people often who share how their training helped them emotionally during times of need and with unspoken issues they were facing. The one common statement I hear when I run into past students is how much they miss everyone and how much those years meant to them.They miss the comradery of training, especially the relationships. I keep training and teaching because of the lives impacted in a positive way from what we do, because of the relationships that don’t seem to miss a beat even after years have passed and because of the future impact we will have on others who will find us down the road.
So, relationships matter, people matter and the positive impact you have on others matters! We have few real purposes in life, one of those purposes, in my opinion, is helping people along the way to be better individuals, who strive to create a better community and will eventually help others. You should be giving others opportunities and tools to grow and improve, so they can later share the same opportunities with people. That to me, is the real benefit to training and teaching martial arts. The beauty of it, is you don’t have to be an instructor or a black belt to help people.
Article written by Yvonne Falgout. Yvonne is a 5th degree black belt in American Ninjutsu and RBWI. She has trained in Shito-Ryu Karate and submission fighting. Yvonne owns and operates the Arlington American Ninjutsu with Brad Masters and Kyle Stockton and the Forney School with her husband Jay Falgout.