Body and (equally important) mind: martial arts

There’s a lot to getting started in a new martial art. Of course a great many of the skills are transferable. I’ve been doing martial arts more or less my whole life. I did have a couple of breaks at various points in my life, including some periods that lasted for a couple of years, but it’s always been a big passion and hobby of mine. Even in those phases of my life when I was more of a martial arts partitioner in spirit than in body, it still remained in my thoughts and I always enjoyed watching others do martial arts and reading books about it.

One of the advantages of taking a breaking from martial arts, is that when I got back into it I would often try a new form. When I broke my leg as a teenager in an unrelated accident, I decided not to go back to karate when the leg healed, but in the meantime I had been reading a bit about taekwondo. A few years later the change of circumstance and lifestyle that happened when I moved out of my parents’ place and went to university meant that after a term or two I accidentally gave up taekwondo. It wasn’t until I finished university and got a job that I then took up a new martial art—this time it was something completely different: jiu jitsu.

Don’t think that it was complete mastery that led me to take up something new—far from it, I was never the best at the various forms of martial arts I practised but rather just an enthusiastic fan. Even though it was always inadvertent, these little breaks were crucial to my martial arts development. In the intervening periods of, let’s call it physical laziness, I was able to spend more time reading—sometimes reading about topics completely unrelated to martial arts, but other times learning about a new martial art and its development or history. For me this was the perfect complement. While it’s true that the one factor that all martial arts have in common is that the practitioner has to train his or her body, the mind is also a crucial part of that.

Sometimes we get too focused on the physical when there’s so much to be gained from the mental and even emotional. Many of the more ancient martial arts, for example, have a spiritual component as well as a philosophical one. In my moments of inactivity vis-a-vis martial arts it always gave me time to develop the mind and that was how I got interested in new forms of martial arts.

If you’re considering taking up something new, I would urge you to consider not just the physical side of it. Chances are that if you’re already an athlete of some accomplishment then whatever skills you already have will be transferable in one way or another. However, it might be a mental challenge that you’re after, in which be sure to read up on the history and philosophy before you head down to the gym.