I often tell people that martial arts are a lifelong activity. By that I mean it is an activity that one can engage in at anytime in their life and for their whole life. Its not something you have to start when you are young, wait till you’re an adult, or give up on when you reach a certain age.
My journey started at the age of seven at a time when children learning the arts was not even a thought of being a boon for the industry. In fact, the presence of women in the arts was a rarity then. My journey has continued for over 40 years now and yes, I took some time off from actively practicing now and then, but my mind was always training.
I’ve been blessed to share the arts not only with my children, but thousands of people I didn’t even know. Hundreds have continued their own journeys with me and many have become tremendous friends. Among those friends I am proudest of those that have reached various levels of black belt ranks.
In that group of black belts are people that started training as kids (as young as four) and some that waited till they were in their fifties. One earned their first black belt at the age of fourteen and another earned theirs after the age of 60. Everyone of them started training for assorted reasons. Some because their mother wanted a break a couple times a week. Others started because it was something to do with their kids. Some because they wanted to defend themselves.
Regardless of the reason they started, they have all stayed, because the martial arts became part of them and no one can take it away from them. Each has varying physical abilities, and some have had their abilities challenged by the impacts of getting a little bit older. But we continue to train. There is something to gain, even with loss. We’ve witnessed those, with far more serious challenges than our own, continue to train and perform.
We not only gain the ability to kick, punch, block, and put them together in combinations. We don’t just learn to defend ourselves and others. We learn about ourselves and others. We teach, and we learn. We gain perspective. We find balance, focus, speed (in many ways), power (that can’t be measured), and spirit. We find humility. All that carries over into other areas of our lives and those around us are better for it.
If you’ve never tried the martial arts, give it a chance. There are many options. You don’t have to become a black belt. You don’t need to break boards and bricks. You don’t have to test your skills against 100 other fighters or fight your way through a dark alley. All you must do is let yourself grow in ways you never imagined.
I’m planning to do it for the rest of my life.
Shihan Chris Malley