Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Don't Practice Martial Arts...

 Don't Practice Martial Arts... Be a Martial Artist

    What's the difference you ask?  First off, let me say that these are purely my own definitions, but that I believe they are apt.  Once I explain further, you'll probably recognize the differences and know people in both categories.

Funakoshi, the developer of modern karate
    A person who practices martial arts is passive about his learning.  Their learning of martial arts only occurs at the dojo.  It is a compartmentalized part of their lives.  Once they go home, there is nothing in their lives that is martial, except maybe when they tell their coworkers that they do karate, or kung fu, or whatever.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this method, I just don't believe they will ever get as much out of their art.  Although they will learn the kata, and techniques, and may even stick around long enough to earn their shodan (black belt), there will never be any reality about what they do.  They will never have the mental focus required for a martial situation.  For them, martial arts is a thing external to themselves and their world view.

Ip Man and Bruce Lee, both Martial Artists
    This is contrasted with the Martial Artist.  A martial artist is active in his learning.  These are the people who internalize their art.  The are active learners, in that they take control and responsibility for their education.  Martial arts is an integral part of their lives.  They think about martial arts all the time.  When they are waiting in line at the bank, they are mentally working through a  kata, or practicing irimi and tenkan (C'mon you know you have.)  As they walk through the park they run through scenarios of how they would react if ninja attacked them.  They practice at home all the time, not just before the tests.  They see inspiration for martial arts in other arts.  The only people they talk to about martial arts, is other martial artists.  There is something different about a Martial Artist.  Their intensity is different.  They don't have to be violent people, they just have a deeper intensity when practicing.  People who practice martial arts are missing the fact that their martial arts are for hurting and/or killing people.  Even in softer arts, like aikido or tai chi, martial artists have a martial intensity.  This is not to say they hurt people in class, in fact, they probably work really hard not to.  They just understand what a martial art is for.  These are the people who will one day master their art (I'll talk more about mastering martial arts in a future post).  For a martial artist, they have the survivalist "not if, but when" attitude.

    If you find yourself aligned more with the person who is a practitioner of martial arts, and you want to become a martial artist, don't fret, there is a app path for that.  For the most part, just continuing the same actions you are doing now keeps you as a practitioner.  You have to change something.  The main aspect, is become an active learner.  There are four suggestions I have for becoming an active learner of martial arts.

1. Keep a Martial Arts Journal.
I've written a couple of posts on how and why to keep a martial arts journal.  The end results is by writing things down, you become more conscious of them.  You have to observe your art with a keener eye.  You'll be actively looking at what is being taught.

2. Read a Book
There are literally hundreds of thousands of books on martial arts.  Some deal with a specific art, some with the philosophy, some with history, and some are how to teach martial arts.  Read them.  This is the active part of your martial education.  Your sensei/sifu may be great, but they are still human.  Their knowledge is limited.  Other people have had different experiences.  By learning other's strategies, you grow.
If you're looking for a place to start, I made a list of 5 books every martial artist should have.  Pick one. Or five.  I know it may sound weird, but when you select a book on, there is a list at the bottom that says "if you like this book, here are some others."  I've found really good books I had no idea existed by tracking through the recommended lists.  Also, allows people who read the book to post reviews.  They will often be more honest and critical of the book then the dust jacket.

Moses Powell Seminar in November, if you're interested let me know
3. Go to Seminars
Seminars are special things.  They allow you to see a different martial philosophy from what you see everyday.  Our system has an annual seminar, and even though I go to class 3 times a week, at a our seminars I still am overwhelmed with the amount of new information I'm presented with in such a short amount of time.

4. Visit other Dojo
One of the problems with studying judo, is you only learn how to defend against judo players.  Same thing with Aikido, or Wing Chun, or Penjak Silat, or whatever art you study.  Ocassionally, you need to at least see how other people attack and defend themselves.  You can also make new martial friends.  I've yet to find a dojo that wants to keep themselves isolated.  We love it when people come in.  I love to talk to other martial artists.  I think Martial Artists like to do this as well.  If anyone is ever in South Florida, I personally invite you to come check out Atemi ryu Jujutsu, or Chendokan Aikido.

What else differentiates the two?  I don't know, what are your examples?


  1. One of the toughest sport is Martial Arts but it is exciting.

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