For the past decade and a half, the question I most commonly receive is “Why do you train?” My answer has changed over the years as I’ve evolved in the art. At first I would say “It’s a great workout,” “I get to train with a great group of people,” or “I’ve always wanted a black belt.”
I still like the workout and greatly enjoy the people with whom I train on a daily basis. Although I accomplished my black belt, I still have higher training aspirations. If you ask me why I train today, however, my answer would be different.
“It gives me a complete escape from my life.”
I haven’t met anyone in my life who doesn’t have an escape. Everyone has one. Maybe it’s a good book, maybe it’s a stiff drink, playing a musical instrument, or a hobby of some sort. What I found is some of the other “escapes” I tried in the past were only partial at best. For years, I was a runner and I was a golfer before that. Both of them gave me something to do outside the normal routine of my life. There was a great sense of accomplishment in beating my best 10k time or shooting a lower round of golf. In the end though, neither gave me the complete escape that martial arts gives me.
When I say “complete escape” I mean this: If you go to the gym and jump on a treadmill, you remove your body from its ordinary routine. Your mind, however, can still focus on the issues that could be plaguing you that day. Same can be said about going to the bar and saddling up for a couple of tall ones. When I train and someone is throwing a right cross at my head, I don’t think about these normal life “things.” My mind is totally in the present moment…..it’s a total escape!
Why does this matter? It may not to all people…the treadmill or drinks might be what the doctor orders for someone on any particular day. I have found that they are not for me. For me, I have needed and still need that complete removal from my life that I get while training. The problems or life inconveniences are still going to be there when I am done but when I come back to them I am better off. The complete escape that I get from training, although brief, enables me to be a much fuller person who is in a better position to deal with life’s ups and downs.
When you couple the sense of accomplishment gained through martial arts (and corresponding confidence) with the physical and mental strengthening aspects of training,martial arts is a powerful tool to help you deal with the life issues affecting us all.
I don’t believe marital arts training is for everyone. I would be foolish to even think or suggest that. What I do encourage is to ask yourself about what you are using for an escape. Is it serving you the best that it can or is it mainly serving as a partial distraction and not leaving you better off?