It’s a simple question, isn’t it? Of course the answer depends on how you define Martial Artist.
Is someone who buys a Martial Arts uniform, signs up at a gym to learn Martial Arts techniques a Martial Artist? I believe that these are the first steps in order to become one but these steps alone will never make you one.
In my experience with students I learned that you may train a long time really hard, you may learn many techniques getting in great shape and you may compete even at the highest level but that only makes you a fighter not a Martial Artist.
If you are just training your body and the physical aspect of Martial Arts without training your mind, you are missing the real purpose of training Martial Arts.
Here are just some of the mental traits you should be training as much as you are training your body:
1. Dedication-This does not mean that you train every day, but it means that you commit yourself longterm to learn all mental and physical aspects of Martial Arts on a regular basis. It also means that you put yourself first with the knowledge that the more you work on yourself the more you have to share with others
2. Humility- It is very humbling to learn Martial Arts and you will learn instantly to check your ego. But the real challenge in humility starts as you become good at the physical aspect of it. Will you allow your ego to make you arrogant and get an attitude or are you able to stay humble? We say: ”Leave the ego off the mat” when we really should say: “Never allow your ego to control your mind!”
3. Courage-Sure it takes courage to confront someone but this courage pales in comparison to the courage it takes to confront yourself and your own behavior. As a Martial Artist you are fighting your fears, your false beliefs and your low self-esteem as much as you are fighting your opponents and you should never don’t stop working on becoming a better person.
4. Openness-You have to be open for every Martial Arts class. Sometimes it is the techniques that will teach you something new, sometimes it is your partner and sometimes it is yourself who teaches you a lesson. Everyone can be your teacher if you are ready to learn. Openness helps you to grow your mind as much as it helps you to grow your skills.
5. Empathy-At times we find ourselves in inferior positions when we fight and at other times you end up getting hurt. It takes empathy for others to forgive them for they shortcomings and it takes the same empathy to forgive yourself for your mistakes every day. Practice empathy every day to not dwell on failure on your part or on the failure on the part of others
6. Persistence-As we learn Martial Arts we hit highs and lows periodically. It takes persistency to continue in spite of failure and to keep learning in spite of success. This persistency will give us the confidence that we can achieve anything we want in life. In Martial Arts it is a big equalizer since persistency beats talent every time.
7. Respect-Martial Arts teaches you to respect everyone, no matter what size, age and background. You simply can never tell what people are capable off just by looking at them and this respect also includes self-respect. It keeps you acting with honesty and integrity even when nobody is watching.
There are probably a lot more mental attributes that make you an actual Martial Artist but maybe the insight today is that these are the same traits that make us good human beings too.
So, maybe in the end the question that really matters is not “Are you a Martial Artist?” but rather “What kind of human being are you?” and “Can Martial Arts help you to become a better one?” Finding the answer to these questions is a pretty good reason for me to keep training and I hope it is for you too.
Niji No Hashi Dojo Martial Arts Cary, Morrisville, Raleigh, NC