The other day I was training in my class, having my assistant instructor Chris lead the instruction. I spent the whole class working on a single throw, uki goshi or ‘floating hip,’ cycling between all my more advanced students as ukes. This throw is new to me having recently learned it from my Shorinji Kan Jiu-jitsu contacts.
Having seen me working hard at improving my technique with this one throw all class, one of my students asked me, “What are you training for?” thinking that I was training with a specific goal in mind like an upcoming test. I looked back at him, slightly confused and answered, “For fun. What are YOU training for?” By this answer I meant that I had no specific future goal that I was training for. I was just training for training’s sake.
I think this is an important question every martial arts student should ask themselves. Are you training for specific goals like fitness, belt level advancement, self-defense, etc. Or are you training out of a love for the art? Goals like belt level advancement are unsatisfying at best and don’t promote a long-term appreciation of the art. I find that belt chasers tend to get bored when the period between belts gets longer as they advance or they feel that they’re not being promoted quickly enough. People that have goals like self-defense and fitness tend to last longer because doing a martial art over the long term only improves these things, but then after awhile, these students get to a level of fitness or self-defense proficiency after which they don’t see very noticeable improvements in these things and start to wonder if they want to continue.
Ultimately, no matter what reasons a person starts training in the martial arts, it is those who love it for the art’s sake that stay with it in the long term. The higher level skills are not as likely to be used in a practical context. Most martial artists, the respectable ones anyway, tend not to have to use their skills in self-defense. But that is not why they do it. They do it simply because they love it, and with continued training, this love of the martial arts and consistency of training transforms them both mentally and spiritually.