Why should you practice traditional martial arts?
We’re in 2020… Such a weird year by the way. But that’s not the topic of this article… Well, it could be to some extent.
Actually, during the lockdown, lots of people started to question their way of living and how the society was driven; the over consumptions of goods, the effect that human activity have on the health of the planet, and those people were keen on going back to a more simple yet natural way of living that would be closer to Earth and which would make more sense to live.
By Parnassus - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28500461
Isn’t traditional martial arts in synergy with that current of thoughts?
When we’re talking or express interest in traditional martial arts we are not just only talking about kicks and punches. It is way beyond that. A whole philosophy is attached to it, a culture; A way of living in an understanding manner to the element that surrounds us, that we’re living with and that are part of ourselves as well.
The study of elements is at heart in traditional martial arts practice. Fire, water, earth, metal, wood. Those elements constitute the practice of both Yin and Yang work. Internal and external energies that lie in us.
I teach both traditional martial arts and combat sports and I love both of them. But even my kickboxing practice is wildly influenced by my martial arts practice. A punch, as simple as it is, is not just a punch in traditional practice. It’s a movement that should be practiced to perfection in order to make the most out of it at the point of impact; The chain of movement involved, the willing to design the same route for your punch over and over in a way a painter will do with his brush to draw the perfect shape, or at least the one he wants to express.
The practice of traditional martial arts is a journey to the perfect movement. Even though perfection doesn’t exist, the willing to tend to it is what drives a martial artist to keep on his journey. This is the word actually : the journey.
Practicing traditional martial arts will improve your vision of well done work through the exactness of techniques. Through empowering the body, the martial artist will grow tools to reach this chimeric perfection. So we do knuckles push ups to strengthen our fists, abdominals exercices to condition the body to take hits and getting sharper in our movements. We practice over and over sets of techniques so we don’t have to think about it when needed. We meditate to calm the mind.
The world of traditional martial arts is infinite as there are always way to improve our body and our minds. And I’m not talking just about the impressive skills we want to perform when we first got attracted to that fabulous path. At some point we focus more on energy work, Yin practices that will allow our body and mind to unite and then improve our overall practice.
I’m aware of the limitations that one would present to me. The unrealistic forms or defences that you would find in some traditional styles when you opposed them to modern practices such as MMA or modern self defence systems. But the interest doesn’t solely lie in the veracity of the practice. The interest is seated in the practice itself. The repetition, the body knowledge, the discipline, the constant questioning and the thrive for improvement. I should add as well the encounter with a culture that will open your mind to a different way of thinking.
Master Tran Xuan Man and M.° Marco Taglietti (V.S. Bảo Hồng Liên) in Hoi An, Vietnam
It is a very interesting subject to me! And I could keep on finding interests in the traditional martial arts practice. But this is a blog article and not a book! So I’ll put an end to it. But to sum it up, one could say, that the practice of a martial art is beneficial at different levels:
Physically : It has a very high drive. A practice will certainly put your heart rate up and you’ll definitely break a good sweat during it; It will allow you to be conscious of your own body. Not just at a fitness level, knowing which muscles are engaged when you’re doing a press up or performing a front kick. You will gradually be aware of the pressure points, the soft spots of the body that one would want to hit to express the maximum damage to an opponent.
Conditioning the body is a major part of the practice as well. By blocking again and again. Striking some body parts with bare hands. Performing bodyweight exercises on the knuckles or outside in harsh conditions make your body stronger.
Breathing techniques and energy work which are a major part of traditional martial arts will physically improve your condition. But that’s another topic!
Mentally : First, the discipline. The discipline in the class by the respect you show to your master or to your more advanced peers. It doesn’t mean you should completely submit! That’s not the point! But it is important to show respect to the people who are teaching you and who are revealing you some of their secrets for you to improve.
Showing up regularly and coming to the class even when you’re not feeling it. Keep on working during years to achieve one’s goal. Should it be the black belt or something else. This is discipline.
Practicing over and over your techniques to sharpen them. This is discipline
Culturally : When signing up to a traditional martial arts class, you’re not only signing up for a classic fitness hour that will allow you to do your daily physical activity! You’re entering a whole new world. Discovering a country or a people culture. Counting in a foreign language, picking up interest in the history, in the gastronomy of that people. You will find yourself curious about the dishes that you can enjoy, you will want to set a foot in that country and discover how they practice your martial art there. You will want to meet and chat with the people there. How open-minded you will be then…
So, if you’re seeking more than just a good fitness session. If you’re seeking more than throwing kicks and punches. If you’re seeking more than just to learn how to defend yourself and your loved ones; If you have interest in all the above but also to dive in a new culture, to put discipline in your life, to discover how you can work your energy. If you’re an aesthete and you’re seeking for the beauty of movements…
Then, you should be considering the practice of traditional martial arts!