Besides the physical aspect, the martial arts are known for developing powers of the mind, internal wisdom, strength of character, and insight into the practical areas of life.
Here I’ve listed 7 martial concepts you can start applying into your life today:
1. Self-discipline. Discipline in this sense is the ability to do what you need to do before doing what you want to do. It’s not discipline as in punishment, and punishing ourselves or others is rarely, if ever, the answer. Also, self-discipline isn’t something you are born with, it’s a cultivated skill. As martial artists, we apply self-discipline to our training ethic, and we apply it to our lives in our work ethic.
Don’t feel down on yourself if you feel you have no self-discipline…I personally have no naturally born self-discipline characteristics. I’m just incredibly lazy. Yet how did I manage to obtain a black belt, have 2 kids, and run my own business? The best way to improve your discipline is to write down a simple, measurable, and attainable goal, then do the steps each day to reach that goal.
If you’re goal is to learn a new language, set yourself a time of day to practice for 15 minutes. You cultivate your self-discipline by sticking with your commitment to that goal each day.
2. Focus. This is your fundamental level of concentration ability, and effects everything you do, from a single task like washing the dishes, to complicated and prolonged activities like getting through a full day of work. When my mind is focused I can get into a ‘work-flow’ and shoot through my to-do list like a Zen archer on Redbull.
Focus is something that can be improved through regular meditation and martial arts training. Training in music and fitness training also improves mental focus. Another great way to improve focus, especially in kids and older adults is with balance training.
Set a timer and see how long you can stand on one leg. If you can’t go longer than 2-minutes, your focus needs work. Work up to 20 minutes each leg and you’ll notice a great increase in your ability to focus.
3. Balance. In martial arts, when we talk about balance we mean physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual balance and well-being. To be balanced, I highly recommend chi-gong and meditation training.
You don’t have to be a martial artist to practice being in balance, and the benefits will help anyone, including you, lead a more balanced life. When your life is out of balance, you’ll know it because it will catch up to you in the form of an injury, accident, depression, sickness, or worse. You just won’t feel “yourself” when you’re not in balance.
Drinking or taking drugs, being in abusive relationships, high-stress and worry, negative thinking – all these things will bring you out of balance. However, it’s simple to return to a state of balance. There’s several things you can do. One of my favorite ways to return to a state of balance is to take a walk in nature. Grab a stick, walk around and tap it on fallen logs, listen, observe the trees, the sky. Throw a rock in a pond and watch the water ripple out. This is you in your most sane and balanced state.
4. Respect. I once dated a girl who, in the first interaction I saw her have with her mother, threw a fit and temper tantrum at her mom like a 3-year old. I wish I had a time machine where I could have gone back and given myself some advice…get the hell outta there!! My belief now is that if you can’t respect your parents, you can’t respect yourself or anyone else for that matter. The capacity for respect is simply not there.
Martial arts training grows your capacity of respect. You give respect to your master. You respect the art form you train in. You respect the people you train with. That respect leads to respect for yourself, and it ripples out in your life to reach everyone you contact.
5. Trust. In your training, you develop high levels of trust in your master and your peers. You trust them to send a spinning roundhouse kicks within inches of your nose and not hit you. You trust them to take you into an arm-bar and not snap your arm like a turkey wishbone. You trust yourself to break a stack of bricks with your bare hands.
Ultimately, it’s trust in yourself that leads to a wonderful confidence you take with you in life. I personally truly appreciate my ability to trust. I trust in my girlfriend she will be faithful, I trust in myself that I will create income for my family, I trust in nature that the sun will come up tomorrow. It always pains me to see those who live their life in mis-trust, always feeling like someone is out to get them, and never feeling like they can trust the world in which they live.
Hey, maybe sometimes I get burned because I’m too trusting, but hey, I’d rather get burned once in a while than go around thinking the worst in people…it’s just not worth it.
6. Yin-Yang. The Yin-Yang is a Taoist concept which symbolizes the polar opposites in life. The Yin-Yang symbol is also a symbol showing how the most intense polarity in one direction leads to the exact polar opposite. Have you ever been burned by ice? Have you ever been so feverish and hot that you felt cold?
Yin-Yang is everywhere. It’s night and day. Dark and light. Good and bad. Water and fire. North and south. In and out.
You can apply Yin-Yang concepts to anything in your life, including improving your health and fitness. If you find yourself always lifting weights (yang), then add in Yoga(yin) to balance it out. If you eat to much meat and carbs (yang) then add in more fruits and veggies (yin) to balance it out (this is an oversimplification, but it works). It’s all about balance!
7. Fluidity. ”Be like water!” said the legendary Bruce Lee. Water can be soft and graceful, and it can be hard and crushing. It’s dynamic, fluid and adaptable to any surface or container.
Fluidity in martial arts is key, because it allows you to move powerfully and gracefully from one position to the next in complete balance. You can apply fluidity in your life by keeping your body relaxed, your breath deep, and your movements like water. Try to apply this with everyday physical movements like brushing your teeth, filing papers, or making your bed. You suddenly turn every movement into a training practice for your art. This is what it means to be a martial artist!!
7. Warrior spirit. Now this is an important martial arts concept, and it’s not to be taken lightly. The warrior spirit is something every martial artist cultivates during the hardest times in his or her training. Maybe it’s a time of intense physical and mental challenge, like a belt test or sparring competition. It might be a time where you’ve been injured, sick had some other setback, and you need to find a way to overcome it.
These challenges in your training are your blessings in disguise, because they are what cultivates your warrior spirit. If you’ve been beat down, injured, or pushed into a corner in training, then guess what? This is what it’s all about!
Your ability to get knocked down and keep fighting, and to find a way, no matter what the difficulty or seeming impossibility is your development of the warrior spirit. This is the same warrior spirit that you’ll need when things in your life go wrong, someone falls ill, you lose your job, you get sick, you get a divorce, you lose a loved one.
Your warrior spirit is the ultimate center of who you are and it’s strengthened through your training. It is of great value in your life, and to the ones you love.