Body and Mind: the complete martial arts package

When one thinks of martial arts there’s quite a lot that readily comes to mind. Usually there’s kung fu action film genre with the likes of stars such as Jackie Chan or Chuck Norris; people often conjure up images of hidden temples in the Chinese mountains were devout monks practise deadly skills; some like of karate and the samurai warriors; and then of course people think, perhaps first and foremost of the actual practice of martial arts and the physical attributes they bring, namely good physical health.

While it’s undeniable that any of these are typical of martial arts and in fact they all go into the rich cultural history of martial arts, there is often an overlooked element that to me is every bit as crucial as self-defence and good physical health and that is the more spiritual side of martial arts.

I’m not much of a spiritual person myself—that is to say, in fact, that I don’t believe in any particular god or gods or afterlife, nor do I adhere to any sort belief involving more vague concepts and spirits and energy.

Nevertheless, I have always found a very calming and, as I say, spiritual side to martial arts. I find that the mindset of a practitioner of martial arts is highly crucial. Many people feel that there’s a strong mind-body balance to health—and I readily agree!—and that to be a well-rounded and healthy person one needs to partake in both the physical and the mental. For some that may be as simple as getting out on the court and playing some basketball after work. For me however, there needs to be a bit more. While every sport has its own history, few have such a rich and ancient history as that of marital arts, regardless of if they’re from East Asia, the Middle East, Africa or anywhere else int he world.

To live a healthy life, I think there needs to be a balance between the physical and the mental and for me there’s no easier way to do that than to take up a sport, like karate for example, that comes with a readymade philosophical and historical endeavour attached to it. There’s little that’s as rewarding as partaking in a sport that broadens the mind as much as it tunes the body.