During April, I’m writing 26 posts for the A to Z Blog Challenge. I’m combining my skills as a writer, a life coach, and a martial artist (2nd degree black belt in ITF Taekwondo) to create a series of posts about applying aspects of TKD to life outside of martial arts. Whenever possible, I’ll include a little Taekwondoodle to illustrate what I’m talking about.
Sure, it’s satisfying to learn to kick and punch. Our bodies like the movement and the muscles we build feel powerful.
But do you know why martial artists train to fight?
So we are ready.
Ready to defend ourselves, ready to protect someone else, ready to fight for something important.*
It’s not about looking for an opportunity to fight, it’s about being able to fight if we need to.
Doing drills, getting into the ring for sparring, practicing techniques, they are all about developing our instincts.**
We want to have a direct and competent response when we need to fight, we don’t want to just freeze in place – so we practice until we don’t have to think about a response, we just respond.
How does that apply in the rest of your life?
Let me start with a joking example…
At Christmas time a couple of years ago, I was baking and a precariously balanced spoon covered in dough started to fall toward the floor. I reacted quickly, snatching the spoon out of the air and saving myself from a mess.
It’s a bit silly but I credit my TKD practice with being able to save myself the trouble of cleaning my floor in the middle of my baking session. I am trained to react quickly to movement, either to strike or to get out of the way. My “instincts” in this case had me step forward and grab the spoon. I didn’t freeze and watch it unfold. My previous practice saved me from an annoying situation.
You can train yourself to be ‘fight-ready’ in any situation you regularly encounter (again, I don’t mean that you have to be spoiling for an argument). You can train yourself beyond that ‘freeze’ response and into something that serves you better.
If you know that you will regularly encounter an annoying person, you can prepare and practice some self-calming techniques in advance. You want to leave their annoying nature with them, not to carry the emotional residue of your encounter around with you all day.
If you regularly have to use certain papers, you can find a way to store them that makes it easy to retrieve them. You want to make the storage and retrieval process instinctual.
If you often need to babysit, you can prepare a list of games and songs in advance. That way, when things go wonky (and they will), you don’t have to scramble for a response, you can just act on something from your list.
Martial artists train so they are ready to respond in a fight. You can do your own training to respond to the situations you encounter in your life, no matter what they are.
Training to be fight-ready is not a one-step, one-time activity, it’s a process.
It will be the same for whatever you are training for so don’t panic if it takes a while to ‘stick.’
What sorts of things would you like to be ‘fight-ready’ for?
*Just so you know, fighting in an escalated situation is actually the last straw for martial artists. Our rules for self defense advise us to try to talk our way out of the situation, to leave if possible, and then, if that doesn’t work, we fight. Meanwhile, our training means we are ready if someone attacks us first.
**Sidenote: I find the phrase ‘trust your instincts’ to be absolutely maddening. I think that humans have far fewer instinctual things than we pretend that we do and society as a whole trains us out of a lot of the ones that we could be using. There are a lot of layers of experience and instruction that mask many of the instincts we would have once had. A lot of the time, what people are calling instincts have been honed from repetition and practice. So, if you don’t have the ‘instinct’ to do something you need to do – look for some repetitive practice to do in that area and your automatic response will develop.