After a long day of teaching, the old master settled into his chair in the corner of the dojo. He felt the weight of a lifetime of training, his joints stiff and a myriad of niggling injuries letting themselves be known as he allowed himself to relax. His uniform was tattered in places and his belt barely clung to his waist, having been tied thousands of times. His face was serene as he watched the younger students throw themselves into the art, full of enthusiasm. A smile crept across his face as he saw one student perform a particularly effective technique and for a moment, he indulged himself in thoughts of his younger days.
In today’s MMA influenced world, a number of new martial artists dabble in different types of arts, picking up a collection of skills that combine to create excellent fighters, capable in lots of areas. The committed martial artist, who has spent their lives in a particular style is quite a rare thing.
Commitment can be a frightening thing. I speak not of commitment to other people, but to a personal path, perhaps a career, a musical instrument, or in the case of this article, a martial art. The benefits of training are numerous, but what of commitment? Devoting oneself to a singular thing means spending the majority of your time with it, studying, practicing, reading and teaching. That time could be spent exploring other things, having fun, socializing, traveling or whatever takes one’s interest. The opportunity cost of commitment is high, but the benefit of committing to a singular path can also be significant.
5. Long Term Friendship
When one moves from style to style, they are likely to make a lot of friends, which is great! Although the point of a martial art is not to make friends, its one of the best side-effects of training and teaching. When someone commits fully to a singular martial art, they end up connecting with others who do the same. With a shared path, sincere friendship blossoms and friends can watch each other develop over time and provide support along the way.
My most sincere friendships have come about because of my personal commitment to a martial art and although I have met a great number of amazing martial artists in my career, it is those who share my path that I connect with most of all. Those friendships I will take with me wherever I go, and they are something that I am greatly thankful for.
4. Transfer of Knowledge & Tradition
When one commits to a martial art, they end up learning a great deal about it. That much is obvious, but often, that dedication leads to teaching roles and the sharing of knowledge. Were it not for the committed martial artists, fully devoted to learning as much as they can about a single thing, the mastery of those arts would be lost and with that loss, the opportunity for new students to benefit.
The martial arts are an ancient, ancient thing. When I think about how long people have been developing martial arts, and how long people have been practicing, I’m amazed. More knowledge has been lost than we can probably fathom, and the more we can preserve for future generations, the more they will benefit. A lot of that depends on the committed martial artist.
3. Influence on Others
Were it not for the few who really push themselves within certain martial arts, progress within that style would be a great deal slower. Sometimes that progress breaks down boundaries between social groups or ethnicities, sometimes it inspires others to want to improve themselves also, or achieve something of significance in their lives, and sometimes, it’s merely that the art itself is pushed into new realms of efficiency and effectiveness. Those benefits can then be shared with others and that influence can only come about when one is fully committed.
As a secondary benefit, one’s teaching becomes better and better when they spend a lot of time doing it. That teaching really helps to influence other students, making their learning easier and more enjoyable.
2. High Proficiency
Bruce Lee famously said that he feared not the man who had practiced a thousand kicks, but the man who had practiced one kick thousands of times. Dedication to a singular art (perhaps throwing or locking systems) means true proficiency in that art. That level of proficiency is an immensely powerful thing. Those who have felt Aikido masters take balance know this, those who have been struck by Karate masters know this, those who have been thrown by Judo masters know this. Perfection of an art is impossible, but only the dedicated ever come close.
1. Depth of Understanding & Appreciation
Perhaps the greatest reason to commit fully to a singular art is the appreciation one develops for that art over the course of their lifetime. Most pursuits have a great deal of depth to them. True appreciation for an art can only take place after learning the basics, delving into the mechanics of technique, solving problems and ascending to higher levels of understanding. The beginner can never understand or appreciate an art in the same way a master does. It requires training and a length of time studying to understand nuance, to notice detail and to appreciate what is actually occurring.
Although I would never say that commitment is the only way to go, it is certainly an attractive path, especially when you’re honest with yourself about your interest. After a time, one’s self defense skills are accounted for, one’s competitive itch may have been scratched, one’s fitness honed. What then? Shallow reasons for training only take someone so far. It is the dedicated practitioner who reaps the deep benefit of a lifetime of training, for both personal and social reasons.
It is my hope that every martial artist can feel firstly that their training has meant personal progression, but has also had some kind of impact on those around them, that they have in some way, either small or big, left the world a better place for their efforts. This, I think, often happens when one commits fully to their martial art.
“A man who has attained master of an art reveals it in his every action”
~ Samurai Maxim