As a teenager, I loved watching kung fu movies. They were what inspired me to pick up martial arts. I started at the age of 16; I was clueless and socially awkward, and my experience with martial arts was limited to some ‘fancy’ hand swings I’d picked up from movies starring Bruce Lee, Tony Jaa, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li.
Initially, my sole aim was to learn self defence and be physically fit, but what I gained from martial arts turned out to be much more than that. Here’s a look how martial arts has changed my life for the better.
I make mistakes often
This might sound counter-intuitive, but everyone makes mistakes — even the black belt students and our instructors. It’s so common on the dojo (a practice hall where martial arts is taught) that no one is going to bat an eyelid when you make one.
Personally, I’ve made so many mistakes during practice it’s almost unbelievable. My instructors always encourage us to make mistakes, and over time, I’ve found myself becoming more self-aware with each mistake I make, which means I’m less likely to repeat them. It’s also become easier and quicker for me to progress, not only on the dojo but in other aspects of life.
It’s time for you to start making those mistakes too.
Forget about being cool
Let’s get this straight: if you think you can be the badass kid simply by picking up martial arts, then you’re very much mistaken. I’ve come across many new students who were in a hurry to get their black belts, yet didn’t manage to persevere and overcome their frustrations, giving up on the sport halfway through.
I must admit that there were times when I envied those who had already gotten their black belts. I think most of us can relate to the feeling of being a newbie; we can’t help but be extremely self-conscious when in the presence of others with higher ranks. I realised soon enough, however, that the colour of one’s belt is not what determines a person’s skills or their character. What matters in the long run is that you’re able to stick to your decision to pick up martial arts.
Good vibes all around
In this day and age, it can be difficult to carve out some time and space for yourself in the midst of a constant flurry of emails, work/school commitments and FOMO-inducing Instagram posts. So on hindsight, I am thankful to my 16-year-old self for making the decision to pursue martial arts.
Yes, there were ups and downs, thoughts of giving up, and I experienced a lot of anxiety each time grading rolled around. But if I were think about it objectively, I’ve gained not only physical strength, but established close friendships with others whom I might never have met otherwise. Good vibes all in one place? Absolutely.
Banish the lazy bones in you
If you’re known to be immature and to procrastinate in getting things done — such as studying or washing the dishes — you’ll find yourself actually doing them the way you plan after months of dedicated training.
How does this work? Well, as you go for more training sessions, you get exposed to more techniques and skills. And performing and practising these techniques require focus, hard work, and dedication — all of which will contribute to you becoming more self-disciplined.
It could save your life — literally
Learning martial arts requires a whole lot of energy, focus, and patience, but knowing that I can now independently face an attacker has given me the ultimate boost of confidence and self-esteem that I feel we could all do with.
I feel good that I am able to protect myself and others around me. I don’t mean to be a cynic, but I’ve always thought to myself that anything could happen — and I would like to at least have a chance to prevent it. A basic foundation in martial arts could actually save your life should you find yourself involved in undesirable situations.
Comparing my lifestyle before and after joining martial arts, I’d say it’s truly impacted me in a big way — and I’m proud of it. Having overcome various mental, physical, emotional and spiritual problems along the way, there’s no question that martial arts has changed me fundamentally, and I have become a better version of myself.