By Suino, Nicklaus
This article first appeared in the “SMAA Journal” Volume 16, Issue 3.

Are you looking for ways to improve yourself as a person?

Have you thought about how martial arts are linked to character development?

In the area of character development, we strive to become deeper and more in tune with our art, with our opponent, and with the principles of right action. We do this by training with energy and commitment, by reminding ourselves to pay careful attention to the feedback we get from the people and the world around us, by reflecting on our growth to ensure that we are on the right path, and by seeking the advice of those who have gone before us, whether that advice is found in books or in the words of our teachers.

Focus on the Goal

Focusing on the goal means knowing what you want, carefully considering how to get there, consistently evaluating your progress, turning away from dead ends, and choosing the best or most efficient means of moving forward.

When choosing a technique, we must carefully consider whether practicing it will be an effective use of our time. After careful reflection, if we find it useless, we discard it. If it can be improved, we modify it accordingly. When we experience a mood or feeling during practice, we consider whether it is helpful to our tactical state of mind. If not, we find a way to cultivate a more beneficial mood. Great progress is most often made by those who are obsessive about their pursuits, who constantly focus on a specific goal. This is true in martial arts, in creative endeavors, or in business. When a person is easily sidetracked or tends to change his mind frequently about his goals, he tends not to accomplish much.

Learn the Essential Techniques

Once you have established what your goals are, set out to learn the techniques that help you move toward them. 

As you study, pay careful attention to each component of each technique, making sure that you understand not only how to do it, but also why it is done a certain way and what it is intended to accomplish. Many new students of martial arts try to invent techniques. While their creative spirit is admirable, techniques invented by novices are not very effective or efficient. Creativity in martial arts, as I explained in Budo Mind and Body, is the expression of mastery, not a means of achieving it. Many great martial artists have come before us, perfecting the skills of their arts for hundreds of years, so it pays to be humble about your own ability to create something new.

Master the Techniques

After identifying the techniques in your chosen art that help you move toward your goal, master their components by practicing with energy and commitment. Devote yourself to being able to perform each technique as well as you possibly can. This devotion involves constant practice and reflection on your progress. When you are not practicing, watch others to see if there are aspects of the technique that they are doing better than you. If so, incorporate their methods in your own techniques. If they are making errors, confirm that you are not committing the same ones. Seek out feedback from your teacher, actively requesting advice that will make you better. Put aside your ego and remember that even the greatest martial artists have room to improve themselves.

Obtain Martial Arts Certification at SMAA

The very act of striving for mastery is one of the cornerstones of our progress toward perfection of character. As we practice our skills over and over, each time refining them, we begin to get at the essence of martial arts. 

SMAA can help you master the self and earn martial arts certification in legitimate heritage Japanese martial arts. Learn more about joining SMAA by calling (734) 720-0330 or by submitting a contact form here.


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