There are a lot of reasons a person might choose to train in martial arts or choose to enroll a family member in a martial arts program. Here’s some typical objectives I’m aware of:
- Self-Defense – To develop an ability to protect oneself in case of an intentional attack
- Sports / to “test” oneself – To enjoy competition and to see how far one can push their own skills
- Health / Exercise – To have a regular means of physical activity supporting health and mental wellness
- Friendship/Admiration – Friends or others in the family are involved and it’s a way to share an experience or a chance to learn from someone you respect
- Revenge – The desire to be able to inflict harm on another in retaliation for a past wrong
- Self-development – to develop confidence, to address your own limitations and fears, and to develop spiritual or metaphysical powers
- Service to others – to be able to serve and protect others through your own willingness to deal with physical violence. Eg, serving in the military or police forces
- Structured Activity – to be in a safe place where there will be oversight and managed time, eg, for after-school periods when the primary care adult is not available
These objectives aren’t mutually exclusive, and often the reason for staying in martial arts training evolves and is different from the original reason. What is important, though, is to understand what your current reasons for training are and to ask to what extent your training situation matches your objectives. Once you understand this, it’s equally important to realize what aspects of martial arts are not being met by your training regimen (including your own self practice outside of any classes and instruction).
What can be dangerous is having a martial arts training regimen that does not align with your objectives. If you are focused on health and exercise, full-contact martial arts training might result in injuries and set-backs. Alternately, if you are enrolled in a sports-oriented program that provides a very structured set of activities, you might develop a misconception of your ability to respond in a violent situation.
My original reason for training was self-defense. It’s evolved and expanded to include self-development, friendship, health, deep admiration for my own teacher, and as a martial arts instructor, service to others. I do other activities for exercise and physical fitness, and am less interested in the sports aspect of martial arts.
If you’re reading this, I’d love to hear what your reasons are for training in the martial arts. And how has it evolved?