Martial arts are for me a major part of my life. They have been there for me as a way to relieve stress after a busy and difficult day at work or in challenging periods of my life like after a breakup or the death of a family member. Lots of people get into martial arts simply to stay in shape or in order to know how to defend themselves in any number of worst-case scenarios. But for me it’s always been a way of life as much as tool to stay in shape.
I should stay that I’m not some super athlete or a shaolin monk, capable of levitating and breaking metal with my eyes, or whatever it is people think about them. Nor does my life revolve round martial arts, but it has always played a major role in my life.
Nowadays so many people are out of shape because people’s jobs force them to sit essentially motionless in front of a computer screen all day and even though that doesn’t sound too physically taxing, I hardly feel more tired than when I’ve been at the computer for hours on end. And when we’re not sitting at computers, we in the car or on the bus or eating fast food or something equally sedentary. And that for me is why martial arts are so crucial to my life: it’s how I stay in shape, it’s how I maintain my sanity in a world that I don’t always like.
Beyond the physical there is something else that draws me to martial arts and keeps me coming back. I’m a spiritual or religious person, but the philosophies of taekwondo—my preferred martial art—have helped me to live a healthy life. The element of self-disciple is what speaks most to me, especially on cold winter mornings when I don’t want to crawl out of my warm bed to get down to the gym, or how those warm and balmy summer nights when the light is tempting me to stay out and have another beer but work calls in the morning.
I don’t mean to say that it’s only martial arts that can teach one that sort of discipline or self-respect, but for me it’s been the most effective method to live a responsible and measured lifestyle. Beyond that, it’s helped me be in touch with my body. Especially because of all the technology we have available to us these days—and I’m no Luddite; I love technology—it’s so easy to forget how to listen to one’s body, but having a regular physical activity to perform is a great way for me to remember to listen to my body. Some of my friends who prefer yoga—itself a martial art, despite many people not realising it—say that yoga has the same effect on them. While I’m not trying to convert anyone, I do have to say that I can’t imagine my life without taekwondo.