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Why Do You Train?

There are so many reasons people start martial arts training. Acquiring self defense skills. Getting stronger and more fit. Gaining confidence. Meeting new people. Becoming calmer and more relaxed. Learning new ways of movement. Developing courage and self discipline. Taking on new challenges and reaching new goals. Overcoming anxiety and managing stress. Building healthy habits of mind and body. Feeling like an action hero for a few hours every week. 

The first thing that comes to mind for many folks when they think of martial arts training is learning how to defend oneself or how to fight. There are strikes and throws, grappling and joint locks, and the impression is that, in many styles, it is mostly about defeating an opponent, either in competition or in a self defense context. In Eizan Ryu Jujitsu, developing the ability to defend oneself from an attacker is a major goal of the training. It is a process, though. Basic techniques set the foundation for reaching that goal, teaching principles of movement, off balance, and correct application of technique, all of which is necessary when dealing with a larger, stronger attacker. As students progress, the self-defense application of the work becomes more apparent, with work against unexpected attacks, practice with a resistant partner, and promotion tests in which one must respond reflexively and creatively.

But people have all sorts of different reasons for training in the martial arts. And given that it is relatively unlikely that most folks will find themselves in a situation where they have to physically fight off an attacker, the many other benefits that martial arts training provides are important components of well-rounded training.

Each student has a particular level of strength, fitness, flexibility and coordination when they start training. While a good dojo will accommodate those differences, making it possible for any reasonably mobile and fit person to train, it is also important that students have both encouragement and opportunity to improve their physical capacities through the training.

The training should help one build a stronger, more flexible body, develop a better mind/body connection, and lead to better coordination and movement. In our dojo, for instance, this is done through warm ups, footwork drills, striking drills, many repetitions of certain key movements, training “games,” and working against resistance.

Likewise, each student has their own personality, their own inner strengths and weaknesses. Again, a good school should meet new students where they are, acknowledging that everyone’s life is different. But students should also be able to see how the training can help them to change themselves in positive ways. The traditional Japanese martial virtues – righteousness, courage, benevolence, respect, sincerity, honor, loyalty and self-control – are qualities which serve us well even if we are not warriors in feudal Japan, making us better people and better members of society.

In our dojo, these virtues are not preached or discussed often, but they are naturally cultivated through the work. On the mat, students and instructors are expected to behave in ways that manifest these qualities, maintaining respect and care for partners, controlling fear and anger, responding with patience and perseverance when things get difficult. And in time, it is hoped that this focus helps us to bring these qualities  into the rest of our lives, as well.

And finally, there is the issue of …fun. While training is sometimes hard or frustrating, and one can find oneself tired of working on the same technique yet again, or annoyed when working with a clumsy partner, or anxious about trying something that looks scary, overall, martial arts training should have a strong current of fun running through it. It may be difficult for those who have never trained to see how getting hit or thrown to the mat can be fun, but the camaraderie, exhilaration and sense of being fully present that one feels at times in dojo is truly high level fun.

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