Take it with You: How Do You Take Your Martial Arts Out of the Dojo?


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More than once, I remember walking by my teacher's office on my way out, after a night of rigorous training, and hearing him say after me, "Don't leave your training in the school, take it with you!"

Hopefully, everyone, at some point in their martial art career realizes that there is more to the kicking, punching, throwing, choking, etc. than the mere physical act of it all. Perfecting the specific techniques and their applications are important, but there are applications beyond combat. Here are some lessons, often learned in class, that can be used in life.

Martial Arts for Life

  • Breath – Whether you learned abdominal breathing or not, concentrating on the breath is beneficial to your martial art and your overall being. When you take it with you, you can use it in moments where you are stressed out, such as a job interview. Before the interview, in the lobby or even in your car, you can think about all of the applications you have learned for breathing, such as exhaling while you strike, or deep breaths while you are fighting off a submission, and add one more by using long counts while you inhale and exhale as you prepare. Inhale (count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and then control the exhale the same way. As you concentrate on your breath, you know you will be calm, and be able to do your best in the interview.
  • Focus – There is nothing more important than what you are doing right now, and what you are doing right now requires focus. Whether blocking kicks and punches or setting up the perfect throw, you must focus. To prove my point, try carrying on a conversation about the Age of Enlightenment while you spar. You get the idea. To take it with you means that you focus, and do the best job you can at work, at home, or while listening to a friend. No matter what the task, you must do it with the same degree of intensity that you would if you were trying to land a kick or punch during a competition or a fight. Be present.
  • Courage – This could be the most important lesson of all and one we should seek to incorporate daily. Through training, the student hones their fighting skills, but the process equally hones their character. Facing fears, whether they be fear of injury or failure, is about sharpening one's resolve, and with that fine edge, cutting through the tapestry of doubt that often covers and obscures our everyday life. When you think all is lost, and you don't want to look up, or even get out of bed, don't quit.

Take it with you

The three items chosen represent the body (breath), mind (focus), and spirit (courage), but they are just examples and are in no way the limit of lessons from a student's training that can be used with great success in life off the mat. The next time you leave your class, think if there is a way to apply what you've learned elsewhere in your life. When we leave the dojo, gym, or school, we need to take those lessons with us. It is then that we are either living our art or we are not.

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