By J. B. Nash - 8 Nov. 2020
I remember sitting down on the couch and suddenly having a broom handle fall toward me. Before it could hit me in the head, I blocked it with my arm. I was amazed at my own reaction time. I hadn’t even noticed the broom. Instead, my body just responded like it had done over and over again at practice.
But even if a broom isn’t strong enough to hurt us, other potentially dangerous objects can fly our way. Thats why it’s good to practice ramping up our body’s reaction time to those objects coming at us (or the broom revolution, whichever comes first).
Other than my increase in reaction time, I’ve begun to notice other qualities that martial arts have personality taught me. These affects may be different from person to person, and from dojo to dojo, but the benefits are there for us if we are willing to take on this momentous task of improving ourselves and our everyday lives.
Here are just a few of the benefits one can learn in martial arts in our every day lives, whether you’re four years old or 100.
1. Increase In Focus and Concentration
During our training, we are instructed to always focus on our target in order to get the best punch, the best kick, the best reaction time. Our attention spans increase the more we put this into practice.
Apply this concept to a daily task at home, and suddenly you put forth your whole attention in order to get the best result. You know that if you’re constantly looking around, you may just lose sight of the punch…or lose sight of the goal.
2. Learning About Other Cultures
This will vary from dojo to dojo, and from teacher to teacher, but it goes without saying that most martial arts stem from other countries outside the U.S., like China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, India, etc…
Students are often taught some traditions coming from those cultures. For example, the martial arts I study is Hapkido, a traditional martial art from Korea. In Hapkido, we are taught to bow to our instructors and fellow students as a sign of respect; feet together, hands to the side. We can also be taught certain commands like ”An Ja” (sit down), “Kyung Nae” (bow), among many other instructions.
Along with this, we are also taught a bit of the history of each martial art that we study. Hapkido began to officially form just after World War II in 1945, when the Japanese occupation of Korea ended and the founder of Hapkido—Choi Young Sol—returned to Korea and formed a martial arts school, and where another student, Ji Han Jae, helped to incorporate more techniques into the art.
We also practice with the Katana, a Japanese sword, so we learn terminology related to it as well.
We may not see this as a necessary bit of knowledge to possess in our every day lives, but I’ve realized—personally—that the more I learn about other cultures, the more I become aware of my own. This includes how I interact with others, my own beliefs, and how I conduct myself in daily life.
It’s as if seeing yourself from another person’s perspective, increasing one’s harmony with people regardless of where they’ve come from, what religion they practice, or how they look.
3. Increase in Awareness of Surroundings
An increase in awareness means we are able to better anticipate when things will happen. And NOT just with our eyesight!
We sometimes practice a “blindfold drill.” A instructor would come up behind us, and we’ve have to be ready for anything, even falling correctly. Our other senses—especially hearing—were utilized. The more a sense is used, the stronger it becomes. And ALL of them are able to aid you if you know how to properly use them.
Indeed, there are five LEVELS of awareness:
- White = no awareness/unconscious/on your phone
- Yellow = alert, no danger/safe
- Orange = alert, potential danger/unsafe
- Red = alert, danger is happening to someone/something else
- Black = alert, danger is happening to you
It’s vital to remember these levels of awareness in order to better prepare ourselves, whether it’s a falling broom or a suspicious stranger following us down the street.
4. Increase in Self-control
I’ve always had trouble with food. It was a rather ”love-hate“ relationship for many years, if not for my entire life. Junk food was my go to, just to escape from the feelings of intense anxiety.
Several years ago, when I was just a white belt, we had to run a mile around the building. (some of us without shoes running on concrete). I was out of breath before the half-mile mark! To keep up with the class I HAD to make a change, not only in my physical fitness regiment (which was non-existent at the time), but also in my daily eating habits.
It took trial and error for me to improve in my physical performance. Not only that, but I had to develop a mindful and respectful relationship with food. Unlike other addictive substances that can drastically harm our bodies, food is something we need to survive. It presents a unique challenge that requires practice, discipline, and self-control.
5. Having a Deeper Respect for Others
As I mentioned before, we bow to our teachers and fellow students to show respect towards each other. We also all bow toward the flags; the American flag, the Korean flag, and the Filipino flag. We each give respect toward our own country, as well as respecting the countries to which the martial arts have originated. In this case, Hapkido and Tae Kwon Do are both from Korea, and Kali is from the Phillipines. This will, of course, vary depending on the dojo and the instructors.
All students—no matter the age—are taught to work with each other and present teamwork when going through various drills. We must have patience for newer students, and take advice from the more experienced ranks. The strangeness that is 2020 only presents an opportunity for us—especially the younger students—to respect each other’s personal space.
6. Increase in Confidence
This is probably the biggest one for me. It was a dream for me to join martial arts, but I was too timid to even step inside a dojo! A friend of mine had to encourage me to come before I even began training at the age of 20. My level of confidence was low to basically non-existent.
It took many months, if not years, for me to develop my confidence. And even still I’m continuing to learn more and more as I’ve become an assistance instructor. I am tremendously grateful for this opportunity, but it wasn’t easy, as my anxiety often overwhelmed my sense of control.
I only began to conquer my deepest fears the moment I stepped outside my comfort zone and exposed myself to my own challenges. I became stronger for it, and I don’t regret a single moment.
Facing Challenges in Everyday Life
Everyone, martial artist or not, faces a unique set of challenges in life. When one challenge is conquered, another appears in your path. But never think of them as road blocks, but as stepping stones that pave the direction you wish to go in life.
For me, martial arts isn’t just a sport or self-defense practice, it’s a way of life.
If you’re already a martial artist, do you agree with this list? Do you have other abilities you’ve gained from your own practice?
If you’re not a martial artist, does this list inspire you to join a dojo in the future? Regardless if you want to join or not, remember that life itself is your teacher.