Know Yourself Through the Martial Arts
Few psychological constructs are so universally recognized and studied outside their disciplines as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This theory of psychology considers physical needs as the most basic of all human needs, then comes the need for safety, then love and belonging, self esteem and finally self actualization - to know oneself and all one’s potentialities. Obviously if a person is hungry or cold, they have no time for higher conceptual arguments, friendship or philosophy.
The human being, in Maslow’s theory, builds all other needs - safety, love, belonging, self esteem and self actualization - on the foundation of physical needs. The stability of our physical foundation will often determine how capable we are to meet these other needs. Of course, physical stability is only the beginning of holistic health. If our other needs are not met and balanced in their natural order then we suffer consequences in regards our mental and emotional health. Humans well know the penalty of depriving one of its components - the whole system pays. The young professional football player whose physical being is highly tuned has trouble with self control. The academic or intellectual whose mental acuity is highly functioning has battles with the self discipline to keep their body healthy.
There is no escaping the fact that a human being is a physical creature made more complex by our mental and emotional capacities.
What has all this got to do with martial arts?
What I found in my 30 years of martial arts training is that martial arts is a holistic practice. The physical practice of martial arts begins with our connectedness to the ground. In the karate stance the idea is that the feet are rooted to the earth providing a strong and balanced foundation for the rest of our body and work.
This grounding must be connected to our centre, the “hara”, the core of our body and our breath. The speed, the balance of tension and relaxation and generation of power in martial arts has its seeds in the hara and the breath.
The ability to execute complex drills with speed and precision requires great focus. In martial arts we are trained to “empty the mind” of distracting thoughts and “noise” to zero in on our focus, to be totally present and ready for the unpredictable.
These concepts are analogous with our emotional life. We use the term “grounded” when we speak about someone who is sensible and balanced. Most people, if they had to describe a physical location for feelings of nervousness, stress or calmness would say they “felt” these emotions in their “gut” or “the pit of the belly”. When we describe someone as “centered” we usually have the impression of calmness and self control. In life, those that can remain present minded and focused on tasks and goals experience success. This connectedness between body, emotions and mind is mirrored in our martial arts practice.
Beginning with learning to fine tune and control the body the martial arts student learns to control the mind and the emotions. You not only begin to feel “safer” from the violence of others but also with your own actions and reactions. By zeroing in on your focus, you begin to experience “being in the moment” to give total attention to the task at hand. With mastery of the physical techniques and feelings of success comes self confidence and the strengthening of your self esteem.
Our students and staff regard our Black Belt Martial Arts schools as a community or “family”. The traditional rituals and principles of the martial arts foster the communal qualities of acceptance, inclusiveness and mutual respect and concern for others. As a martial arts student in a class working with partners of different, age, gender, size and ability, you quickly learn that to act cooperatively enhances our own learning experience.
Finally, the practice of martial arts can be a path to fulfilling the higher need of self actualization. That is to say, to truly come to know yourself, to know your inner compass with all its potentialities. I know this to be true not just from my own transformation through my practice but with my own children and their martial arts journey and the testimony of 1000’s that have come through my schools in the last 25 years.
I invite you to come and see for yourself what martial arts can do for you and your family. Come and try our school for free with our free Introductory Program. Just call to make an appointment at a time that suits you.
For further details please phone 4388 4788