I've been training in martial arts since the 1980s and consistently since the '90s. I am a 2nd-degree black belt in Kenpo Karate.
Respect and Awareness
I recall the first time I set foot in a school of martial arts back in the early 1980s. I grew up in a rough neighborhood and was having serious issues with the local bullies. After one particularly traumatic incident, my mother enrolled me in Karate classes at the local community center. What I remember of those first days of martial arts training was entering an environment with an air of respect that was incredibly conducive to learning, camaraderie, and physical fitness.
Over the years, there was a fine-tuning of my understanding of what a person gets from his or her martial arts training. So, let's explore what the common benefits are of training in martial arts.
As stated earlier, upon entering the martial arts school, typically, a person finds an environment of respect and goodwill. Students and instructors have a deep regard for each other and understand that they are learning together, in an environment that is safe and among people considerate of the well-being of everyone involved. The teacher, typically highly skilled in his or her art, takes care that the student is cared for, given the attention needed to learn and continue learning at the school; conversely, the students have great regard for the teacher, listening and watching and keeping their attention on the intricacies of the lesson. In this way, a person understands how to be in relationships with regard for all those involved, and how to give good attention to learning and the people and environment involved in his or her education. In addition, the student becomes acutely aware of his or her own reactions to the training. Awareness is typically heightened. This, of course, is a skill that can venture past the walls of the training hall.
Martial arts training always involves some kind of conditioning for the body; The body is toughened, the muscles strengthened and made flexible; the practitioner must endure and push past his or her limits. In the end, this results in a body at ease. Better circulation can give you a feeling of physical well-being and a sense of being able to overcome tough conditions.
Self-defense might be regarded as the most obvious benefit of martial arts training. Self-defense is a technical skill, like carpentry or auto mechanics; it is a skill that could be handy to have, one that might be necessary. To some degree, self-defense is a natural and instinctual response of all living things; animals will defend their young with their natural tools (claws and teeth). Similarly, a human being will naturally respond to danger with any kind of self-preservation skills he or she possesses. In martial arts training, a person fine-tunes those skills. It begins with basics, everything in martial arts is rooted in basics; it is the foundation of a martial artist's education. A person learns what are their natural weapons, what are the targets on a person that can be struck to stop an aggressor, how to move your body to defend yourself and from what positions, in what ways the opponent's body can be manipulated in order to defend yourself from him or her, and in what ways you can keep yourself out of harms way using body parts and body movement. More about how this training takes place will be discussed in the sections on problem solving and spontaneity.
As previously mentioned, the environment of the training hall is one of respect which is conducive to learning. Partners at the school come into close contact with each other, must be conscious of others' safety, and learn together in a friendly and even lighthearted manner. The learning is fun, and, to put it in simple terms, students and instructors all become friends.
During martial arts training, the student learns how to move his or her body correctly and in relation to different positions. Self-defense, in actuality, is spontaneous. But the student learns the various positions and predicaments that could occur and how to move effectively in those positions; the student becomes aware of his or her own position and the position of the opponent and how it relates and what can be done in those positions for self-defense purposes. This involves working on one's own mind, seeing what is possible or not possible, using common sense and logic, and connecting things soundly. In other words, a person learns to look directly at situations to understand what can be done effectively.
After building the foundation of basics, and learning some problem-solving skills, a student can begin to apply these skills spontaneously. After all, that is the only way it would ever be effective to be able to put it into action realistically. Spontaneity can be trained in different ways. The obvious way it is trained is by sparring, which is, generally, a relatively well-controlled fight between two (sometimes more) students; both students engaged in sparring must spontaneously respond to each other's actions using the skills they have learned. There are also various drills to develop spontaneity. Some involve practicing specific techniques but changing the scenarios enough to make the student have to change from his or her practiced response. Another drill that is practiced is to put the student on a spot and other students take turns attacking him or her one at a time, while the student on the spot doesn't know when the attack is coming, or from what direction. In some drills, the student doesn't even know what kind of attack is coming. This forces the student to come up with actions on the spot, coming closer (but, of course, not quite) to a real self-defense situation.
More Than Sport
In conclusion, from martial arts training comes a love of learning and an understanding of the deeper meaning of learning. A person is able to tackle problems in very direct and logical ways while also understanding the spontaneous nature of all things in life. Simply put, life is continuous learning, and though many things can take you by surprise, life can be lived fully, completely, totally, and spontaneously.
Dan Inosanto on versatility, learning, individuality, adaptability, and health in martial arts
rohit on July 01, 2015:
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on November 04, 2012:
Thank you, forlanda. I'm very glad you stopped by and gave your attention to this work and took the time to read and comment.
J Forlanda from US of A on November 04, 2012:
Your writing says a lot about you. You are a true martial artist. Thanks for spreading the word about martial arts.
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on November 03, 2012:
Thank you, Teresa, for your attention to this work and for your thoughtful feedback. Yes, it seems martial arts works differently for different individuals, but I think what a person learns through martial arts operates in one aspect of their lives or another. It's not a miracle worker, but it does have some value and benefits. Thanks again, I appreciate your coming by and giving your attention and feedback to this work.
Teresa Schultz from East London, in South Africa on November 02, 2012:
It's good to get confirmation of what karate is doing for my two sons, and I agree with the benefits of martial arts as detailed in your article. Excellent writing, well done. My sons, aged 13 and 14, obtained their junior black belts in Shotokan karate earlier this year. They can only attempt to go for their adult black belts once they have turned 16. I do like the respect my children display during their karate lessons, but just wish more of that would carry over to when they're at home! They are teenagers, though, so I do sometimes let lack of respect slip a little. Hm! They do well at school and apply themselves to learning hard, and to problem solving, but I can't quite say if that's from having done music when they were younger, or from the karate they started when they were 7 and 8. Maybe a bit of both - with a bit of strict mom thrown in too!
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on July 06, 2012:
Thank you for reading my Hub, Christy! Yes, martial arts has many benefits and you learn to look at problems and find possible solutions, exploring options! I'm glad you found the Hub informative!
Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on July 06, 2012:
I had not thought of martial arts as making us better at problem solving - thanks for teaching me more on the subject.
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on July 03, 2012:
tirelesstraveler, thanks for reading my Hub! That sounds like a very interesting book! Yes, spontaneity is important in martial arts training, and life generally, as is mutual respect, as you pointed out!
Judy Specht from California on July 03, 2012:
Reading a book called The Power Of A Habit, by Dughill. What you describe in making martial arts spontaneous is exactly what he writes on. Mutual respect is key to much in life and seldom given. Nice hub
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on July 03, 2012:
Thanks for stopping by and reading my Hub, gmmurgirl! Martial Arts is very good for you, physically, mentally and socially; you should give it a try!
Shan Moore from Philippines on July 03, 2012:
This is very interesting! I hope I could learn and be a martial art newbie! Thanks for all the great info.