Life Is Combat-A Hidden Benefit of Martial Arts Training

Life is complex, how to you characterize it?  In general many people grow up being taught and believing that life is like a type of game, or race, or climb of a mountain.  Often they are taught that if they play fair and they are nice to everyone then they will be kept safe and should expect to have a good measure of success. In my opinion, if a person digests the baseline societal paradigm, they will find that life seems highly unfair, and that they are consistently frustrated by the fact that their expectations for how life is supposed to go is so far removed from how it actually goes.

Practical martial arts which focus on self-defense against criminal assaults in particular provide a tremendous hidden benefit.  “Martial Arts is internal, it is a way of life and living, of thinking and behaving”. When you focus on dealing with realistic fighting, even when it is just a study, it helps you to refine and complete your life paradigm and to understand all conflict as a greater whole.

People generally have the life is like a game perspective because fortunately we have laws and generally our social interactions are governed by law or at the minimum are highly influenced by law and thus kept within the bounds of our social game.  However, in a criminal assault you are dealing with life outside those social laws where the only limits on what the enemy will do is what they are personally able to do.  A sort of empowering and enlightening realization about the animal law reality behind social law comes from studying fighting.

We then also begin to recognize that many times in life, often when we are frustrated by failure it is because those who ended up winning were playing the game of life with a larger spectrum of resources and options that exist outside the normal “rules of the game”.  Take competing for a promotion for example.  Naturally we are supposed to believe in this being a fair competition, especially in modern times.  Yet animal reality while certainly restrained by social laws, stealthily creeps into the equation out of sight.

Perhaps, although you have slightly superior qualifications, your competitor has fostered relationships with the decision maker which results in them getting the promotion over you.  In dating, work, family, and nearly all facets of life we are confronted by conflict.  Of course there are rules and blatant violation results in losses, but there are many instances where you deal with opponents that do not exercise the ethical restraint that makes up the shortcomings in the rules.  There are those people in life that are wired to take advantage of others as much as they feel they can get away with.  How do you deal with such people?

The general life model that good people have often precludes them from successfully navigating conflict which in turn makes achieving their goals near to impossible.  This is why many good people are left with a paradigm that makes them play the victim in their own lives.  Martial arts offers the alternative to a false binary life choice between being an attacker or victim.  One CAN be ethical and yet effective.  The alternative is the warrior mindset. The ideal of the warrior is to be both powerful yet moral or you could say to be good and yet strong, to be formidable and yet trustworthy.

You start recognizing that at the end of the day, life is combat.  Combat is defined as anytime that you have an objective and various forms of friction are present which must be overcome to achieve the objective.  If you really reflect about the nature of life you will see a very real element of combat.  Combat clarifies life in this sense.  For example, if you are attacked by someone with a knife, you either are able to do what it takes to stop them or you are not.  You are given full use of all the resources you possess and so are they with no restrictions on anyone except the limits their personal capabilities provide. There is a clear distinction between success and failure in the form of whether you survive or not.

In the rest of life we often forget to consider this reality in its symbolic form which disempowers us from effectively engaging our goals.  While this is a symbolic understanding about life and combat, the results are very real.  Generally people have goals of being healthy, of having fulfilling relationships, of having a successful vocation, and doing enjoyable things that keep life interesting.  These are all good goals.  Yet how often do people live in the obscure space between success and failure and have to concede that they are “trying”?

With health, there are various forms of friction, both internal and external.  With the benefit of a warrior mentality replacing a victim mentality, you recognize that if you do not do what it takes then the friction will win and you will have poor health despite desires to be healthy.  In relationships it is similar, if you do not do what it takes to keep good communication, to keep in touch, etc then relationships deteriorate regardless of assertions in one’s own mind of caring.

Life as combat is certainly not the only paradigm analogy to utilize but it is a critical model to have mixed into any healthy paradigm and there is no better way to relate to this than training in an effective combat art.  When we only have a model that looks at life as though it were a socially normal activity that is governed by rules and assurances then we begin to have a false feeling of safety which inevitably leads to painful surprises as the animal nature of life weighs in and shapes outcomes away from what you are taught to expect.  Generally when people play games then the loser is still insulated from certain losses and there is always a socially enforced external safety net.  This can cause people to believe in the availability of a third outcome in life other than success and failure.

When thinking about combat, outcomes are cut and dry.  There is survival or not.  When meaningful life goals are looked at as a broader whole, the reality is the same.  Maintaining good health through your life is something that you did, or you didn’t, doing what it takes to have healthy relationships is either what you did or did not do, there is no third outcome in reality.

When people are failing in life goals, it is typically from one of a couple sources.  One source of failure is to have chosen a goal that is either not meaningful enough to motivate or which is actually impossible.  The other source is to self-sabotage. Viewing life as combat teaches you to pick your battles carefully so that they are winnable and expedient.  Supposing that you have selected a good goal, then it is simply a matter of doing what it takes to adapt and prevail.  This means getting rid of personal weaknesses and ultimately refusing to take consolation in place of the result that your personal code requires.

Consolation seems a nice friend in the short term as it provides numbing comfort but in the long run it prevents correction of bad habits and practices and leads to self-sabotage and regretful failure.  If all the energy that is spent in giving oneself consolation is spent rather upon the goal pursuit then almost every time there will be no need for consolation because you will have succeeded. This is a warrior’s perspective and may seem extreme to some but it is a uniquely healthy way of looking at life which warrior training promotes.  Training helps us to confront some of the cold, hard realities of life and to be better at achieving meaningful goals. Paradoxically, by embracing such a perspective the result is almost always a significantly more peaceful, fulfilling and happy life.


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