Everybody who has practised a martial art started for a reason, and one that will most likely be imprinted upon their memory. I mean, it’s not every day one would decide to don a pair of white pyjamas to enter a quasi-oriental training environment learning piecemeal Japanese (or other depending on the origin of the martial art) to kick butt.
The reasons for taking up martial arts are varied, but range from a desire to defend yourself from bullies, to protect yourself in case you are mugged again, to get fit, to meet new people, or something else. My own reasons stemmed from watching Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Segal movies during my formative year’s yearning to accomplish similar physical feats and attain a similar level of skill should I be attacked by multiple ‘bad dudes’ (Donald Trump parlance).
Whatever the motivation, there is generally a mismatch between the expectations of what you want to be when you walk into the Dojo for the first time, and the reality of what you become.
Maybe it was me (surely there are others) turning up in my tracksuit and hoping to be converted from awkward teenager to lethal fighting machine within a couple of lessons, or it could be others turning up expecting to find an efficient way of being able to effectively defend themselves against ‘bad dudes’ within a couple of lessons.
Well, it just doesn’t happen that way. I learnt that as a student, and as an instructor I am very mindful of this when I talk to new students. To become proficient in martial arts, in my opinion, takes years of dedication and sacrifice, training several times a week, for years. It’s an on-going journey, with no ceiling in how much you can improve or perfect your techniques. Even after many years training, and being great in the dojo, or winning medals in competitions, are you ready when confronted by the horror of a malicious senseless attack or mugging? Hopefully, it is something that you will never have to experience, and of course, you would never know unless you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in that situation. I think that under these circumstances the overwhelming predictor of a successful outcome will be an individual’s nature, attitude and aggression, an instinct for survival.
Of course, martial arts training can help hone or develop some of these natural attributes, but it won’t change the way you are made, or fundamentally, the type of person you are. A well-developed training in martial arts will, however, have likely increased your fitness, your confidence, and will have provided you with the ‘tools’ to increase your chance of success. That’s what you get, a slight improvement in the odds. No guarantees of invincibility. You may, of course, find yourself less likely to be in that situation. If training has led you to carry yourself with a fitter and more confident demeanour you may be less likely to be a victim of an attack, and the knowledge of what harm you can give out as well as receive may increase your perception and awareness and allow you to second guess when things may be about to get out of hand, where you can sensibly avoid being in harm’s way.
So what can you reasonably expect from martial arts training? A healthy lifestyle, new friends, more self-confidence, and after years of training, and a better chance of defending yourself should the need arise.