My first foray into martial arts started at seven years old when my parents put me in Karate class. I really liked it (I think, I mean I was seven) but my friend who I came to classes with literally peed his pants while taking his orange belt test.
The poor kid was nervous, and safe to say he decided never to come back. The unfortunate incident still lives somewhere on a dusty VHS tape. I held a yellow belt at the time, but I decided I didn’t want to continue without my friend (bros before dojos) and this would be the last time I would see the inside of a dojo for about 10 years or so.
Fast forward to age 17 when my friend kicked my leg with his shin, making me realize I was essentially made out of marshmallows. So, I joined the gym he was training at.
Since then with a few small breaks, I’ve trained in Muay Thai pretty regularly. I’ve competed, I’ve won, I’ve lost, but mostly I’ve just evolved — not only as a martial artist but as a human. This is why I personally believe that martial arts can really advance many aspects of your life.
Let’s dive in!
Most of us don’t come out of the womb super confident — we’re a work in progress. This is why there are billion-dollar industries around diets, self-help, spirituality, wellness, you name it.
When you first show up at a martial arts gym, it can feel extremely intimidating. But over time, if you show up, do the work, and overcome the hardships, you will become more confident.
The beautiful part of martial arts is while you grow your strength physically, you build your strength mentally as well. You will likely not notice as it happens, but only in hindsight — when you reach your desired milestones — will you be able to take a hard look in the mirror and see how much you’ve grown.
No one can achieve your goals for you. If you want to get better, you better get disciplined.
With each increment of improvement, you’ll gain further self-discipline, which will likely spill over to your day-to-day routines and life. It’s a never-ending practice to become better; not better than anyone else, just better than who you were yesterday.
There are Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners who receive their red belt (extremely rare) at the “early” age of 67, after doing BJJ for over 50 years. This kind of discipline will naturally trickle into your personal life, as the realization of “I can achieve through hard work” permeates all aspects of your life.
Respect + Humility
Respect is built into martial arts; it’s the foundational fabric that holds it all together. You’re not there to beat up or hurt your teammate. You are there to improve and better yourself, and everyone is encouraged to improve and help others do the same.
There are many customs within each dojo that revolve around mutual respect between your teammates and especially towards your coach. From bowing to placing your hands near your heart as a sign of respect, to slapping hands and bumping fists in gratitude.
There’s a hierarchy and respect for your coaches and respect by your peers for anyone that puts in the work. The structure and hierarchy of a place like this give many people the only forced structure that they will have in their life.
Less likely to get into fights
Learning martial arts can help you avoid fights because it teaches self-discipline, self-control and respect.
Through consistent training, you will learn to better manage your emotions and react to stressful situations with calmness and composure. As you mature as a fighter, you come to understand fighting, the potential implications around it, and how to read people that should be avoided on the street.
Also if you’re properly training in the academy, who’s got the time or energy (or desire) to get into fights outside?
If the situation arises…
With that being said, you never know what could happen. Many people see fighters fight and without the proper perspective, experience or fight IQ think, “I could probably do that.”
If you have experience and some form of training, that already gives you a massive advantage over the average person on the street who has no zero martial arts experience. Training gives you confidence in your ability knowing that if a situation arises, you can defend yourself, your family, or your friends.
Ideally, you want to diffuse the situation without any punches thrown, but sometimes it’s inevitable, and that’s when all your years of practice will kick in. For women, this is even more crucial — whether it’s Krav Maga, BJJ, or Muay Thai — knowing how to defend yourself from an attacker is a huge boost in confidence.
Last year, some idiot tried to rob UFC star, Polyana Viana. She fought back, beat him up pretty badly, then restrained him until the police arrived. He (hopefully) learned a valuable lesson that day.
Meet friends + comunity
Some of the best friends I’ve met over the years have been from training around the world. There’s a similar comradery in the military, when you go through something so intense together you naturally form a bond with the people in your unit or your platoon.
Your dojo is your unit. You will become part of a community, and this is one group where no one will bully you, no one will make fun of you (not in a mean way at least) , and everyone is there for a shared purpose — to improve their craft.
That’s not to exclude competition. Your competitive nature is important for your development, but you can be competitive while still helping your teammates and forming a strong sense of a shared community.
Get in better shape
The majority of classes at Easton include sprints, stretching, stability, strength and conditioning, calisthenics, sparring, and other physical activities.
The more you train, the more that seeps into every other aspect of your life. Inertia kicks in, you eat better, drink less, and feel better due to your body being able to endure more for longer lengths of time.
The goal is not to get big or muscular, the goal is to feel better, healthier, and stronger. Your overall improved health will also have mental side effects that are, frankly, just a huge bonus. This leads me to my next, and final, point…
Improved mental health
There is a direct correlation between working out and improved mental health. Studies show that even 15 minutes of moderate exercise a day can reduce depression by 26 percent — working out enhances well-being through the release of endorphins.
From improving cognitive function to alleviating anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression, keeping in shape seems a win-win for both your physical and mental well-being.
From my own personal experience, martial arts have improved almost every facet of my life. My only regret is that I didn’t start it sooner.