Updated: Nov 16
A common misconception about martial arts is that they teach people to fight. ‘Fight’ is often expressed as violence or as aggressiveness toward others less capable. This is unfortunate. Anyone can learn to fight, just run your mouth at someone and soon you will be fighting – even if you don’t know how to fight. Which, in turn, will teach you a crash course in fighting. To combat the “aggressive fighting man” stigma, some schools center their curriculum around tournament competition. Tap an opponent and get a point. Enough points and you win. But don’t try that shit in a real fight.
Some believe that the martial arts is a class you take until you get your degree (aka Black Belt) and then quit. It is the equivalent to going to college. You take classes, finish the degree, and walk away. I’ve talked to many a person who has told me they “have a black belt.” But they haven’t seen a dojo since they were nine years old.
Others believe that the martial arts is an exercise routine, designed for no other reason than to get you to move around. Punch a bag, work up a sweat, and go home. Like a spinning class, or yoga.
Real martial arts is designed to forge a new person. This new version of you has self-discipline, self-control, perseverance, character, confidence, force of will, indominable spirit. Bruce Lee once said, “It is not the daily increase, but the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” It is like Michelangelo carving ‘David’, he didn’t build the sculpture, he revealed it. For me, after 35 years, martial arts is life. It is not only what I do, it is what I am.
Martial arts, according to Founder Gichin Funakoshi, is not about fighting and winning, but about the perfection of character.
Martial arts is a key to success in life. The lessons learned in the practice of martial arts are directly translated to our dealings in daily life. Any endeavor we embark upon can be improved by practice of the lessons learned in the martial arts.
Here are a few ways you can learn how to live like a black belt.
1. Understand you are not yet qualified. You only just started. You have much to learn. You must first be taught the basics - the beginning steps. No matter what endeavor upon which you choose to embark, you must crawl before you can walk. Be easy on yourself. You are not Rocky Balboa just because you bought an 80 lb. heavy bag and a set of gloves at Walmart last week.
2. Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom. If you are joining a Yoga or Tai Chi class, a martial arts school, music or dance lessons, a pottery class, or whatever, realize you are going to look foolish at first. You are going to make mistakes. These are going to be mistakes nearly everyone else has made already. Honestly, it is by seeing your mistakes that others in the class correct what they’re doing wrong, too.
3. Accept that others are already ahead of you. Don’t be intimidated by the talent of those who have been practicing for a great length of time. They had their first day, too.
4. Break big goals down into smaller, achievable goals. You’re not going to play Stravinsky – Trois mouvements de Petrouchka on your first day with your piano teacher. Hell, she probably couldn’t play it. First, you must learn scales. All of them. Then play small, easy pieces. Then learn more complicated movements. Same with martial arts. You won’t get your Black Belt in 30 days, or even 90 days. It took me years to get mine. But by breaking Black Belt down into smaller chunks, you can test for Yellow Belt, then Blue Belt, etc. Next thing you know, you qualify to test for Black Belt. Focus on the next small chunk, along the way you must remember to …
5. Create the discipline to do simple things every day. It’s boring to get up every day and warm up, stretch, and practice your basic skills and katas. Even during class it’s frustrating to keep practicing basic skills while Black Belts are doing some really cool shit. It takes discipline to maintain focus on the skill commensurate with your expertise level while looking to the next smaller goal. Keep practicing your yellow belt techniques, and once mastered, you’ll be ready for the next belt. Trying to accelerate this process will only result in disappointment. Break your big goal down. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.
6. Realize that Black Belt isn’t a graduation, it’s a commencement. When you graduate high school, you have a commencement ceremony. Commencement doesn’t mean you’ve finished; it means you’re about to begin. The same with Black Belt. You aren’t done, you’re ready to start. I’ve told my students over the years that getting your Black Belt simply implies that you can practice the basics and you’ve mastered the essential techniques. Now you’re ready to begin your real training. You have proven trustworthy enough to be shown some more advanced principles.
7. Sometimes you have to do what sucks, or what hurts. Every day we must punch the bag. We must kick and stretch. We must spar with our training partners. We get punched, we get tapped out, we get kicked, we get thrown. We sweat, we’re bruised; it hurts. But we grow, we learn. The same with other aspects of our lives. Every day we must do things that suck. We must do hard things. Nothing ever happens in our comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable.
8. Your true ability is revealed. If someone in class always beats you, you have a choice to make. You can either accept that this person will always be more capable than you, or you will decide to dig deeper and do the extra work it takes to improve your skills.
9. Calm is your superpower. When you know who you are and what you can do, you are no longer eager to rush into a conflict. A true martial artist finds ways to avoid fights. Either because he knows he can truly hurt someone for what really amounts to no real reason other than ego and pride, or because he understands with clarity the true extent or limits of his abilities. This calm translates into all areas of life, and keeps us steady in chaos.
The lessons of martial arts translates to every aspect of our lives. Begin today to chisel away at the parts of you that aren’t serving your greater good. Do hard things so you can forge a better you. So something that sucks each day so you can withstand tough times or disappointment. Accept loss, but never defeat. Accept failure, but never quitting.
Life is not easy.
Martial arts doesn’t build character, it reveals it.
Go get some,
Joe “Weeg” Weigant is a Holistic Health Practitioner, Licensed Massage Therapist, Metaphysician, and Empowerment Coach. He combines bodywork, energy work, and empowerment coaching to relieve anxiety and depression and balance the nervous system. Weeg coaches his clients to drop the white flag of victimhood and pick up the banner of empowerment, inspiring them to stop riding in life’s trunk and take the wheel of their lives.
Weeg sells herbal products by Nature’s Sunshine, Pure Herbs Ltd., doTerra, and Juice Plus. He teaches Karate and Tai Chi, Reiki Certification, as well as seminars and workshops in metaphysical and spiritual matters. Weeg is available for sessions at Tri State Holistic Wellness by appointment only.
Contact by text 812.568.5356, or Facebook Messenger to set an appointment.