Madison Grasshoppers Martial Arts - Why Martial Arts and How

Why Martial Arts & How?

By Bogdan Heretoiu / Grasshoppers Martial Arts Club & KineOasis Founder

Why Martial Arts & How?

By Bogdan Heretoiu / Grasshoppers Martial Arts Club & KineOasis Founder

As a Martial Arts practitioner, I found that the subject of “purpose” when it comes to practicing comes up quite often in articles, conversations, and even the beginning or ending of lessons. More so, many practitioners across the world realize that as time passes and they advance in their skill level - and their age - the reason why they practice undergoes a subtle but continuous process of transformation.

This is often due to the evident physical limitations that come with aging, but it is also due to our ever-expanding understanding of what it is we are doing…and why.

The “why” is a particularly intriguing aspect, and there as as many reasons why we practice as there are practitioners. In this article, I will try to cover a few of the more general reasons “why”, and dive into exploring the much more relevant subsequent question - “how?”

My take, after practicing for more than 40 years, is that everyone - literally everyone - should practice Martial Arts during their life. 

It is important to distinguish between the cliche of what people perceive Martial Arts to be versus the reality of purposing Martial Arts practice. We see this expressed to some degree through the slew of available styles and schools of thought - even philosophies - permeating all Martial Arts communities and subcultures.

Some practice for health benefits, some for fitness, some for combat, some for competitive sports, some for fun, etc. Depending on these reasons, the movement and training approach differs - and so do the results.

It is safe to say then - if we agree to accept all points of view as valid - that Martial Arts practice depends on the reason we practice and becomes what we define it to be.

A Parent may wish for their child to become more respectful and focused, an older adult may wish to maintain the health of their joints and mobility level, a Teen may wish to be able to defend against bullying, a Soldier’s life may depend on hand-to-hand combat skills, an Athlete may wish to win a National title at Kata - all of these are absolutely valid reasons to practice, and all of them require different paths of training. 

Here are some benefits of martial arts practice that are listed on the Internet, as sourced via an AI-assisted search (Author's Note - these listed benefits can be found in almost every Martial Arts program description):

  • Physical benefits
    Improved cardiovascular health, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and weight loss. Martial arts can also help to improve your reflexes and coordination.

  • Mental benefits
    Increased self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-control. Martial arts can also help to reduce stress and anxiety and improve your focus and concentration.

  • Emotional benefits
    Martial arts can help you to develop a more positive attitude and outlook on life. They can also help you to deal with difficult emotions in a healthy way.

  • Self-defense skills
    Martial arts can teach you how to defend yourself against an attacker. They can also give you the confidence and skills to stand up for yourself and others.

  • Discipline and focus
    Martial arts can help you to develop discipline and focus. They can also help you to improve your self-control and self-management skills.

  • Respect and honor
    Martial arts often emphasize the importance of respect and honor. They can help you to develop a more positive and respectful attitude towards others.

  • Fitness and wellness
    Martial arts are a great way to get exercise and improve your overall fitness. They can also help you to improve your mental and emotional health.

  • Community and connection
    Martial arts can help you to connect with other people and build a sense of community. They can also provide you with a sense of support and belonging.

  • Personal growth and development
    Martial arts can help you to grow and develop as a person. They can help you to overcome challenges, build your character, and achieve your goals.

It is important to note that the benefits of martial arts will vary depending on the individual and the type of martial arts they practice. However, in general, martial arts can offer a wide range of benefits for both physical and mental health.

As you can see, a basic Internet search will reveal a slew of potential benefits of practicing Martial Arts, and it is quite possible that you or a member of your family will identify at least one that you can relate to - now or in the foreseeable future.

But will this answer the question “how” should you practice Martial Arts in order to achieve whatever your goal with it might be?

Here is an example:

A 15 year old wishes to become less “jittery” when it comes to their movement in general. Would Kung Fu help? Should they try Tai Chi? Would Karate be more efficient? 

As you see in this example, more often than not we attempt to answer a very specific question through a very general answer - in this case by trying to fit a desired outcome within a default perception of one system or another. 

As soon as this analysis error takes place, we then self-direct towards a chosen option, eventually immerse in it and gradually assume its parameters (values, concepts, rules, etc). Over time - sometimes years - the Teen in our example may or may not achieve that initially set goal of becoming less “jittery”.

So what happened?

The answers fall within the range of biased judgment and it happens because instead of conducting a deep investigation and analysis of all factors involved we took a leap based on how our preconceived idea of what Martial Arts are - and could do - has taken root in our mind at some point in our past.

Let us consider the same example, but now pretend that Martial Arts were a form of Therapy and we were in a position to make an informed analysis and diagnose of the issue:

Are we facing an effect of anxiety? Is it a side-effect of particular medication? Is this a continuous occurrence, a morning or midday event? Does it get better or worse under any specific conditions, i.e. diet, sleep, noise, social environment, etc?

Would Taekwondo help?

Simply by changing our approach to understanding what we need and researching available options to achieve it will throw the initial bias into a spin. As we consider the root/cause of jitters (per our example), merely asking ourselves if Taekwondo would help becomes clearly a flawed and ineffective approach - and most likely so will our results.

NOTE to my Taekwondo readers, this is no way meant derogatively. I simply chose this example because Taekwondo is one of the Martial Arts styles that limits the amount of dogma and elusiveness permeating its practice. That’s a good thing.

Let’s reframe the entire process and answer the question asked in the title of this article:

Why Martial Arts & How?

The “why” is relatively simple. Each one of us must be fully honest with ourselves at the moment we ask this question. Then, we must take that answer - whatever it may be - and begin a thorough research on how to best accomplish our “why”.

Why be thorough? In short, because this is your life. Your time. Your body. Your money. 

In other words, what we choose to do MUST belong to us; it must fit our current needs and chosen goals. It would be disastrous for an athlete who wants to compete in Kumite to choose to practice Kata for 4-5 hours a day throughout their training. They would not last a second in a Kumite competition. The opposite is true just the same - if you are not interested in fighting, but enjoy the challenge of mobility and community, then a style categorized as “soft” or even “internal” might be what you are looking for.

Regardless of the style or school you will choose, out of respect for your own time and money, you should pursue a deeper level of inquiry into how that choice will affect you in a way that benefits you. In the end and with full honesty, we can state that the results of your practice will first depend entirely on the quality of instruction, second on your level of commitment to your own practice, and finally third, on the effective synchronization in scope and purpose of these two.

Just a few examples are posture, stress, confidence, etc. ALL of these can be addressed through slight modifications in methodology and minute adjustments in the practice and movement itself. Mechanically repeating patterns based on a fixed set of instructions is the old way - archaic, if methodologically speaking. As Human Beings, we are not meant to turn into robots. Instead, our explorations of Movement (in this case Martial Arts) should illuminate ways for us to improve and transform as we need to.

At the Grasshoppers Martial Arts Club and in my practice as a Martial Arts Instructor for Kids, Youth, and Adults of all ages, my approach is one of Movement Mentorship. The fact that I am no longer bound by specific style requirements, by a rigid form and framework in training, frees me to train my students at their level of need and want, but most importantly, it frees me to be able to intervene as needed and when needed to support the growth and development expected by my students (or the parents of my students).

I aim to make my teaching a tool that anyone can use from day one. Since the way I teach is for teaching the process of learning through movement exploration, we do not have a defined destination (this is the hardest aspect for most people to understand or accept). The results depend on each individual because each person needs something different and they will absorb what they do in different ways and according to their need and purpose. 

That said, oftentimes, at first, we focus on the basics of movement, awareness, etc... When it comes to natural movement skills, if I were to compare a young human to a young chimp, humans are overwhelmingly stunted. So a lot of time and effort goes into re-discovering that natural way to be a living being.

When I work with a student or a group of students, I am in full analysis mode. I scan and interpret all forms of abilities and how everything is dynamically connected. ALL of this informs me, as a teacher - or guide - however you want to call me, AND, it informs the practice of exploration as we inch forward into each Student’s growth through these aspects.

In short, my teaching - and by extension, the practice of Martial Arts - is a tool for students to use.

Regardless of what style anyone chooses, it is truly important to figure out why they chose what they did, and then establish at least a basic framework for how that choice will lead them to answer their “why”. This is possible in part because Martial Arts are invaluably complex in their range of offerings and incredibly adaptable to virtually an infinite number of possible use cases. After all, Martial Arts are MOVEMENT, and movement is a fundamental characteristic of Life itself.

See you on the practice floor, but if you choose to - or have to - go elsewhere to practice, then make sure you observe to what degree you are asked to conform to a system versus that system being adaptable enough to fit your immediate and concrete needs. In other words, observe and analyze to what degree your initial WHY synchronizes with your current HOW.

Bo is the Founder of the Grasshoppers Club, a Martial Arts practice for all ages and levels inviting everyone to Re-Think Martial Arts. He can be found online via KineOasis.com and in person in Madison, WI.

You can improve the quality of your Life through the quality of your Movement starting today. Book a class HERE.

KineOasis offers Ballet, Martial Arts, and Somatic classes for kids, youth, and adults in Madison, WI. Our classes are open to all levels and ages.

Movement As Sanctuary - A method and teaching philosophy