The Martial Artist

I have always thought that a Martial Artist must embody both the Martial, combative elements of his style, and also the Artistic side.

We learn Martial discipline by standing on the line with our fellow students, by showing our Sensei and fellow travelers of ‘the Way’ proper respect and care-when they put their bodies on the line to partner us, and by turning up on time to the Dojo. We also put in the hard physical work required during training sessions, and the ‘donkey work’ – practicing our basic techniques at home, so that when we return to our Sensei we have improved.

The Artistic side of Martial Arts is one that many students find strange to begin with. Students often think they are here simply to learn to defend themselves, or to get fitter. But Martial Arts is also a metaphor for our own life, as any experienced student will know, and progress in the Dojo often mirrors progress out in the world.

The most obvious Artistic side of Martial Arts is found in the katas we display, and the interpretation we add to our performance. Though we have not written these katas, we must learn them intimately, and make them our own. We betray our innermost being in our every action, and this too is something that Martial Arts encourages.

Though the Artistic and Martial sides of Martial Arts may seem completely different, with some students comfortable with one but not the other, for an experienced student they come together, until at last they are the same thing. This is when we spontaneously create good Martial Arts solutions to combative problems, or follow our own impulses to create new katas. Bringing Martial and Artistic ability together requires a change in the mind, and this enlightenment is the link that once found, allows a continual process of self-improvement and exploration, as our perspective on Martial Arts and on life itself evolves. This process is what changes the student forever.

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