Martial Arts: Benefits and Risks
There are numerous benefits to be gained by training in martial arts, some more well-known ones include increased physical fitness, self-discipline and greater self-confidence. In this article, I will give you, the novice martial artist or potential student, my take on some of the less well-known advantages of training in martial arts as well as some common pitfalls to be avoided.
Martial arts are presently practised by millions of people worldwide. Some, such a Japanese Jiu Jitsu, were conceived on the battlefield for hand-to-hand combat. Others were developed as a form of dance, spiritual practice or tribal competition.
Having trained in several martial arts for almost 30 years, I have experienced most things, from super functional arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai to watching footage of mystical “no touch knockouts”. For the purpose of this article, I will be referring to martial arts which are based in the reality of combat rather than fantasy or purely demonstration.
1. Being part of something - Human beings are social creatures, we form communities and work together in order to thrive. As Donne puts it, “No Man is an Island”. In the age of social media, where everyone is arguably more connected than ever, huge numbers of people are reported as feeling increasingly isolated. Lack of face-to-face interaction in favour of time spent online could be partly responsible for this. Joining martial arts school where you are made to feel welcome and valued is an excellent way to remedy feelings of loneliness and connect with people from all walks of life in pursuit of a common goal. Most popular martial arts have a worldwide community, so if you find yourself in a new town or city it’s a great way to make friends.
2. It could save your life- A competent martial artist should have a greater chance of defending themselves against an attacker. Hours of time spent sparring against resisting opponents in your martial arts training will help you develop formidable self-defence skills way above those of the average non-trained person. Also, the quiet self-confidence displayed by a highly trained martial artist can make you less of target to any would-be predator. There are, of course, limits to everyone’s ability to defend themselves in difficult circumstances, making it always best to avoid violent confrontations whenever possible.
I recall one occasion where a well-placed side kick helped me create some distance between me and my attacker, giving me time to run off in the opposite direction.
3. Character development- When practised the right way, martial arts training is a good vehicle for developing a strong character. It takes commitment, humility, sacrifice, patience and effort to become proficient in martial arts. During a lifetime of training, you will voluntarily subject yourself to many tough challenges and persevere to overcome them, developing a “never say die” attitude that can benefit every aspect of your life.
- Injury- In martial arts, like any full contact sport, there is a high risk of injury. Full contact fighters such as boxers or mixed martial artists regularly sustain concussions whilst grapplers often suffer joint injuries which require treatment or surgery. Professional athletes who make their living from prize fighting may decide that the rewards outweigh the risk of injury, but most recreational competitors are able to use light or semi-contact competitions to test their skills without picking up serious injuries. Do your own research on injuries.
- High costs- Training in your chosen martial art can be expensive. The various costs involved soon add up and can leave you out of pocket. Whilst it is true that high quality instruction isn’t cheap, you are best advised to shop around and make sure you are getting good value for money. Some of the best clubs I have trained at over the years have been the least expensive. Also, if your instructor is continually increasing the price of monthly fees with no valid reason or insisting that students frequently pay out for grading, competitions, licences, seminars or new GI patches, then it’s maybe time to consider looking elsewhere. Don’t let your sense of loyalty to your instructor cloud your judgement when it comes to parting with your hard-earned cash!
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© 2018 Andrew Campbell