The (sub)Culture of Martial Arts

Martial arts can hardly be described as a subculture. Its become so much more than an activity. For some it may be a recreational event, but for others it is a lifestyle, and always has been for thousands of years. It has become such an influence on other cultures that its has literally shaped history. Despite its origins, martial arts means something different to everyone, but there are many common factors and beliefs that unite all martial artists.

An excellent posture showcased by a martial arts student.

What Drives You?

Sure, you know what martial arts is. Learning to do awesome looking kicks and being able to fight people right? It goes deeper than that. When people dedicate themselves to something there is some sort of motivation behind the decision. This is whats known as “drive”. Someone may enroll in a karate class to stay active. Another may start taking MMA lessons to better learn how to defend themselves. Someone else may study Aikido because they feel this lifestyle will better their character or expand their knowledge of the arts culture.

The great thing about starting martial arts is that you can start without any prior knowledge. You could walk into your local “dojo” (school in Japanese), and start taking classes without any prior knowledge and absolutely love it. However, if your really looking for something special that will speak to you, ask yourself these three questions;

Example of a more traditional training space.
  • “What goal do I want to accomplish through training?”
  • “Is this school/art style going to help me accomplish this goal?”
  • “What can I accomplish by doing this?”

What Do I Choose?

There are so many different types or styles of Martial arts. I’ve been training for 10 years and I don’t even know how many there are.With so many different cultures around the world over such an extensive timeline of human history, there are possibly endless different forms of combat. There are over 50 different forms of martial arts originating from Japan alone. When we all hear the term “Martial Arts”, we often think of the more east Asian arts. Coming from such places as China, Japan, and Korea. The truth is, Martial arts can be found on every continent. Whether its Russian Sombo, African Stick Fighting, or Brazilian Capoeira. Each form of combat differs in combat based on the culture it was born in and the circumstances that forged it. Everyone favors a different style of Martial arts, and it goes back to your drive. Depending on your intentions, a certain form or style may suit you better. Here are a few of the more well known styles.

Russian Sombo — A grappling form that includes throwing many knee and elbow strikes along with utilizing elements from wrestling. Taking inspiration from Japanese Judo, this form was founded in the 1920’s as a way to train Russian military forces in more effective hand to hand combat situations.

Shaolin Kung Fu — Originating in the early Shaolin temples of China, this art combines both the teachings of Buddhism and the rigorous discipline of martial arts. Utilizing extreme physical and mental training to teach students peaceful habits and well conditioned striking techniques.

Ninjutsu — With recordings going as far back as the 16th century, Japan is the birthplace of this style. Developed in a time where Samurai were armored head to toe, this form combines Tight joint breaking locks and painful strikes. The idea behind Ninjutsu was to break your opponent down quickly and retreat before you became outnumbered.

Bruce Lee; one of the most well known and influential Martial artists of all time.

Am I Reaching My Goal?

Many people measure their success with physical landmarks that they can visibly see. Take the example of going on a diet and exercising. The visual outcome would obviously be a more toned body. You look great right?! But do you feel great? In the case of martial arts, there is much concern and attention surrounding belt level. While each art has their own rank system, some only having white and black belts, success isn't measured in what color belt you have. Its measured in your skill level. Did you learn what you were taught? Did you practice and study hard? Did you earn that rank? Through this path people not only accomplish what they are taught by their teacher, but they also build character themselves and work towards personal goals or create new ones. Remember those three questions from earlier? Those questions become answered through time and work put into your martial arts training. (It’s almost like each question lined up with a section of this article.) If you're truly putting effort and determination into your training, you're going to get something out of it. The result will differ for everyone, but can generally be broken down into three classes. A persons may receive benefits from one or more of these classes. Their goal may even be classified the same way. -

Body — Through training you have improved your physical abilities and even health. You have a knowledge of how to defend yourself and effectively apply the movements you have been taught. Maybe you're better at striking, maybe you are able to balance yourself better. You now can physically understand and perform the lessons you have been taught. You have expanded your physical abilities.

Mind — You are now a more mentally aware and balanced person. You now understand the teachings and how they apply to physical movements as well as life outside training. You may be more aware of your surroundings and spot situations before they arise. If a situation does arise, you know the appropriate response and the most effective way to deal with it. Understanding your arts teachings and history may be beneficial to you. You have expanded your knowledge.

Soul — Through your martial arts training, you have developed your character and your view towards life. Martial arts may help you feel positive emotions or shield you from negative ones, helping you work through other difficult aspects of your life or create good new ones. Your art helps you feel more connected to yourself and others around you. It may even be changing your attitude about other things you do, such as building your confidence or dissipating negative and unhealthy behaviors. You have expanded your self character and emotions.

Two students bowing to show Respect

People of all ages and nationalities are brought together by the subculture of martial arts. Its a way for people to connect and improve themselves while pushing their boundaries. While many of its customs may seem strange and unorthodox, martial arts pushes so many fundamental pieces of bettering yourself. By teaching you Respect, Honor, Discipline, and Determination, it is a culture that pushes you to push yourself to new heights.