|With one of my Kung Fu school's black belts in 1995|
(This happened early in 1982, prior to "The Karate Kid" movie of 1984, but after the "Kung Fu" series of 1972-1975 and Bruce Lee's "Enter the Dragon" of 1973. I missed those early 1970's milestones.)
The martial arts appealed to me at a young age because of the elements of focus and power, and their exotic nature. Karate was completely foreign to me, but it seemed to be a way for anyone, regardless of size or gender, to develop confidence in one's self.
I didn't join Paul in his studies. My parents enforced a "one after-school program" policy, so I remained a Cub Scout and later graduated to Boy Scouts. When I attended the Air Force Academy, however, I found the karate club and joined in 1991. After graduation in 1994, I started watching the original "Kung Fu" series, rebroadcast on the TNT cable channel. Just before beginning my graduate progam, I located a kung fu school near my residence, and joined that summer. That marked the beginning of several years of serious study and personal development, thanks to that school, its teachers, and students.
I propose that the reasons to study martial arts occupy a spectrum of possibilities. At one end, practitioners emphasize spiritual and personal growth. Near the middle, many promote fitness and health benefits, plus general self defense. At the far end of the spectrum, some appeal to the extremely combative and life-preserving elements. For this group, the martial arts may be a lifestyle or a means of survival, whether as a police or corrections officer, an member of the armed forces or other protective details, a resident of a dangerous community, or a professional fighter.
I am closer to the middle of the spectrum. I'm no longer an Air Force officer. I have no plans to fight professionally or serve in law enforcement, corrections, or personal security, and I have tremendous respect for those who jeopardize their safety to keep others from harm. Thankfully I live in a fairly safe community, and I try to avoid situations that could put myself, my family, or colleagues at risk.
I rejoined the martial arts community because I like to learn new techniques and mindsets. I am fascinated by the variety of styles, and my library includes books on multiple aspects of the martial arts world. I like interacting with other people in a training setting, and I believe I would be a good teacher. (Years ago, I helped teach some classes at a kung fu school, and the experience was rewarding for me and my students.) Finally, I enjoy being part of a global community, facilitated as never before by social media, free video clips, and blogging. There has never been a better time to learn the martial arts!
In my next post I will address "which martial art?" The last paragraph hints at the reasons why there may be no "best martial art," because one's interests are a critical part of answering the question of styles.