Marks of a Martial Artist
Before my master passed, he wrote a few wonderful books. His student manual was written and published like a book- in it he included what to expect, ranking, what it means and why, terms, material, testing tips, striking points, history, and soooo much more. It truly is an amazing book.
He also included 17 marks of a martial artist. Martial arts is a lot more than just the physical aspects- the mental aspects and way of life is just as crucial.
Each one is different and holds special purpose and meaning. This has helped guide me, show me what to remain aware of and what to aim for. Especially after everything that has happened to me in my journey.
My master portrayed each of this inside and outside of the class room; I hope this helps others as much as it has helped me. I miss him more than I can handle, but his memory and teachings remain.
A martial artist must be enthusiastic in order to achieve success.
If someone doesn’t like what they are doing, imagine the limit that will put on them. Enthusiasm is crucial in order to be effective and efficient. They put effort, and they are happy to do so.
Self-motivation is what drives one to go to join, go to class, etc. When someone is self-motivated, they will progress quicker as they are in the optimal state of mind and ready to improve. What is important, however, is that one also recognizes this must be done inside and outside of the class room- practice.
Some people may be wondering what the difference is. Self-motivation gets one alert and started, self-discipline keeps one going. The example my master provides exclaims that self-motivation is the vehicle by which one will strive to maintain a strong and efficient practice. On the other hand, self-discipline is the fuel to remain. It is the willpower to do what one knows needs to be done.
A student that shows up to class and claims to want it and love it in their life, but does not practice or show persistence, is an example of motivation without discipline. Additionally, someone that strives to have it in their life, loves it, but discontinues, is another example of motivation with a lack of discipline.
Curiosity, spirit, interest- a good martial artist asks questions because they are thinking. They are thinking about what they are doing and also thinking about what they are thinking about.
“Why do some people have 10 degree black belts? What can I do to improve accuracy? How did this originate? What is the purpose of this movement?”
They strive to go above and beyond what is simply told to them in class. They aim to study on their own, think about it on their own, ask questions. etc.
This is when one is aware and mindful of detail, one’s performance, mentality, emotion, and technique. They must also strive to be aware and mindful of what is around them, whether it is with an opponent or not. Additionally, recognizing one’s efforts and limits is important. Going beyond safe limits will be hazardous. All of this is important for improvement, safety, and health.
With proper humility, they can learn anywhere, anytime, from anyone. Regardless of rank, a good martial artist knows that they are not ‘above’ anyone, and that it is not about being ‘better’ than anyone else- it is about self-improvement. Humility is shown whether one is teaching, being taught, or not. They furthermore have no problem deferring to legitimate, well-meaning authority.
With the amount of physical contact, movements, possible competitions, etc, in martial arts, sportsmanship is an important part. A good martial artist aims to understand that one never truly ‘loses’ if they learn something from every encounter. Regardless, it is not about winning, it is about self-improvement and learning. Resentment, anger, the need to overrun others, etc, is put at a minimum.
My master states that with sportsmanship, a give and take scenario can be achieved through respect and with what one can teach each other, whether they are a student or a teacher.
8. Cooperative attitude:
Cooperative, not competitive.
My master states that, “With a competitive attitude, we feel the need to be superior to others by beating them, and with a cooperative one, we extend a hand so that everyone rises to their fullest potential.”
It’s not about going in the class room and kicking higher than others, hitting harder than others, etc. That may not only cloud one from their goals, but it will also show in their attitude.
Integrity is the alignment of actions with words. If one claims to be humble, then they should show such in their actions, and so on. Our choices, honesty, life, etc, must be aimed to align with living the life of a martial artist. There is a balance.
Another word for perseverance and determination, my master states, “Persistent, stubborn, obstinate, not easily pulled asunder… these are all different ways of describing the quality of tenacity.”
They aim to break through difficulties and obstacles, and remain determined and persevere while doing so. Board breaking can symbolize such concept.
11. Goal orientation:
This will provide guidance, like a map, to a martial artist. Both short term and long term goals are relevant- while earning one’s black belt may be a long term goal, there must be short term goals to reach it.
If one doesn’t have the short term goal of improving a basic kick, they will not be ready to perform longer term goals with such a kick: breaking boards, jump kicks, tests, and sparring.
A good martial artist strives to obtain a foundation and a layer of hard work.
My master states, “No status worth having is ever held with any true dignity absent the mark of kindness. Kindness amplifies all other qualities and synergies them to form something that all other marks could not by themselves reach.”
With such authority, skill, and codes of conduct, representation, etc, kindness is relevant in martial arts.
Whether it is a test, pain, adversity, or temptation, inside or outside of the class room, physically or mentally, one must strives to remain courageous and strong at these times.
There will be aspects like such ^ that will try to bend or shape you. One must have the ability to bounce back from them.
My master states, “If I transform/change, it is because I needed to, and not because someone or something threatened to reshape or break me.”
They remain whole and are in control.
Like integrity, a good martial artist strives to show such through words as well as actions. Loyalty to the school, instructor, and other students- they aim for this because they are returning what is done for them and they know the benefits of martial arts.
My master states, “I realize that I can buy an instructor’s time, but I can never buy knowledge or improvement at any price.”
My master taught me how to live- showing such gratitude can be repaid by living the way, going above and beyond, etc.
Martial arts concerns itself with the well-being of people. It provides physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects- as well as a way to defend and benefit others. Having compassion is like the umbrella of martial arts.
Overall, my master made it important to note a good martial artist puts effort and realistic improvement (inside and outside of the classroom), and that one does not have to be perfect in these.
My master states in his other book in a dedication to me:
“If you look for the parallels, you will find that the classroom is a microcosm that represents situations in our outer lives as well. Sparring allows others to challenge us to a higher level of development with friendship and respect – this lesson could serve you well in whatever profession you choose and even in your home life. When we break boards we learn the satisfaction and the possibility of smashing through obstacles that seem to block our way - you’ll need that lesson throughout life. When we perform and refine our forms, we practice a sort of moving meditation that allows us to find stillness in the midst of motion, and to center ourselves within ourselves for our best performance, regardless of what is going on around us - you’ll need that lesson in a very busy world which sometimes threatens to unbalance us with its commotion, activity, and drama.”
-Kwan Jang Nim Chad Boxx, June, 2013