Why do we do what we do?
I love martial arts. All martial arts. For one reason or other, they (their styles, their teachers, their practitioners) all hold massive fascination for me. I see (what I perceive to be) strengths and weaknesses in all of them – one appears as though it would be amazing for self-defence; another has unparalleled technical grace. One is grounded in unquestionable martial traditions; another has a relevance to now. One is king of the stand-up arts; another is “ground master”. On and on. Something for everyone. It’s why I can’t bear the “that would never work in a real fight” comments that appear on every martial arts demo video on youtube…who said the practitioner ever wanted it to?!
And therein lies the question. If we went back 20 or 30 years and you asked “western” martial artists why they trained, the likely answer would have the words “Bruce” and “Lee” in it somewhere, but what now? We’re in an age where, due to the advent of the internet, we have access to everything, so we’ve seen all of Bruce’s films, but we’ve also seen Chuck Norris. Then we saw Jean-Claude. We witnessed Iron Mike’s rampages and, more recently, we’ve been lucky enough to see Randy Couture and George St Pierre. But for all those icons, we’ve also been exposed to some of the lesser known martial arts. I’ve seen Hapkido and Tang Soo Do taught; Sambo, Eskrima and Krav Maga. I practice Kempo Jujitsu and one of my co-writers practices Aikido.
Personally, I was involved in an “altercation” when I was 18. My friends and I came out OK, but I vowed then that if it ever happened again, I needed to know what I was doing. I’d tried Shotokan Karate when I was about 12 or so, but never really got beyond “these kata won’t help me in the playground” so never kept it up. Six years later when the choice of what to study was mine (not just what was available), I visited a TKD school and then saw an ad for my KJ dojo. I watched one lesson and was blown away. Everything looked realistic and like the situations I’d faced on that night – noise, multiple attackers, weapons, the lot. I’ve been there ever since.
What’s interesting though (to me, at least) is that, whilst my motivations have changed throughout (“self-defence”, “fitness”, “belt-chasing”, plain old unyielding respect for my instructor), I keep coming back for more.
So, why do you do what you do? What made you choose the art or style that you practice – and what makes you keep coming back for more?!