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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Exploring Martial Arts is like exploring relationships

Martial Arts training, can be a lot like finding relationships.....sort of like "dating". Having been single for a few years now, I've come back to realizing the true reasons why I train and teach. And humorously, I've realized that Martial Arts paths are indeed sort of like the paths experienced through dating or forming relationships (with anyone...doesn't necessarily have to be a romantic relationship)

Think about it,....when you're first attracted to someone and you're on the "pursue" phase, sometimes we take on a slightly different persona during that time. We take on that "good behavior" persona so that the the person we're interested in sees our good side and hopefully, is attracted to us as well. During that "dating persona" time, we generously compliment the object of our admiration, we see the great things about the other (and sort of ignore the less-than-great-things), we arrange our schedules to spend time with the other, we hang on to their every word, and listen for the phone to ring. Sound familiar??

And so...two of you get together, things are going great, communication is good, you enjoy each other's company and all is good. Then, what happens? Time goes on, and the honeymoon phase ends. Although the excitement of being with the other person is still there, it is definitely not like the first few months. Although you care deeply for the other, over time you've seen the other's true self, outside of the dating persona. If you choose to be with the other's true self, you find that the love and caring is indeed always there, but the feeling is not that sense of "urgent" desire to be with the other is not always that feeling of butterflies in your stomach when you see them, it is not that feeling of having to say and do all the right things. Instead, if all goes well, the feeling gains a sense of deeper meaning, a higher understanding of the other, a sense of trust, and a true sense of connection. You then begin to truly enjoy the time together, instead of merely being addicted to the activities.

On the other hand....if the relationship gets too one sided, or if your expectations of the other person turn out to be so over-estimated that you become disappointed that he or she is not the epitomy of perfection you so thought them to be, you'll soon be looking somewhere else to satisfy your desire for companionship. Or, you try to keep your expectations of them, trying hard to look for anything positive and ignoring anything that doesn't fit what you're looking for. Also, in some cases, you might meet someone that seems so wonderful, but they show an attractive personality just long enough to secure your willingness to stick around or for whatever ulterior motive they might have.....then they drop the ball and you're left high and dry.

Whether you stay strong in a relationship, you leave the relationship, or the other person leaves you, you learn a lot of things about yourself along the way. Some of these life lessons may not be easy pills to swallow, but hopefully, we learn to look at ourselves with an honest eye. We learn to not place the total blame on the other person, nor do we take all the credit for for a wonderful relationship. We learn that any relationship is based on the efforts of both people.

Martial artists will know exactly how the dating scene relates to our paths in martial arts. I see it all the time. New students are so gung ho about their training. They come to class as often as they can (sometimes every day, and even stopping in to practice during non-class times), and they're attracted to the benefits and challenges that the activity brings. They're making new friends, getting stronger and more skilled every day, and they love it so much that they sometimes say "I wish the school had this class every day". They do their best to show good technique, respect, and gain favorable nods from the instructors. As instructors, we say "This gal or guy is gonna be good!".

Then, with some folks, the initial excitedness wears off. The interest is still great, but they realize that they have other responsibilites outside of martial arts class, and their attendance drops to a more realistic level. Their participation in class then begins to show that they're not trying hard in practice to impress the teachers or senior students....they begin to practice for *themselves*, and that's when we as instructors see their "true colors". If the students sticks around, they do indeed gain a sense of deeper meaning, a higher understanding, a sense of trust, and a true sense of connection with the art of their affection. You begin to learn a lot more about yourself and how to relate to the art. You begin to truly enjoy and experience the time, not just satisfy your need for activity.

And...on the other hand, if your expectations of an art are overestimated (or in many cases, wrong altogether), uninformed, or stereotyped, you might be surprised when you begin to find the true nature of the art. I've had many people come into my school assuming that Tai Chi was merely a type of slow happy dance (really, I'm not kidding). Or, they stereotype Tai Chi as only an exercise for the elderly, infirm, or those undergoing physical therapy. Some do learn through a bit of research that Tai Chi is a great exercise for all ages, and a good activity for stress relief and meditation. But when I pull out the combat applications of Tai Chi out of my hat, some people are taken aback in disbelief.....even when I tell them from the very beginning that Tai Chi is first and foremost, a martial art. "What! You mean those movements can actually be used for combat? I'm outta here!". In these cases, I try to refer them to an activity that would best suit them.

I'm not even going to get into studios or teachers that put forth a big attractive personality, then don't deliver what they claim. These schools are very few, thank goodness. For the most part, martial arts schools are professional, staffed with skilled teachers, and honest with their students.

So......Whether you stay strong in a relationship with your art, you leave the art, or the art distances itself leaves you, you learn a lot of things about yourself along the way. Some of these life lessons may not be easy pills to swallow, but hopefully, we learn to look at ourselves with an honest eye. We learn to not place the total blame on the art, nor do we take all the credit for for a wonderful relationship with the art. We learn that any relationship is based on the efforts of both people.

As someone who has been been around the dating scene a little bit in the last few years, I am sort of amused by the parallels between dating/good relationships, and martial arts training / mastery. I'm in no big hurry to find the person of my dreams at a dating service or at the supermarket and have them sweep me away. Nor am I in the biggest hurry to become an Nth degree Grand-Poobah-head honcho master. But one thing is for sure in both cases.....I'm going to keep looking, striving to be at my best and true to my personality, goals, and dreams.....hopefully, it will result in favorable situations in both cases!

So, I ask you, dear reader.....have any of you been through any interesting martial arts "Dating Experiences" lately? Doesn't necessarily have to be in comparision to martial arts.......Let's get your 2 cents! Feel free to comment.

Train well...

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Zen said...

Very True!!!

B. Water said...

Accurate observations/Although MA weaknesses are usually discovered earlier than dating ones because of deception of partner.
PS--Love your blog/content

Restita, Seattle Wushu Center said...

Thanks, B.! Yes, I martial arts, weaknesses are discovered a little early. But, it guess it kind of depends on the perception of one's own skill.

Lyn Yancha, LMP said...

I really don't know how to comment since this is my FIRST time doing Tai Chi. So far, I love it! I just need more time and space to practice, but yes, I am being realistic about this new "relationship."

And I want this relationship to come with me to AK when I move. So I guess I want "her" to move with me. LOL!

But all kidding aside... I do agree that the weaknesses are found out earlier, though the art is non-judgmental. It is we the "newbie" who ends up making judgments about the art. In a way, it is "one-sided."