Why Should You Learn Martial Arts?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: martial arts
10 May 2009


Back when I was a kid and had discovered karate on TV, I thought a black belt in karate could beat up any bad guy! I remember seeing shows like the Wild Wild West where Robert Conrad was able to fight his way out of many sticky situations because of his karate training (although karate had not made it to the United States yet – this TV series was set in the 1800’s).


As a boy I had to either learn how to fight or be one of the ones that gave away his lunch money. This started in the sixth grade but I was able to eventually get to the point where I stuck up for myself. Now I understand that girls are every bit as tough as boys. I will admit that I do not really understand the dynamics of girl on girl bulling but boys are simple – the bully will pick on anyone that is afraid of him!


In this post I will talk about some reasons why you should learn martial arts of some kind. I do not think the type of martial art is so important as actully starting the lessons! I wrote a post on how to pick a martial arts school here. Learning is generally an evolving process. I as a young man thought differently than I as a middle aged man. I will talk about this process, some expected goals, achieved goals and the importaint lessons I’ve learned from taking martial arts. Here is a video about one lesson Kwai Chang Caine (played by David Carradine) learned in the Kung Fu TV series.




The Kung Fu series was full of bits of wisdom such as this. I liked that it made you think there was more to fighting than just winning or losing. One had to be just and wise too! As in real life – Kwai Chang had to learn important lessons before he became a Kung Fu Master. He was a Shaolin Monk that had to flee to America. I remember watching this series during my formative years thinking there was more to martial arts than just fighting!


Some reasons to take martial are, self-defense, overcoming fear, conditioning, coordination, self-control, sport fighting, kata competition, confidence and a constructive kids activity where parents enroll their kids. Now as you can see there are many reasons that one might enroll in martial arts. I would say that self-defense is one of the more common reasons because of bullies at grade school. Self-defense is also a reason that some adults might take a martial art but this is not as prevalent in my experience. Adults have already figured out a way to stabilize their lives and generally are not picked on anymore.


Once a student learns a martial art, the reason they enrolled might change because their original reason is no longer a concern. One such example might be a student that enrolled for self-defense. He or she was being bullied at school but after a couple of years of karate lessons – they can now beat up the bullies that used to pick on them and are no longer bullied! Many times as happened to me – a student finds a new facet of the martial arts that interest him every bit as much and sticks with the training. One reason might be tournaments or teaching others how to defend themselves!


What if a bully wanted to learn karate? What would he gain from karate lessons? I forgot to mention discipline earlier as a reason to take karate lessons. The bully would have to learn how to fight within the karate framework and be severely sanctioned for breaking rules. In old school dojos one might have to face the master for hitting someone in anger or out of kumite! In Americanized schools – the bully might be singled out for extra conditioning lessons for every indiscretion. Soon the failings that pushed the bully to prey on the weak – would help him to see the plight of others. Hopefully emphasizing this plight to the point that he starts to help other students to hone their karate skills. This is the way a bully would be handled at most reputable schools.


Some goals I have achieved in martial arts are, self-defense, sport fighting, conditioning, problem solving, endurance, and ki/chi. While most of these are self explanatory, I would like to highlight ki or chi, or mind – body unification. Have you ever noticed some martial arts practitioners seem to know how to handle a situation whereas others cannot? When the mind and body unify through the martial arts concept of ki – a practitioner can do some things that are seemingly impossible for most people.


The father of Akido, Morihei Ueshiba was one that had ki or chi. He was able to so apparently do super human feats as an aged master that younger practitioners could not do. I have been helped by ki in my life many times as I’ve had to figure out how to come out of tricky situations. I remember getting into a fight as I was ejecting some people from a bar I worked as a doorman. One of the guys was really upset that he could not stay and made the usual threats after I won the altercation.


I told him that he was not allowed back and went back into the bar. I was watchful that evening as always and I noticed some heads a half a block away ducking when I surveyed the streets (as part of my job I walked the waitresses to their cars). I had a feeling someone was waiting for me and called the cops (the first and only time in the two years I worked there). The cops came and found a couple of the guys I had bested with a shotgun on their laps, apparently lying in wait for me. I am thankful my ki enlightened me to the danger.


When I started taking karate lessons, the mechanics of fighting was my focus. As I got better, I started to just knowing when to throw a foot or hand to win a fight! I remember on a job interview to be a cop (I did not get the job as I did not have a formal education at the time) I was asked as a point of interest, how I knocked out the bad guys in my fights (you see I had told them about my fighting ability). I answered truthfully that I threw either a punch or a kick to whatever was open. It did not matter what I liked to throw – only what they were open for it at the time! I also attribute that to my ki! My inner strength that kept me safe through all of my street fights.


I think some of the lessons I have learned are, self-confidence,  self-defense, point sparring, full contact sparring, ki – mind/body unification that allowed me to achieve whatever goal I strived for in the marital arts. I think that learning/developing ki was the most important lesson I have learned in martial arts. With ki, I can defend myself. With ki, I can orchestrate my body to do what my mind envisions – even if I do not realize what that is as I am doing it. Ki is a hard concept to understand but if you think of it as the inner strength that unifies the mind and body to accomplish the chief goal, you will begin to get a glimmer of what ki is.


If I was asked what was the most important part of the martial art in my first few years of lessons, I would have probably said self-defense or fighting. Now I realize that bringing the mind and body to do whatever task I am trying to accomplish is so much more important than just fighting.


If you have enjoyed this post about why you should learn the martial arts, Please consider subscribing to my RSS Feed.


 Subscribe in a reader

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

5 Responses to “Why Should You Learn Martial Arts?”

  1. Neal Martin Says:

    I think our reasons for doing things get less superficial as we get older, especially in the martial arts. As you say, when we first start it’s all about wanting to learn the mechanics of technique so that we can fight better, look better, feel better or whatever. After some years though we begin to take more of interest in the profounder aspects of the training. I find myself now, after twenty-five years of training, wanting to develop my inner strength more; to tap into other abilities that I know are there but I just have to work on uncovering them, like Ki, as you mentioned in the post. I guess it’s true what they say- you mellow with age!

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Yep… I find that I am able to put moves together easily where as when I was younger – it was more mechanical. And yes I too am mellow now!

  3. The Single Most Important Lesson in Martial Arts Says:

    […] John W. Zimmer: “Initially I would have stated self-defense or fighting was the most important lesson. On reflection, I would have to say that learning how to unify my mind and body, or ki, is the most important lesson I have learned while studying the martial arts…” […]

  4. donna Says:

    So I love reading this blog, great stuff! I wanted to ask about Krav Maga video training. I know it’s not as good as a real lesson with an instructor watching over me etc, but I don’t live near a krav maga center. Do you know of anything worth recommending in this area?

  5. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Donna, Try googling “krav maga” “lessons” and see what you get. Also consider any striking martal art. Check out the schools near you and see if you like any instructors/training.
    Good luck