Originally Posted on March 23, 2012 by Karri
There is no getting around it, our lives have gotten easy. There have been plenty of other times in history where people have had it good. The wealthy and powerful from Rome and Egypt to aristocrats in Europe and ruling classes the world over shared a secret to keep their young people from becoming useless, foppish layabouts—martial training.

Before you accuse me of looking for an easy hook, they ask yourself: Do you know any young people who are lazy, self-important, out of shape, overly dependent…need I go on? So, how can martial training help? Indulge me as I try to explain.

Self reliance:
On the training floor, you don’t get to bring your mommy. You take your lumps on your own, and the only person who can practice for you is you. The only one who can get you out of a hold is you. At times, training can be a little intimidating, a little painful and sometimes frustrating. Through practice, you learn to depend on yourself over and over again. Soon, you might just realize that you are more capable than you give yourself credit for and be ready to take on a little more in life.

Overcoming failure:
Martial arts training is difficult. It’s supposed to be. You are going to screw things up a lot. Making mistakes is how you learn to appreciate the effectiveness of good technique, and also what bad technique feels like and how to avoid it. If you’ve never been pushed before, it can be hard to swallow. Your ego may step in and tell you all sorts of negative things. The important part is learning to tell your ego where it can put its recriminations, and getting back to work. The more times you do it, the more you come to see that failure is feedback, not a statement of deficiency.

Dealing with pain:
Nobody likes a whiner, and it’s hard to respect someone who tears up every time they scrape a knee. When you push your body to its limits it hurts, and as much as we work to avoid it, occasional training accidents happen. At some point you will end up with bruises, strains, knocks to the head, etc. If nothing else, you are going to get to experience the business end of some techniques designed to make you squirm. Learning to separate pain from fear helps you realize that it’s just and electrical signal designed to protect your body. Nothing else. Once you get the message, there’s no more need for drama, so give yourself a once-over and get back to work.

Thinking under pressure:
Guess what—having someone you know can beat the ever-living crap out of you coming at you can be stressful. Make that three people, and you hay have a bit of a crisis. The first time it happens, you are going to freeze, and your training partners are going to explain (or illustrate physically) that it’s not a good idea. So, you learn that you are going to have to keep your eyes, feet and brain moving. You are going to have to make some decisions, and start doing something about your problem, or it’s only getting worse.

I can’t tell you how many student’s I’ve seen walk in the dojo almost imploding with insecurity. The same can be said for students in love with their own perceived “natural gift” for martial arts. Both of these are unhealthy states for the ego. Oddly, students will vacillate between the two, but to less extremes through their training as they evolve, eventually settling on a balanced state where they feel confident in themselves, but realize they will always have more to learn, and that there is never any guarantee that a conflict is going to go their way.

Learning both sides of respect:
Respect for life is universal. Good martial training includes a big share of understanding that every single person deserves to be treated with dignity and kindness. You learn that through understanding other people’s limits and working with a spirit of cooperation, you are going to accomplish a whole lot more than through selfishness and ignorance. You are going to recognize that you as a person are entitled to be treated with the manners you give others. At the highest level, you will learn to speak inwardly with respect and cooperate with you own nature and insights to make the most of yourself.

The last thing I want to leave you leave you with is the idea that privilege houses one last insidious demon: thoughtlessness. When we have things handed to us, we stop asking where they come from. When our problems get handed off, we stop wondering how to solve them. The more our lives are simple and easy, the less we become involved in thinking about them. Martial arts teaches you mindfulness above all else. You are constantly thinking about what is happening with your body, what is happening around you, and the consequences that your actions have on both. Mindfulness teaches us to appreciate our blessings and value the hard work that goes into finding success. It gives us the perspective to take any everything life gives us and put it to its greatest and most beneficial use. If there is one thing I strive to teach more than any other is to think and act from mindfulness and gratitude. So, thanks for reading. I hope to see you in the dojo.

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