Martial arts students learn that they do not have to be the biggest or the strongest to win a battle. Rather, they need to be the smartest. While martial arts training will develop strong physical skills to protect you from human aggressors, it’s in the mental training that all students will experience an edge against any opponent, human or otherwise.

Most physical harm that occurs to us is NOT the result of actions from other people, but rather from external and internal negative forces.

Negative forces are invisible opponents that attack us, attempting to take control of our lives. These “enemies” can be poor eating habits, insufficient exercise, work related stress, daily pressures, and other unhealthy habits such as smoking. Over time, our bodies can collapse from the assaults of these forces. It is these life- threatening opponents that have killed more people than the greatest wars.

Martial arts teaches us how to balance the physical and mental aspects of our lives so they work as one, to give us self-control. For example, many people who have quit smoking experience immediate weight gain due to increased eating.  Such people replace smoking with overeating, which becomes the detrimental habit in control. In contrast, martial artists learn to turn mental challenges into positive energy, through physical exercise and mental discipline, to increase our control over our own lives.

Self-control can be used by the martial artist to overcome many daily obstacles. In essence, this is mind over matter. Deep breathing and focus exercises that are learned throughout training can be called upon anytime and anywhere. When stress, tension or anything negative attempts an attack, a few moments of learned relaxation techniques can help you relax and focus, helping you to regain your self-control.

The martial arts can be split into two forms of training, the physical and the mental. It is when you eliminate the mental training that you inevitably lose the art of martial arts. It is the art that teaches us to defend ourselves against physical harm from any opponent, visible or not. Our mind holds the key to all our actions. The martial arts can help you harness your mental energy to live a happier, healthier life.

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Joseph Galea is a contributing writer for Martial Arts Monthly magazine.

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