Martial Arts: How They Can Influence A Man’s Attitude.

In General

When I stepped on the first tatami of my life, just few years ago, I had little idea of what I was going to face. My experience on the subject started and ended with a lot of Martial Arts movies (only mainstream ones at that time I must confess – now you can find me watching Malaysian ones in original language) and for sure I never thought before about being able to do high kicks, to master lap sao or snake disarm.

My only point was to start practicing some sport, stay in shape, fighting the Kingdom of Boredom. Needless to say all these aims have been easily reached, twice a week. But not only these.

I am an not an athlete, I have an average style of life, and a very stressful job which leaves me exhausted, mentally and physically, each evening. So WHY dress up, have a light dinner at impossible hours and go to bed at even more impossible hours with the consequence of looking like a Panda the day after (ok, a Kung-Fu Panda maybe) for the sake of training with the risk of collapsing twice a week from 9 to 11 pm?

Because martial arts change people.

How?

It’s now almost four years since I started training Jeet Kune Do, Kali Escrima and Pencak Silat in my hometown with a super competent teacher, Sifu Ivan, and along with a very nice group of boys and girls which is growing from year to year. I am not going to describe in detail the features of these arts (there is people more capable and prepared than me for this, and it’s not really the point of this article), let’s just say that they include any kind of fight (standing, in clinch, to the ground), bare-handed and with weapons (sticks, long stick, knife), and covers some many different techniques (levers, grips, projections, disarming) that makes you feel you’re back at school studying Maths. Bruce Lee’s philosophy of, simplifying to the bone, creating your own style while living in a open world, is felt around you at each lessons, without the need of sitting down and have a lecture about it.

I would add that, to me, getting close in touch to Lee’s concept of living life, making YOUR OWN style everyday you get out of bed, met perfectly my vision of the world, and of myself. It’s like meeting somebody that can put in simple words a feeling you always had inside.

This is why I push every friend to come and at least have a first free lesson, why I keep talking for hours about it with friends training different styles, why I may be tempted by birthday parties, blonde girls, hot pizza, cold beer, but there is NO WAY I’m losing my Monday-Thursday training sessions.

Physical Improvements:

  • STRENGTH: I have gathered more muscles now at 36 than I ever did in years of boring gym. I look better; I can help my aging dad with moving furniture without suffering back spasm the day after.
  • FLEXIBILITY: doing constant stretching, taking care of having the right warm ups when you are going to train kicks all night, helps me against little pains of sedentary life. And helps me feel younger in general.
  • RESISTANCE: running, jumping (physical training is very important for my group and we dedicate at least 45 minutes to it) obviously makes you feel better. Fatigue makes you feel ALIVE and it’s the most effective drug against stress.

That’s quite obvious: any kind of training (maybe even for table tennis) brings advantages. But after a 10 hour-day at work discussing projects with Russian, French, and Polish customers, motivation is the only thing that matters when you have to face the choice of either going out in the rain or to sleep on the sofa with the latest episode of Games of Throne on your tablet. For sure it’s my fault not to have the will of Captain America, but motivation to me comes mainly through stimulus. And stimulus comes from the mind. Which brings us to:

Mental Improvements:

  • CONCENTRATION: The more exhausted you are, the more you have to rely on your mind. Focus is everything, and as soon as you lose it the most basic technique puts you to shame. The mind is REALLY the most powerful tool we have.
  • DISCIPLINE: Despite we are not the most serious group of people, there are several moments in which you WANT to shut up, open your eyes and ears and absorb all you can. Previously I often had the tendency of over talking and not really listening to people I was talking to. I’m learning now. Most of my ex-girlfriends would go mad knowing this.
  • SATISFACTION: Most techniques look so complicated that you are literally tempted to fake an injury and run into the shower. Then you take it slow, ask Sifu to repeat it. Again. Please again. And again. No not on me please! And there it is (Please note: we don’t practice complicated kata or figures that must go by heart and be practiced 10 times a day, but still being able to repeat the first 30 angles of kali is no joke). A more mere satisfaction may also lie in seeing yourself high-kicking your friend in the teeth (not hard of course, we’re friends!); I have never honestly thought about myself face-kicking bad guys around, and to KNOW it’s POSSIBLE…well I feel like high-fiving myself every time.
  • FUN: Fun to me is a mental improvement: too many times we are swallowed by everyday life, we shout at the dog, we don’t greet the neighbors, we don’t laugh at colleague’s silly joke. I believe it is our duty to enjoy life, and to make it the mirror of ourselves, and the simpler way is to do the things you love, stick to them, give them value. What you do is what is worth of you. And I personally have fun, a lot of fun, with JKD. Credit for this goes entirely to the people I train with, and this is merely good luck.
  • SENSE OF CHALLENGE: “Ok guys now take your mate on your shoulders and let’s do this exercise…” “Are you CRAZY??? My lawyer is going to sue you tomorrow, I promise”. I say these very words EVERY NIGHT and each time I truly believe something is going to explode somewhere inside of me. And it never happens; I am able to perform all the exercise (almost) all the time, to my own very surprise. And Sifu or some other mate is behind you supporting, motivating. I believe there are people in the world paying thousands of dollars to their psychiatrist, for less than a quarter of the results I get every Monday evening.
  • TEAM BUILDING: I used to play basketball in my 20s, so I’ve always been looking for, and appreciating, team spirit. In JKD we have no belts, but students are divided into main groups (usually advanced one, basic one, medium one) and we are encouraged to mix up, give advice, suggestions, to helping each other, to add something personal. This is how an open world works, with rules but not strict rules, with limitations that are mostly encouragements to go further.
  • KNOWING YOURSELF: How much time does it take to raise one arm to parry a blow? How much strength do I need to throw a quick jab? Martial arts puts you under test, forces you to use muscles you didn’t think you had, and to listen and to test yourself. There is no Supreme Technique of The Flying Punch (even if I keep asking to be taught Hadouken); you can choose those you like more from a huge set. If your shoulder hurts today don’t force yourself and choose something different. Knowing ourselves is a never-ending chase.

 

But the better part of all this, is that you can step down from the tatami and bring this all along with you (wait: I am no lone avenger, I have never wanted to learn how to hurt people, on the contrary since the moment I learned how take down the drunkard that steps on my foot while queuing for the toilet, I have noticed I am FAR less aggressive: I can hurt you annoying asshole…bet that I can hit you on the throat before you realize it…but wait, why?? you are only a bit drunk…and honestly you could be me 5 years ago…let’s joke and laugh together, I like that better!). I feel physically ok every morning, my back hurts no more, and I’m really convinced I feel (and look) better then most of people of my age. Also I have new friends, a whole new field of interest to cultivate, books to read, movies to watch, and exhibitions to attend.

Discipline, motivation, awareness of what I love and want to stick to helps move through my days at work, with friends; I no longer feel like “Oh My God I will never make it”, because I know I simply need more focus, more will, more hard work.

Failing, falling, having Sifu explaining ten straight times the same technique frees you up from the fear of self esteem, and from the awful worrying of the need to fill the void with empty thoughts, and words.

I can summarize this in one word: attitude. With the right attitude no door is closed. Finding a new job is just a task. Waiting for hours at Russian Customs for passport control is not disturbing nor boring. The city you live in is not a grey box of asphalt but a reign full of stimulus.

 

So, are you going to join me for a first free lesson?

By Stefano Masciadri
Monza, Italy.
Jeet Kune Do, Kali Escrima, Pencak Silat.

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