As a practitioner of Taekwondo the most common reasons I hear, when I ask adults what their motivation for signing up for a martial arts class was, are “self-defense” and “to get in better shape.”
These are great answers. According to the Singapore Sports Council, martial arts is one of the top cardiovascular sports.
I’ve played soccer, baseball, and various other sports. I run, cycle, weight lift etc. and in my opinion a 45 minute high intensity martial arts class is more physically and mentally demanding than any sport that I’ve ever done. (again, just my opinion.)
You will lose weight, gain flexibility and strength, and build stamina if you go to a martial arts class 2 or 3 times a week. There’s no doubt about that.
As for self-defense… Taekwondo doesn’t necessarily revolve exclusively around self-defense, but from the skill you acquire you will increase your ability to defend yourself. Other martial arts, like Aikido, Wing Chun, or Krav Maga are more centered around self-defense and are excellent martial arts to consider as well. (I’m not one of those martial artists who thinks their martial art is the best 😉 )
Martial arts, however, isn’t just about kicking and punching, being able to defend yourself or getting in shape; there’s a deep philosophy to it as well that you can apply to your life.
A key benefit to martial arts is the philosophy of self control. A Sah Bam Nim or Sensei does not pass on the priceless knowledge of physical technique without simultaneously teaching the mental aspects of martial arts with it.
Masters or Grand Masters instill and infuse the idea that with great skill comes great responsibility. This is why American schools favor martial arts programs for children, because there is an emphasis on discipline, self-esteem and control.
This ideology isn’t only useful for children, it’s quite useful for adults too. Peaceable conflict resolution is an aspiration for a civilized society, and a code of ethics that is taught by martial arts institutions.
It’s not uncommon to see someone at a bar pick a fight or challenge someone because they’re intoxicated and chest-flexing and want to prove they’re macho.
Those without discipline and confidence will likely accept the challenge and wind up getting into a brawl for no apparent reason.
The martial artist, the true martial artist, isn’t easily baited into nonsensical altercation. They exhibit power of the mind and self-control and will use his or her words to calm the situation. They possess, however, the skill to be able to defend themselves if necessary.
If Marty Mcfly from the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy studied martial arts, he wouldn’t have let Biff ensnare him so easily by calling him a “yellow-bellied coward.”
A martial artist is confident with the reality that they don’t need to fight to prove they are not a coward.
“It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.”
A highly trained martial artist wields the ability, the technique and the power to cause grievous bodily harm or to fatally injure an individual without a weapon, but they possess the mental clarity, discipline and self-control not to inflict damage unless it is absolutely necessary.
This confidence has real world application, not only in the local saloon, but in business, the professional world, school, relationships, or any position that requires some form of negotiation or a general exhibition of capability.
Martial arts is about balancing the body and the mind and achieving harmony not only through rigorous physical training, but through deep, introspective meditation as well. Through which you will learn how to set goals and actually reach them.
I encourage adults to study martial arts and the principles of non-aggression, self-control, respect, perseverance, integrity and mental strength that are encompassed within the art and way of life itself.
Simply put, martial arts will aid you in becoming a better, more well-rounded person. Do it!
Oh, and don’t think you’re too old for martial arts. The master of my taekwondo dojang just told us about an 84 year old woman getting her black belt. 😉