I have been a martial artist for nearly 33 years of my life, originally for self-defense, and because in my younger and dumber years, I lived a very violent life. Eight years ago when my life changed, I continued practicing and studying the martial arts, but something changed and continues to change today. I no longer train and study for war, instead, my martial arts are trained for peace, peace within, and peace without. This may seem contradictory, but it is in fact a truth that took me this long to realize… I suppose I’m a slow learner.
I’ve studied many systems over the decades; in 2017 I was awarded my 5th dan and master instructor certificate, in 2020 I was awarded international recognition as a Shodai Soke of my own system, and just now am I coming to learn what martial arts truly were meant for. Today, most think it’s for self-defense, which is only a bi-product honestly, others will have cliches they themselves don’t understand about the martial arts, often parroting famous practitioners or movies. There is far more to fully understanding the martial arts in its ancient philosophy than fighting or catch-phrases… it is a way of peace!
The martial arts teach you to express yourself physically, the world is your canvas, your body is your brush, and your mind the paint, and in doing so you are performing a sort of moving meditation. They teach us to block out the distractions of the world and to just be, fully enmeshed in the moment, in the flow of our strikes and kicks, breathing, and bodily awareness. To leave behind any and all distractions, ego, worries, and feelings, and to simply be present therein.
The martial arts teach us that the way, the “do,” is to avoid conflict whenever possible, to stay free of having to use martial arts unless your life depends on it. Walk away from any fighting, deescalate conflicts, do not allow ego to drive you to lose your center and balance, these are the true ways of martial arts. Fighting and combat are not the way, these are distractions, they are a tree in the road blocking you from moving forward, more so than a part of the martial arts.
The martial arts teach us that in universal brotherhood/sisterhood, we all are one, walking many various paths to get to the same summit on the mountaintop. Sharing techniques and skills, training methods, and theories, this is a meeting of two true martial artists, as each will want to see the other get better and to share in what they love. Around the world, people who study martial arts feel a kinship with others who study and this transcends racial, national, political, gender, age, etcetera… demographics. This is a fairly universal concept too, and stylistic differences only lead to a desire for a deeper sharing of information.
Most martial arts instructors would agree that the virtues of Bushido, the Samurai code, are at the core of their arts philosophical teachings. The virtues of Bushido are almost universal amongst the martial arts, and I have never heard of a school that teaches something in opposition to them. Integrity, respect, courage, honor, compassion, honesty, and loyalty, are all aspects of the martial arts. The virtues are not the only benefits that the martial arts bring out; discipline, self-respect, health, self-confidence, clean living, and self-defense are all aspects and benefits as well. These are all highly beneficial in one’s life and can lead to many successes in life in every avenue thereof.
Philosophy is a huge part of the martial arts, philosophy about life, philosophy about combat, and philosophy about dealing with others. The philosophy, alongside the benefits, breeds a never-give-up attitude, a palpable inner strength that applies to every avenue of one’s life. You will not see anything in the basic philosophy of a serious martial art telling you to hurt others, to inflict copious damage, to overdo it if a fight breaks out, instead, in every classical warrior treatise from Asia you will see the mention of seeking peace, making peace with others, and finding a balance between being a warrior and being a peaceful human being. This is the true meaning of martial arts… peace!
Every martial art, when practiced with the full intention and pushing one’s self, will breed numerous health benefits that help longevity, functioning, weight loss, strength, cardio, and so much more. Most of the internal martial arts were created solely for their health benefits and oftentimes, any semblance of self-defense was an afterthought. The internal systems often focus on moving meditation, posture, slow movements, strengthening the muscles, and altogether building a healthier body and mind. They are almost entirely martial arts for peace!
My goal used to be martial arts for combat, which I saw plenty of that in my past, now it’s martial arts for peace, not combat, self-defense, or anything of the like and I make self-defense a minor by-product of that peace. Martial arts for peace may sound strange to some, but to those who spend a considerable amount of time studying and practicing, it is truly the principal goal of it. That peak at the top of the mountain all martial artists strive for regardless of the path is peace, that’s the true gift of the martial arts.