Why Do Martial Arts?
Advancing One Step at a Time
The requirements for each belt level are defined in detail and represent incremental improvement in that martial art. Successive belt ranks require more difficult and comprehensive knowledge, and represent new challenges to overcome.
Kids learn to take on new learning in chunks; by dividing up all the knowledge needed to master a martial art into sections, they can take on each section as they become able. Upon passing the tests required to receive the next level, they can look forward to the next belt level, and so on.
Learning to tackle complex and comprehensive bodies of knowledge by breaking them down into smaller portions is a skill that can help outside the martial arts as well, whether it’s learning to swim or learning calculus.
The regimented nature of martial arts instruction fosters a deep sense of self-discipline in students. One can’t become a legitimate black belt overnight, and so students learn that their worthy goals will require patience, hard work, and dedicated study over several years. The message is that if it’s worth anything, it’s worth working hard for.
Martial arts training has become popular for children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) because of the training moderates some ADD traits. Martial arts training teaches students self-control and concentration–in order to perform a technique correctly, students must focus intensely on their task. Furthermore, the self-confidence gained through martial arts training lets ADD kids feel able and “normal”, not burdened by the stigma of being labeled with a “deficit.”
Discipline, to many people, is all about doing what you must do even when you don’t want to do it. Martial arts training instills such discipline by showing a path of rewards for hard work, and the benefits of doing that extra few reps.
Self-esteem is largely based on a student’s self-worth; if students feel capable, able, and confident, then they enjoy a healthy self-esteem. Martial arts training builds self-esteem by providing small challenges that build incremental successes. Students learn that they can overcome the challenges as they improve in their training.
Many martial artists note that before they began training, they were awestruck and amazed by the seemingly superhuman feats that their instructors or senior students were able to perform. Yet after just a few months of study, they progress to a level where they too can do things they would have thought impossible. Challenges–like breaking a board–are surpassed and students feel a surge of pride in themselves and their abilities. As a result, they feel capable and alive.
Also, the physical security provided by martial arts training builds confidence–students do not have to worry any longer about the bully at school. This confidence enables students to feel better about themselves and their reactions to conflict.
One thing newcomers to the martial arts notice immediately when visiting a school for the first time is the numerous expressions of respect. “There’s all that bowing,” they might remark. Showing respect is intrinsic to the martial arts, and is a core facet of the cultures from which many martial arts originate.
Students show respect to each other, their instructor, and even to their school upon joining each class session. Sometimes it’s a simple bow, in other styles it’s a salute of some kind. The gesture encompasses several messages: gratitude, for the learning the student receives, and respect, an acknowledgement of the other person’s abilities.
Regardless of the ritual, almost all martial arts teach students to value age, rank, expertise, and experience. Respecting those who know more than you do (greater expertise), and have proven it (higher rank) shows that you are worthy of them teaching you their knowledge. This respect for instructors and senior students can often carry over to classes in regular schools as well.