Thursday, April 16, 2015

Five reasons to take up a martial art

It's been nearly a year since I started back at the karate that had been a large part of my life for over seventeen years after a nearly three year break. 
Like an unrequited love, karate was never far from my thoughts and every week I had new determined resolve to step back into the dojo - a place where I felt truly at home - and every week another week went by as I went about my life without karate in it. I had moved to a new town, had a new job, had a marriage which had imploded, knew nobody, but I knew that if I went to this different dojo (which was 300 metres from my house), I would be welcomed with a warmth and familiarity that would make me wonder what took me so long.  I didn't take the step back onto that smooth wooden floor until I had been living in this new town for nearly three years! Everything I knew about the benefits of practicing a martial art came flooding back when I did. 
A year on, I am still desperately trying to remember quickly forgotten kata and to get my "mojo" back (somewhat inelegantly), but that's my own personal journey. All the following reasons for being on that dojo floor are universal:

1. Your body will move in ways you never knew it could. 
With regular practice, unfamiliar moves will become second nature. Marvel in the way your body can adapt and grow new connections to enable such movement.

2. It is GOOD to get around in bare feet. 
It might sound like a strange thing to say but the feeling of true connection to oneself is heightened when in bare feet with no barrier blocking energies between you and the surface you are standing on. Dojo floors are usually wooden - a naturally warm and absorbent surface that is wonderful to move on with the foot bare. We don't often remove our footwear except to shower and go to bed.

3. There is a "natural order of things" ... unspoken but yet is "how we do things round here", which makes it easy to find ones place in the dojo. In this gentle unspoken yet proud way, it teaches lessons about life - as one grows in knowledge and understanding, it becomes your turn to support and guide new members; and so on. 

4. Your martial art journey will be supported as you grow in your practice and as a person. The wonderful - the most wonderful thing about being a martial artist is the personal growth which takes place, both physically and spiritually and the support from dojo members to help that happen. 

5. It brings about a profound sense of being in the present moment. As I have progressed through the grades I have realised this more and more and have become increasingly grateful for its power. As a white belt beginning on my karate journey, I projected forward all the time ... the next grading; when I am this belt or that belt; wishing I could do the fancier-looking katas the seniors were doing. What I lost in those times was the wonderful gift of mindful presence. Now a third Dan Black belt, what I love the most about my practice is the "mushin" or "no mind". There is nothing quite like the power of being fully engaged in the present moment. The clarity it offers and space to just BE is profoundly peaceful, which may sound bizarre given that people often equate martial arts with violence and aggression. The opposite couldn't be more true.
The journey is the process - the process is the journey.

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