When someone mentions martial arts, most people think of flashy kung fu kicks or ninjas in black. But in reality, the martial arts are so much more than just hitting people. In fact, martial arts is a mental discipline as much as it is a physical one, and this is true regardless of which art is studied or where in the world it comes from.
Martial arts is simply the study of fighting, so it makes perfect sense that it could teach us all something about dealing with day-to-day struggles. After almost 5 years of studying martial arts, there are a few important lessons I have learned about life.
5 Important Things Martial Arts Taught Me About Life
1. Mastery is just the beginning
One of the most important lessons I have learned is to forget about the whole concept of mastery. Why? Simply put, there is no such thing as mastery.
When you begin in martial arts, you learn a lot of basic things like how to properly form a fist, how to do basic rolls and falls, and other simple techniques. As you progress through more advanced levels, you learn more complicated moves and strikes. At that point, something fascinating happens: You start over.
In martial arts and in life, “mastery” is only the beginning. What most people think is mastery is only the point at which you should start back at the beginning and learn the basics again on a more subtle level of detail. This is true elsewhere in life.
Whether it is a relationship, a skill, or even getting to know yourself, mastery is only an opportunity to start back at the beginning with new perspective.
2. Everyone has something to teach you
In everyday life, we have a tendency to use mental shortcuts to quickly judge people. We make assumptions about people’s intelligence based on things like their level of education, their job, or even things like their political party. This is unfortunate, because everyone has something to teach you.
This fact became obvious to me while studying martial arts. Even after being involved for three or four years, someone new would show up and teach me something on their first day.
Every person has a different body, with various height, weight, strength, flexibility, and so on. All of these factors can influence how you go about fighting them, and you can learn something new every time.
In life, every person has their own set of exeriences, perspectives, and failures that can teach us something new. It just takes an open mind.
3. If you’re never wrong, you’ll never be right
One of the things I love about fighting is that you can’t fake being right. You can talk the talk and make bold claims, but if you don’t actually know what you are doing, you will get hit. Period.
Far too many people act this way in real life, faking everything and never admitting when they are wrong. This only holds them back from a better life.
If you are having problems with a relationship, or you have financial problems, those problems will continue until you step back and consider the fact that you might be doing something wrong. Only after you admit this to yourself can you begin to fix the problem.
4. You rarely make progress in your comfort zone
One of the most important aspects of martial arts is learning how to roll and fall without getting hurt. While you usually begin by learning simple rolls, you gradually progress to more advanced rolls and falls from high places, on uneven terrain, or while holding a weapon.
The people who move up in martial arts and in life are those who are willing to face their fears and try difficult things. If you are afraid of leaving your comfort zone, good things will rarely happen in your life.
Whether it is asking an attractive person to go out with you, starting a new business, or travelling to a foreign country, you won’t reach your goals if you are living in fear of failure.
5. Falling down is no excuse to quit fighting
My first martial arts instructor was very good, and he taught a bit differently than many other instructors. In some schools, you focus on learning one particular technique and repeat it over and over.
However, my instructor wanted us to learn real world self-defense, so if we got the technique wrong, our partner was encouraged to throw a punch or counter attack. We didn’t stop until the fight was over and someone was pinned.
This carries a very important life lesson, which might be the most important one on this list. The lesson is to never stop fighting.
When you fall down, the real fight is just beginning, and that is the point at which you fight harder than ever. In a real life attack, the bad guy won’t put the knife away just because you fell down. If your life is at stake, you don’t just give up, you fight back.
Likewise, in life, you should never quit fighting. Just because you lost your job, failed at somthing, or faced some other struggle, that is no excuse to give up on your dreams. Rather, it is a time to pull yourself together and get back on your feet as soon as possible.
Eliminate the entire thought of giving up. When giving up isn’t an option, you realize just how hard you can hit.
Photo credit: Adrien Mogenet