We can make the concept more substantial by formulating a list of desirable qualities, and then look at how these can be developed in concrete ways. In doing so I will explore how the martial arts can act as a vehicle of personal development, not just in physical skills, but in mental, emotional, social, and -- I have to be careful here! -- spiritual dimensions.
The key idea is that the physical and social aspects of martial arts training lead in to the other dimensions.Training physically, observing etiquette, and working with others act together to develop the individual as a whole.
If -- like me -- you are a parent of young children an easy way to come up with your own list of desirable list is to think about what qualities you would like your children to develop. [Be sure to include ones you would like to develop or further in yourself to avoid an exercise in narcissism.]
Other approaches are to think about the qualities that you admire in others, especially friends and your own role models. You can even make a game of it: What are your the top three admirable qualities?
You may wish to construct your own list independently at this point, before reading mine. Leave a comment if I have missed a quality that you hold in high esteem.
Here is my working list, ordered mostly according to whim:
- Love of learning
- Sense of humor
This is my number one quality. Resilience, especially the dimension of mental toughness, is what gets you through when external circumstances conspire and you are hit with more than you you can handle. You may have all the qualities and skills in the world, but sometimes you just cannot hold your ground or get out of the way, and you get knocked down. In the words of the old and much-covered song Pick Yourself Up:
Now nothing's impossible,Life, with its slings and arrows, is kind of a school for resilience. Just wait for disaster to strike, and see how you cope. It will happen! "What does not kill you makes you stronger."
I've found for when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.
But can resilience be learned in a less chancy fashion? Organizations such as Outward Bound have quite a good recipe: Put people into new circumstances and give them challenges outside their comfort zones, but within their capability, and do it in a social group with competent leadership.
This description also applies to martial arts training:
- The initially unfamiliar setting is the traditional training hall
- The challenges are the physical techniques
- The social group are the other beginners
- The competent leadership is the instructor
And there are many other benefits to learning correct falling technique.
* * *
I will look at how the other qualities listed are developed through martial arts training in future installments. Which reminds me of one more: