Martial Arts Life Lessons

By Gayle T.

When I first started taking martial arts classes at Sung Ming Shu, I was on summer break from nursing school. At the time, martial arts was a wonderful diversional activity for me. However, I told my friends at class, my senseis and myself that when school started in the fall, I would probably no longer be able to attend as my work load was so heavy at school. When I actually went back to classes, I found that not only could I continue my martial arts classes quite easily, I felt I wouldn’t make it through nursing school without them! In two short months I had learned how consistency, dedication, and physical exercise could help me organize my life, be more self-assured and reduce stress in my life.

Consistency in my first two years of training helped me progress through the lower ranks quickly; while outside of karate, I learned that if I broke large projects down to manageable sized pieces and worked on the pieces regularly, my projects were completed before I knew it — and the quality of the finished product was usually better than if I had done the whole piece in one or two sittings. During much of my third year of training, my work schedule interfered with my karate classes and I could no longer attend regularly, but my desire to continue my training never left me. When I was able to return on a regular basis, I found myself much more out of shape. Through consistency in attending class, I have worked my way back, but it took something else to keep me going this time: dedication.

When I returned to karate after being out for almost nine months, I was surprised how much strength not only my muscles had lost, but how much inner strength and mental discipline was also lost. This time it took not only consistency, but also dedication and determination for me to regain my strength and confidence. For many months, my progress seemed to be at a halt. No matter how hard I worked out or how many times a week I attended class, I felt that I was not getting any stronger. My muscles seemed weaker, my mind seemed slower, and my old groin muscle injury seemed worse. I was determined to progress to the highest level to which I was capable, so I kept on attending class, and now I am starting to feel that once again I am making progress. As my confidence in my abilities grows, I am finding that confidence in other areas of my life has also increased.

The stress-reducing factors of martial arts for me are the combined effect of increased self-confidence and physical exercise. Being more self-assured in all aspects of my life helps me reduce mental stress especially at my job, and after a hard physical workout, my mind seems to be more clear and problems are more easily put into correct perspective. Some problems cease to be problems and solutions to others seem to come easier with a clear mind.

So after only two months into my martial arts training, I was aware how the teachings could help me. As I progress, I am finding out that the principles of consistency, dedication, and determination have much more meaning to me. I have more difficulty now with the physical aspects of karate than when I first started, so the mental aspects of self-confidence, self-control, and a non-defeatist attitude have become a more important part of my training. As I continue to study the martial arts, I will continue to try to understand these principles on a deeper level, and to use them in all areas of my life.

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