Have you ever wondered what the ultimate goal of Martial Arts is? What is the realisation that you come to after a lifetime of training? Is it physical dominance over your adversaries? I think not! If this was the ultimate goal it would probably be very short lived. We all grow old and we all must make way for the next generation. We cannot expect to keep up with the physical prowess and exuberance of youth, no matter how skilful we become.
So, let’s get back to the question then. What is the ultimate goal of Martial Arts? It is a question that has circulated in my mind for many years. As I age and my body no longer responds in the way it did in my younger years, all thoughts boil down to the one single question. What is the Ultimate Goal of Martial Arts?
The answer came to me during a full contact bout in one of my training sessions. I have always trained with lots of intensity and I tend to expend a lot of energy during training. The same goes for fighting and sparring. This can have an undesirable effect as I normally tire as the fight progresses. If I am evenly matched, my opponent must simply wait for me to expend most of my energy and then they can lay waste to my fatigued and energy-spent body.
During training which includes sparring and full contact fighting, I aim to simulate the mindset of a physical altercation and switch my current emotional state to anger and aggression. This is easily observable in my demeanour and facial expressions and it was something that my Sensei, the Soke (founder) of Shinbukan Martial Arts, pointed out. He is a man who possess a formidable Martial Arts background and who has extensive experience in many types of Martial Arts, including Karate, Ninjitsu, Iaido and more. He is a direct student of Gōgen Yamaguchi – “The Cat”.
The advice that he offered me was so simple, yet so profound. It has made all the difference to my training and managing my emotions within other areas of my life. All he asked of me was to keep a neutral expression on my face. To fight without expressing any emotions, to fight indifferently.
Staying Relaxed during a Fight
What is the point of not expressing anger and aggression in a fight, you might ask? Well, when I maintained a neutral expression during the fight, I found that my body was more relaxed, and my mind was clear. This made me more agile and better equipped to respond to my opponent’s attacks. Being more relaxed increased my ability to generate power whilst expending as little energy as possible. Furthermore, it enabled me to breathe with ease, thereby ensuring that my muscles were well oxygenated to cope with the demands of fighting. Expending as less energy as possible, improved my longevity in the fight.
The Power of Indifference
Indifference is a powerful tool especially in high pressure situations. We all tend to place increased pressure and demands on ourselves especially when the stakes are high. If you have competed in any setting, you would then know that your mind can work for you or work against you, depending on how well you regulate your emotions. The key is to place more emphasis on the execution of the task at hand and give no regard to the outcome. Win or lose, as long as you have done your best, you will walk away more enriched from the experience.
Indifference to the outcome will be one of your greatest weapons. This is true for any circumstance, be it a friendly competition or a life and death self-defence situation. This might sound contradictory in a self-defence situation as self-preservation is built into our DNA. However, a lot about Martial Arts training is contradictory to the primal human response. You see, during a hostile situation, our reactions are driven directly from our lizard brain which is the part of the brain which is most primal. It is responsible for processing our emotions rather than giving us the most logical solution to the survival situation that we are facing. Rightfully so, there is no time for rationalisation or cognitive thought. Training to reduce reliance on the lizard brain, such as maintaining a neutral emotional state during a fight, helps to engage more solution-oriented parts of your brain. This can make you a more effective fighter. Furthermore, you process the fear response differently. Instead of panicking and reacting emotionally to the situation, you will be able to remain calm and react in the most appropriate manner to the situation that you are facing.
Maintaining Composure during Adverse Situations
Adversity in life is inevitable. During adverse situations, you might find that it is difficult to keep your composure. You might panic and freeze in fear or you may become angry and react in a manner that you may regret later. It is a primal response that we cannot control. Martial Arts training should be rooted in helping you control your emotions and keeping your composure in all situations. This allows you control yourself and your reaction and respond to the situation in the most constructive way possible. It is part and parcel of building a formidable inner strength and the ability to remain resilient through hardship.
What is the Ultimate Goal of Martial Arts?
In my training and experience, the ultimate goal of Martial Arts is self-control. The ability to remain focused and resolute during stressful situations and hardship. Training your mind as much as your body to be strong. It is about becoming responsible for your actions and not behaving rashly. As a Martial Artist, you may have the physical capacity to destroy but it does not mean that you should resort to this as a solution to all problems. Violence should be a last and final resort. Treating your loved ones and fellow humanity with respect and consideration should be the utmost concern in all situations. This is the ultimate goal of Martial Arts.
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