We all want to grow in the martial arts by improving our skill and our abilities to protect ourselves and others. However, there is much more to growth in the martial arts than just your skill level...
When we say that one is to grow in the martial arts, what is it that we really mean?
Of course, things such as growth in both our skill and our rank are to be considered, as these are important to someone who is on the path to black belt.
However, aside from skill, there are other key aspects in which someone must experience growth as they proceed through the true path of a martial artist.
Your first point of concern, even greater than skill:
Growth of Character
Without growth of character, any amount of martial arts skill that someone acquires matters little, if at all. How many people have had or heard this conversation:
"Look at him, he thinks he is so tough... he might try to pick a fight with us to prove it, so let's ignore him."
I have seen and heard this one, and its an example of someone who did not grow or develop in character, and the result is that people see this participant as a cocky jerk. This is something that happens. While a great many people that study the martial arts do so for fitness, self defense or fun and will never have this problem, this is a common problem with certain demographics.
Young men, and sometimes young women, will succumb to this if they are talented and they are well aware of it.
This can be a problem if they are a tournament competitor and want to intimidate their competition.
Many of us have seen this happen when someone makes their next belt upgrade - "I am an X Belt now, I know everything, and I know it better than my teachers." And yes, there are those that feel this way once they make their yellow belt...
Understanding that you have to grow in more than skill; your character has to grow with your skill, or you will find that your character often stunts further improvements and actually will cause backwards momentum in your training...
Who wants that?
In addition, growing in character will keep the martial artist humble. Everyone who has participated in this sport is well aware that, not matter how good you are...
Someone will always be better...
Someone could always get lucky...
You could be off due to illness or injury...
Or someone could hit you from behind, leaving you defenseless and just hoping they are not going to hurt you further.
Grwoth of character helps you realize this, and it helps you maintain a better awareness so that you may avoid situations where the wrong thing might happen.
Don't get me wrong, bad things can still happen, but lessening the chances is a good practice. This knowledge comes from understanding your own personal growth, and this personal growth will force you to be more cognizant of the fact that you are not invincible.
Another point to be concerned with... if you are teaching and you spend the whole time self-aggrandizing because you have not grown in your person, what does that teach the students with whom you are working?
There are many other ways that one can demonstrate growth - I have seen people that study simply become better people, and with their newfound strength are willing to help the downtrodden. This is an example of growth!
Another key point is to know that growth is not always linear - I have seen people grow into excellent and humble people, and then something boosts their ego and they take a step back.
Hey, I have done that myself.
Its all about realizing it has happened and ensuring that you correct the issue before it becomes a real problem.
Anyone can do it. You can do it!
Grow in the martial arts, grow in your own person, and present that growth to the world!
Use the growth to train hard, and become who you are meant to become!