I don’t make it public often that I practice martial arts and self protection variables. The reason for this, Sun Tzu once said “weapons are omens of war” and by doing a martial art, you essential turn your body into a weapon – now do not jump the gun here! the title does say “the reason why you should take a martial art” and that is because that is what I believe, the reason I don’t tell people I do is for the same reasons why cops don’t wave a gun around. If you make a big deal out of it, someone will notice that being said – let me tell you, why I think you should take a martial art.
When I was 14, I nearly died. I went out one night skateboarding with a friend (unannounced to my parents… sorry mum) It was about 1am in the morning and it was the 23rd of December (two days before Christmas). We were walking up a big hill when some guys drove passed in a black sedan. They yelled at us, threw bottles and I acted out and gave them the finger trying to be cool. My friend ran off, they turned around and I got caught between two guys in their late 20’s who were looking for a fight. I was honestly terrified, but what happened next changed my life forever…
Now I know what you’re thinking, a “Mr Miyagi” type character jumped out from the shadows, a good citizen stepped out of the local bar and saved me, a cop drove past just in time! a good guy pulled over and helped me… well… you’re wrong.
No one came to help, it was just me and the zero skills I had to defend myself. They beat me until I couldn’t stand or breath, I am not going into details but it wasn’t pretty. I am not saying this for sympathy, for pity etc. that is just what happened that night. I woke up a few moments after they went to go look for my friend, I crawled into a bush and waited for them to leave. I remember not feeling any pain at all, it was far too dark to see any of the blood on my white shirt. I heard them run past and yell out to try and scare me out of my concealment, I heard them talking about how they had to find me and kill me or I would call the police. Well, they didn’t find me or my friend, they eventually left. I walked the few Kilometres home limping like a zombie (the mental image actually makes me laugh right now) and I ended up passing out yelling out for help about 20ft from my front door. I thought I was going to die, I actually accepted it. I woke up inside my house, the police were there and my family were crying. I remember being in the ambulance and seeing my whole body covered in blood. They told me “You’re going to be okay” but honestly – I wasn’t. I woke up in hospital and spent the night – It was the worst Christmas I have ever had. I don’t even remember it, the presents, the people, the lunch and dinner. I don’t remember anything for about 8 days from the pain killers but what I do remember was the dentist re-positioning my jaw and teeth back into place. I never really talked about it, my friends came over to see me but they didn’t understand and for the first time in my life, I realised I was alone… not the alone where you don’t know anyone at the bar or party… just alone in a world full of people who will never know what it’s like. I eventually became angry at everyone, when I look back now I feel ashamed of how I acted and wish I knew what I knew now, or that I could travel back in time and tell my younger self “hey, you’ll be stronger one day and you’ll feel safe again”
When I was 17 we did Aikido at school for extra curriculum. I thought it would be fun and something to do, by this point I was angered constantly and struggled to find peace within my mind and even though the assault was 3 years ago, it was also yesterday in my mind. I would explode as soon as i felt threatened, punching wildly at the air in hopes to push the non-existent or minimal threat back in any situation. I was being controlled by my emotions like fear and anger. I walked into the Aikido room, blue mats littered the floor. I had done karate as a kid and thought I was a pretty decent fighter, I went in with the mentality of hurting people when I should’ve been thinking of protecting people. The first day, the teacher called me to the front of the class, he asked me to attack him – I thought with my cocky teenage hormones “easy” he had me floating in the air for a second, or so it felt, before palming my chest into the floor. I was flattened. I got up and charged him again (like an absolute idiot haha) he put me down again. By this point, I was kind of embarrassed, my friends laughed in the class and I lay on the floor having a good look at the ceiling.
The Sensei asked for me to train with him for the rest of the lesson, I did as instructed. Everyday before class, he would ask me to attack him, each day I would be flattened, this went on for weeks. The classes at school ended, although I didn’t give up. I kept attending his classes outside of school just to prove him wrong.
One day when practicing techniques he said “you fight too hard, too much anger, too much effort – this is why you lose. I use your energy against you” in that moment, it had finally clicked.
Aikdo is not about brute strength, it is not a martial art to be abused. It is about realising you have no control of life’s energies but merely redirection, misdirection and applied direction. He told me I was too angry, He asked me why and I told him about the assault and how I was afraid and that from fear, anger arose. he asked me to do something similar to what I goatinlgy imagine a Jedi from star wars would say “accept your emotions, then let them go” he had told me about meditation and how stilling your mind may give me the clarity I seek.
I remember going home and thinking about this for hours. I researched meditation so I could practice it alone in my bedroom. I thought on the revelation I had come to while speaking with him. I came back to the class next week and when he asked me to attack, I simple stood still and waited. He bowed, he told me I now had an understanding of martial arts. It is not simply to attack or be attacked, but to be still and allow for clarity to flood your mind, so when something disrupts it, you can direct it away from you. when you move quickly, you cannot focus. All this time, I had forgot how to centre my emotions and be still, I kept wanting to go and hide from the way I felt, so I would explode emotionally to push others away. I realised that being angry about what had happened, was destroying any chance at happiness I would have. I continued Aikido for another 6 months at his Dojo, the Sensei left for another state and while usually I would be sad before – I had no issues letting go. I was no longer angry about what had happened, I realised that it had simply been and gone and all I could do was decide how I would let it affect me.
The reason I am telling you this, is not because I want you to learn a martial art necessarily to defend yourself (yes that is one of the many benefits) but to learn how to discipline your mind and strengthen your body. There is a quiet peace and confidence i gained from Aikido and for years to come from many other martial arts. Knowing I can defend myself and others I love has brought me peace and confidence, knowing to not “control” my emotions, but simply be still and let them “pass” or “be deflected” has made me a very rich man in my heart and mind.
Aikido taught me many lessons in life, about the flow of energy and emotions, how they can be utilised against you or for you. You can learn this from not just martial arts, but all things in life if you look closely enough… things like yoga, meditation, agriculture, gardening, driving, cooking, painting – I simply found it through this.
If you have trouble within yourself, within the world maybe you should learn a martial art? being physically and mentally confident and stable, can surely not be a negative. Please do not go in with the attitude of “I am going to learn how to beat up people” that’s not what true martial artists are, they understand that violence is real but peace and compassion should be mandatory, if anything I wouldn’t say “martial arts saved my life” I would say “It showed me how to save my own”
Thank you for reading,