October 2014. I used to think achieving a black belt was what defined someone as a martial artist. I began studying TKD because I wanted something I could start at zero with and objectively improve upon. I would learn more and get better and every once in a while I would test my newfound skills and someone would hand me a new color belt and say, "Yes you are becoming a martial artist." The belting system of tkd offered just that. But by the time it came to test for black belt I experienced what I call a Dorothy moment. For those two years of study I had been looking for something outside of myself to validate me but that wasn't what kept me coming back. It was my own exploration of this martial arts system, the philosophy, how it was informing my spirituality and my new obsession with how to express a different side of myself in this new art form. I could have gained all that while still wearing a white belt. Of course I only learned this from all the hours of study. But from day one I was a martial artist.
Cut to now. May 2018. At the dojang where I train in Taekwando they just began offering a "Low Impact" class. The reason being was to allow for a more accessible and less intimidating route into the study and training of this martial art form. This got me thinking about how the use of martial arts has changed over the centuries and how it has truly become for everyone.
From the samurai of 1600s traditional Japan to 1800s European Traditional Fencing to blood and bone style karate practiced in the 1980's U.S. to now Low Impact TKD, the need for martial arts has changed due to our evolving lifestyles and so has the types of people you find training. We no longer need roaming samurai to defend our great lords and most of us don't need to duel to the death because that guy was talking shit about that other guy's mama. I think the incredible physical feats people are achieving now are jaw dropping, but what also inspires me are the conversations held in the locker room and on martial arts podcasts and Instagram comments about the philosophy and spirituality that comes with the training in a martial art. And it's the diversity of its practitioners that make this so compelling. This is evidence to me that being a martial artist is not just about the physical skills you acquire, but about your entire application of the lifestyle. Which brings me to...
What does a modern day martial artist look like?
It looks like a college student fitting one class per week between studies and his part time job. It looks like a 9 year old girl whose mother just wants her to hold her head higher. It looks like the 83 year old couple who collectively have not exercised a day in their short lives until they bowed and stepped onto the mat. It looks like the girl who began training at the age of 5 and dedicated all her time and passion to training and now litigates full time, raises two kids, but still runs some katas in line at the bank. It looks like all of us who have a desire to be a part of an evolving community that explores the connection of mind, body, spirit to the universal flow between all living things and wants to express themselves from that space. We cannot let the digital age drive us into isolation by comparing our skills against each others' skills and stomping on the journey of others, but use it as a way to share revelations, listen to ideas and further evolve martial arts into a communal experience. Welcome. Martial arts is for everyone.
Train hard. Love harder,