Martial arts, in its various forms, have always fascinated me. Maybe it has something to do with my childhood dream of becoming a samurai. At an early age, I’ve always been drawn to stories of the noble, sword-wielding warriors of ancient Japan.
But said fascination was not limited to samurais. I was equally attracted to the amazing feats of ninjas and kung fu masters I’ve seen in countless movies and TV series. However, since I spent more time reading books than playing any sport, I never imagined I’d actually end up doing any martial arts.
My first foray into martial arts was in college. A friend invited me to train with a lightning scientific arnis club at school formed by a grand master himself. It was not easy for me initially considering that I have never been the athletic type. I developed a great liking for the sport though soon after I joined. I liked the discipline and the teachings I’ve learned during practice.
A decade after discovering arnis, I developed a passion for a different martial arts. Wushu was closest to what I imagined kung fu would be. I signed up a few days after watching the national team on training. I chose sanshou over the more popular taolu for no other reason than I found the flexibility of the latter’s athletes quite daunting.
I fell in love with sanshou as soon as I started training. My coaches were all good but what made me return even after many grueling sessions were the wise words frequently thrown in.
Training taught me more than the skills needed to keep myself fit as well as the ability to defend myself should a situation calls for it. In the years I practiced the art, I’ve learned that there’s really more to martial arts that mostly only practitioners would understand. And from what limited skills and knowledge I’ve gathered along the way, I’ve learned that:
- With power comes restraint and responsibility – The great coaches I’ve known teach humility, restraint, and responsibility in using skills learned from the sport. One of them once told me that when you know you have the power to hurt someone, you will learn to develop patience and restraint. Knowing that you can potentially kill someone with your skills makes you more careful of wielding it. Over time, I realized this to be true. I’ve never been the patient sort but it was during the time I was actively training that I was able to tame the impatient beast in me most.
- Always remember the importance of mastering the basics – I used to wonder why we always had to spend more time on the basics even after months of training. I thought that after learning them we’d focus more on progressing to advanced levels. Then coach said that we need to master the basics first before we can aspire to be really good at it. He said that everything goes back to the basics. If we learn those by heart, the rest would be easy. This proved to be true for me as well. I found that it became easier to execute the more difficult moves when I know how to do the basics correctly.
- The greatest opponent will always be yourself – Arnis and sanshou training, like any other sport, is not easy. It takes discipline, dedication, determination, and a lot of heart. It doesn’t matter if it’s competitive or fitness training because you always end up giving it all you’ve got. The best gauge of improvement is knowing that you’ve surpassed your best at every practice. It’s not about the other guy you may have marked as the competition. It’s always all about you and how you applied yourself every single time you’re out there doing it.
I still hesitate from calling myself a martial artist. I’m not confident enough of my skills yet to feel that I deserve to be called one. One thing I do know is that I’m deeply in awe of the masters who’ve achieved the highest levels in their respective fields. I’ll always have a great respect for anyone who lives by the wisdom and teachings martial arts impart. For me, it’s amazing how the art of combat is infused with practices and traditions that can transform people into great warriors.