Being true relates to the martial arts in various ways. It can relate to the search for honest answers to the questioning of the techniques that are applied e.g. are the techniques being applied the most simple, direct, effective techniques? Also, it can be asked, are we being true to ourselves when looking at why we, as individuals, are involved in the martial arts? Many people, who practice martial arts have never been in a physical confrontation outside of the training hall and maybe, if they are lucky, never will. Over the years I have seen people get involved in the martial arts for other reasons than learning how to apply realistic self- defence techniques. Some join a martial arts school for the health benefits of exercise and physical activity, hoping to achieve a feeling of wellbeing as they attain the stamina and energy to perform daily tasks without becoming fatigued. They continue their martial arts training to maintain (or improve upon) that energy throughout their life. For others, with an abundance of energy and enthusiasm, it goes much further and the martial arts become a way for them, amongst other things, to express themselves artistically, leading to entertaining audiences with public performances and work in television and films.
Adrian and Neil Rayment, known as The Matrix Twins after appearing in the film Matrix Reloaded and British-born Gary Daniels, who as well as having an accomplished tournament and kickboxing career, pursued and fulfilled his dream of starring in films after being inspired by Bruce
Lee, are fine examples of martial artists reaching a wider audience with their talent, ability and determination to achieve. Some martial artists even go beyond technique, reaching a higher philosophical level but there are others who do not have any desire to develop themselves to their true potential (physically or spiritually). They seem more interested in getting certificates of rank on their walls to impress their family and friends rather than making any self improvement or being focused on learning effective self defence techniques (their emphasis on looking effective instead of BEING effective). If these people are honest with themselves, then they know that if they do not train with a realistic approach then it is very likely that the techniques that they learn in the training hall will not work when they are needed in a real combative situation.
Apart from this attitude having a possible negative effect on a martial arts class, maybe the same attitude spreading to other students, not much harm is done. So long as the students are true to themselves regarding their reasons for training and realise that if they do not apply themselves in the correct manner, both physically and mentally, in the training hall, then it is most likely that the techniques they are learning will not work on the streets. I am aware that there have been occasions when some students have got into a street-fight and blamed and criticised the style when the techniques have not worked in their favour instead of accepting that their defeat was largely due to how they inappropriately applied themselves during training. This reflected a weakness in themselves rather than a weakness in the style. The point that
I am making is the importance of being true to ourselves and not just with the martial arts training but throughout every day life.
When we have set-backs it could per-haps sometimes seem easier if instead of looking at reasons, we look for excuses, but making excuses will not help us learn from our experiences. As a martial artist, I do not cover up my weaknesses with my strengths. I bring my weaknesses out into the open and work on them with my students and training partners and doing this helps me to improve upon my weaknesses (and encourages my students to do the same) and sometimes I am able to turn my weaknesses into strengths. I know of some martial artists who will not admit to others that they have weaknesses, and even more damaging to their progress, they seem to refuse to acknowledge it to themselves that they have weaknesses (and faults). This attitude stops them becoming the best that they can be and I meet people with the same attitude in every day life.
I believe if the need for improvement is recognised then things are already improving and it is important to continue that improvement with positive action. Books have played an important part in my personal development, such as in the search for my own truth. Our minds, through reading, can be put in contact with the minds of extraordinary people, great thinkers of the past (and present!), creating educational experiences for us; for example, reading about other people’s mistakes can stop us from making the same mistakes ourselves. As well as being educational, reading has also been a productive form of relaxation for me. The martial arts too have been and continue to be a constant learning process to me. When I get asked questions by my students that I do not know the answer to, I am honest with my students and admit when I do not know the answers and by then going to a higher source to get answers, I too learn from my students questions. I understand that sometimes it is more productive to my student’s development if I suggest and offer ways for them to find answers for themselves, instead of giving them direct answers myself.
Also, upon reflection, after my first few months of training over twenty years ago in Tae Kwon Do, the self confidence that I developed from learning techniques together with the trust that I developed among my fellow students and instructor, helped to improve my relations with others. The martial arts can help to unite mind, body and spirit and attaining this unity and balance, I feel, can aid the further development of social skills and help us gain a greater understanding of others, which can also help us gain a greater, more deeper, truthful understanding of ourselves. It is my opinion that a big aspect of being true to ourselves is having an open mind, a quality that I believe, not only promotes development in the martial arts, but also contributes to the promotion of personal growth in other areas of life. As to the question why do I and many others stay involved in the martial arts? well, there does seem to be a common, but simple truth -because we enjoy it.
About the author: Peter Jagger teaches self defence in the Kings Norton area of Birmingham. He has attained the grades Black Belt 1st Dan Tae
Kwon Do. BlackBe/t 1st Dan Wado Ryu Karate, Black Belt 2nd Dan Freestyle Karate, Black Belt 3rd Dan Choi Kwang Do, Black Belt 4th Dan Bushindo-
Kai, Black Belt 4th Dan WKA and is also graded in other styles/systems.