I've been doing some serious thinking on WHY I am doing martial arts. I can't get it out of my mind and that's all I've been thinking about.

This all happened after a trip to Japan and Australia with my Sensei. He introduced me to a huge number of Senseis from different arts like Aikido, Karate, Jiu-Jitsu, Iado, etc.

After having long, serious, and enlightening chats with them, I found that in the end, they would always ask me WHY I am practicing it. All my answers basically have a hole in them, and now there is a hole in my heart.

Below are my answers and the senseis' replies:

Me: Because it is exciting and I love to spar and meet new people.

Them: What happens when you get old or when you are unable to spar. You would not get the excitement that you used to have. Would you abandon your art after that?

Me: Condition my body, make me strong.

Them: What happens when you get to your highest level of strength and fitness? Do you then stop progressing? Do you stop practicing since you have achieved your goal?

There are many more answers which I have given, but could not recall.

I've been practicing it for all these years, basically for self defense and general fitness. The competition parts also make it exciting for me. Philological-wise, I've been trying to understand and live by their way.

How can I overcome this dilemma?

  • 4
    I voted to close because your question is too broad and invites discussions. The latter is very much not supported by SE sites. This would make for an interesting conversation but this Q&A site is not the place for it. Feb 5 '14 at 7:56
  • 3
    I agree with Sardathrion. Interesting question, but as it is too broad and basically a list question. Better suited to be discussed on chat
    – THelper
    Feb 5 '14 at 9:41
  • 1
    @DaveLiepmann: I honestly cannot find a way to ask "Why do you train" in a way that would fit SE without being a list of things, too broad, and so personal that no one answer would fit more than a few people unless platitudes are given. If you think you can, go for it! Feb 5 '14 at 14:15
  • 1
    @Sardathrion Have you read Good Subjective, Bad Subjective? This question inspires long "why" and "how" answers that share experiences. It's more than just social fun. This is a good subjective question. SE is not supposed to be knee-jerk opposed to this kind of question. Feb 5 '14 at 14:35
  • 2
    @DaveLiepmann - I've read good/bad before, and I think this misses on points 5 and 6. It's close, but I don't think it's a good subjective question.
    – JohnP
    Feb 5 '14 at 15:16

These Japanese "masters" sound like losers.

When you're too old to compete, you can still spar and give back to the art by coaching.

When you're too old to spar, you can still hang around the gym to give pointers and be friendly. You can still train to be fit and in condition. The idea that you'll reach your pinnacle of fitness and then need to quit is not just wrong, it's nihilist nonsense. Physical culture is not about reaching a goal and then going back to the couch. It's a lifestyle.

Anyway, I doubt these pseudo-martial-artists have come within a dozen miles of reaching the peak of their physical or martial abilities.

Have they squatted and done gymnastics, achieved a split, written a book on the nuances of nage-no-kata? Do they know nothing of shugyo?

It sounds like these guys are soft, and they want you to train soft too. Reject that. One can train hard well in the martial arts into one's forties and fifties, and can continue to achieve new physical feats into one's sixties and seventies.

These guys want you to give up on that and train like you're already ninety, eschewing hard sparring and rigorous training not because it's impossible but because they don't like the feeling of hard work. I bet they want to play with kata and wrist locks and other non-competitive, physically undemanding soft training, and they want to brainwash you into doing the same. Don't listen to them.

  • 1
    Losers, maybe. Trolling, most definitively: instead of a goal, I believe they were pointing to the road. Finding a goal is easy but walking the path is hard. Which is more or less what you are saying... Although, I am not sure you answered the question -- whatever the question was. Feb 5 '14 at 14:10
  • 3
    Your prejudices are showing. If I had a student that I asked that question and they respond "I love to spar", that indicates a more superficial view, and I would also ask "What happens if you couldn't spar any more?". I think they are inviting him to see beyond his current somewhat myopic viewpoint. Also, if you have someone that truly enjoys what you call "soft" training, is that a bad thing? Is it only really martial arts training if you're throwing around small cars and running into walls to toughen yourself?
    – JohnP
    Feb 5 '14 at 15:19
  • @JohnP Try using "soft" training techniques in a real life scenario. Many people believing in "soft" training are ignorant and are lying to themselves. I agree with Dave Liepmann.
    – Tassisto
    Mar 19 '14 at 12:45

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.