I’ve been feeling very unfit the past few weeks over Christmas and in Malaysia. I’ve done barely any exercise or martial training, and as usual, the state of my body when I’m out of training is starting to sadden and frustrate me. I’ve been pushing myself to exercise like crazy the past two days, conditioning the crap out of my shins and forearms (read: bruising them with a glass bottle) and doing both an obstacle course and swimming on the same morning, and I’m still raring to keep training at iaido this afternoon. I have to get moving and whip my body into shape!

Coupled with these feelings are thoughts on what sort of martial art is “best”. This is a question I’ve often thought about, and something I make active choices about each time I start learning a new style. For instance, Taekwondo taught me a lot, but I felt that I could learn more from Karate. Karate has its strengths, but Muay Thai is stronger in certain areas. But then again, the speed and fluidity of Wing Chun can be used to trump even an experienced kickboxer. Yet when taken to the ground by a grappling style like Brazillian Jiu Jitsu, a Wing Chun artist is doomed. Following this chain of thought over and over, one must then ask “Which martial art is worth learning the most?”

But I realised today that a more fundamental question underlies that. That question is “Why do I want to learn martial arts?” There are many reasons, and I feel it is important to identify them.

  • Purely for self-defence.
  • Discipline and strength of body.
  • Art and expression.
  • Showing off and cool party tricks.
  • For domination in sport and exercise.

Different martial arts contribute to each of the reasons. For example, tournament-based TKD is great exercise, and its impressive high kicks can be cool to show off. It tones and stretches the legs and can look beautiful. But in terms of self-defence, my learning was extremely limited. The first time I fought a karateka and they blocked my turning kick to the head, I realised I would not be able to beat him while his guard was up. So maybe I could learn all the arts that interest me, study them for the pleasure of learning. But ultimately what I wish to learn most is an undefeatable art for self-defence. Part of it is the drive to never be beaten when it counts. Tournaments and friendly spars are only indicators of skill- I can lose a thousand of them without shame. But if someone tries to hurt me seriously one day, that is the fight I must train to win. And I guess it frustrates me that I continually find new martial artists whose foreign styles and/or superior skill defeat my own training. What must I learn to be good enough to defend myself from any attack?

Perhaps the most important question is, “Why does it bother me so much?”

At any rate, my late unhealthiness has motivated me to start training more regularly (or at all, for that matter). I’m not sure what sort of exercises I can do, but I need to put my butt in gear and get back on the path of strengthening my body in general. The specifics of what I need (be it horse-riding stance for two hours or enough mass to shatter bricks) can come later, but I have to do something or else I’ll go stir-crazy.

I know the martial arts aren’t for winning. They are, at heart, a way to learn about the world and ourselves. So why am I so restless to be the best? Gahhh I hate these moods but I don’t know how else to get out of them. Maybe some Mugai will help.


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