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aefibird
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 26 Oct 2003
Posts: 4416
Location: UK
Styles: Past and present: 2 styles of Karate, TKD, Aikido, Wing Chun, some Tai Chi

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 1:45 pm    Post subject: Why I Love the Martial Arts Reply with quote

I've just got back from a pretty rigorous self-defense training session at my karate dojo and I wanted to share it with you all, as well as a few reasons why I love martial arts.

Firstly, I love martial arts because they have helped me to feel good about myself.

Before I started martial arts training I was painfully shy with a very poor sense of self-esteem. I also suffered from an eating disorder and I would self-harm on regular occasions. Now, obviously, a couple of karate lessons didn't immediately mean that I was instantly cured, but karate (and my subsequent aikido training) has meant that I no longer have such a negative image of myself.

I was born 12 weeks premature and was in the special care baby unit for the first couple of months of my life. Because my lungs were under developed when I was born, I've had asthma ever since. I also suffer with allergies and hay fever. Because of this I was never very good at sports at school. I could never seem to get enough breath to last out a game and as for running… well, lets just say that I'd have needed an oxygen tent for running anything above 100 meters!

I was always the kid who was last to be picked for any sports at school, so I never really got the chance to find out if I was good at anything. Plus, the comprehensive (high school) that I went to was very sports orientated. The PE staff didn't seem to want to know you unless you were good at sports.

Consequently, because I was always last or near the back at everything sporty, this really affected my self-image. I began to feel that I was useless and hopeless at everything I did, even things that I was previously good at, such as English and Science. This downward spiral of negativity continued right through my teens and onto when I left school. I signed up for university but quit after a year as I felt that I couldn't keep up with everyone and that I was no good at what I was doing.

I was prescribed anti-depressants and told to rest for a while before deciding what to do with my life. After leaving university I bummed around for a year or so doing various odd jobs before bumping into a friend one day whom I'd not seen for a while.

She told me she'd taken up karate and showed me a bit of what she was doing. I was intrigued and wanted to know more, but at the back of my mind I was being told by my “demon” that I was no good and that I'd be no good at karate, either. My friend eventually persuaded me to come along and I really enjoyed my first session.

After a few weeks, I began to feel better about myself. I'd told my instructor about my asthma and he was OK with it, but I could feel that with the regular exercise I was now getting that it was beginning to improve. I no longer needed to use my inhalers as much in class or at home, either.

I found that I was naturally drawn to Shotokan and that I picked up the techniques quickly. Soon after joining the club, my instructor asked me if I wanted to grade. I immediately said “no, I can't, I'm not good enough”, but he persuaded me to take my first grade and I passed! I was very nervous beforehand (I still am nervous with karate gradings) and I was convinced that I was going to fail, but my instructor had confidence in me and told me that he knew I would pass. In my karate organization, we are examined for belt grades by the chief instructor of the organization, not by our own Sensei's. I was terrified before the grading and was convinced that the examiner would just laugh at my efforts, but he seemed pleased with me and tried to put me at ease during the test. Getting my first colored belt was a real achievement to me.

I know that some people don't put much value in certificates and grades and the like, but to me that first grading is more important to me than when I passed my shodan. It was a real turning point in my life and my confidence in my MA ability and myself has grown 100 fold.

An example from tonight's class on how the MA has boosted my confidence was when a lower grade asked my instructor to show him a technique. He looked over to me and said "Go and ask Rachael to show you – she can do that really well." I was gobsmacked that he said that and probably blushed the brightest red ever, but it did me good to hear my Sensei say that. Only a few years ago I would never ever have imagined that anyone would ask me to show them anything. Now I'm an assistant instructor at my club, a black belt and the club secretary. It's due to the confidence that the martial arts has given me about myself and my abilities.

The second reason that I love the martial arts is that it encourages a person to think.

At first, students at my club are really encouraged to ask questions, to which they will be given a (hopefully sensible!) answer. After a while, though, Sensei will encourage us all to think of the answer ourselves. A few weeks ago I asked Sensei a question about the application (oyo) for a part of Kanku Sho kata. He looked at me and said "What do you think it means?" I went away and thought about it and tonight I told him what I thought. He smiled and replied "Very good, keep on thinking!" Martial arts encourage students to think about their actions and reactions. Instead of just “going through the motions”, the martial arts require that a student has to use their brains as well as their fists.

Thirdly, I love the martial arts because it develops awareness.

My instructor regularly tells us that the best form of defense is not to be there – i.e., be aware of possibly dodgy situations and stay out of them. This goes for training in the dojo, too. Awareness is a major skill needed in fighting/sparring. It's no good just throwing punches and kicks wildly; you have to be aware of what your opponent is doing at every second, as well as being totally aware of your surroundings. This means being mentally aware and alert, not just physically aware of something. We were training in kata last night and Sensei got us to perform a kata with our eyes closed – one person at a time. It was amusing to watch people go wildly out and miss the shape of the form entirely. One lad even Shuto-uke'd the wall – he was very close to it, but hadn't realized. Hmm, we need more practice at developing awareness I think!

There are plenty of other reasons why I love martial arts (it develops fitness levels, it teaches defense skills, it instills discipline, its good for you socially), but I thought I would just share 3 of my reasons as to why I love training in the martial arts so much.
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Patrick
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Joined: 01 May 2001
Posts: 27039
Location: Los Angeles, California

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission.
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gheinisch
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Joined: 09 Jan 2003
Posts: 2140
Location: Newnan, Georgia
Styles: Hon-Shin-Do - Shodan

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article! Martial Arts truely is a way of life that can do so many more things other than just to teach you a way to defend yourself or others.
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June1
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 06 Nov 2004
Posts: 1090
Location: Canada
Styles: Shotokan Karate

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 6:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice article!

I feel like I can really relate to you in some of what you're saying. Although I don't have asthma, I have had some breathing problems (being unfit leads to much panting and gasping for breath!), so I know how frustrating it can be. In fact, my first month of karate was really difficult on account of my stopping to catch my breath every so often. I'm still trying to improve.

I'm glad that you've been so transformed by the martial arts. I only hope that I can reach that kind of level someday. I'm loving karate more than I ever thought possible. *hugs everything in dojo*

Thanks for a great read!
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SaiFightsMS
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Joined: 28 Oct 2001
Posts: 6397
Location: Ohio
Styles: Shotokan, Shorin Ryu, Shi-to Ryu

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice article.
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italian_guy
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 26 Nov 2003
Posts: 1476
Location: Italy
Styles: Formerly in Goju ryu karate (Nidan) now in Wing chun with past experience also in krav Maga, Kickboxing, Tai chi chuan (yang) and JKD.

PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2004 3:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very good article Rachel. I was not good at all in sports either when I was younger, that's why I did not start MA before. MA practice helped me to have more confidence in my physical performance... still I have to recover from 20 years of inactivity but now I'm more confident in what I'm doing and this self confidence have positive impact on my training.

Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
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aefibird
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 26 Oct 2003
Posts: 4416
Location: UK
Styles: Past and present: 2 styles of Karate, TKD, Aikido, Wing Chun, some Tai Chi

PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, it seems ages ago since I submitted this!!

Thanks to Patrick for posting it and thank you all for your kind comments.
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krunchyfrogg
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Joined: 11 Oct 2003
Posts: 385
Location: Morris Plains, NJ

PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good job, great read!
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Dr. Flem
Yellow Belt
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Joined: 16 Dec 2004
Posts: 49


PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 10:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In all honesty aefibird, that article actually brought a tear to my eye. I've always had pretty low self confidence and I'm just "recovering" from a mental illness. This illness has kept me secluded from everybody and everything around me. Over the past couple of weeks, I've decided to take my recovery even further and I'll be taking my first Shotokan class next week. I just hope that the MA lifestyle will touch me as it has touched you.

Thank you very much for a great read.
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krunchyfrogg
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Joined: 11 Oct 2003
Posts: 385
Location: Morris Plains, NJ

PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2004 10:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good luck, Doc!
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