By Ryan Nicholls Senior Instructor
When I was much younger, long before I had started any of my martial arts training, the martial arts were all about power, strength, determination, resilience and a greater awareness of the universe and all it holds. It was the lure of the seemingly unattainable - achieving all that the human body was capable of and becoming something almost mystical in nature in the process.
The martial arts, like most things to me, became a pursuit for perfection. It became the joy and exhilaration in performing the perfect axe kick, the perfect mid block, the perfect shoulder throw or the perfect wrist lock. It became the drive to do things no-one else I know can do, and I quickly developed a fighting style that is quintessentially me.
But at some point in time I realised that a goal is only a moment in time, a brief and short lived emotion that ultimately fades. It becomes a memory of a time and a place; a marker or sign post on a longer journey. And this is where the martial arts mirrors life - life is a journey marked by events - some good, some bad - but all contribute to the experience that is Life. For when looking at Life what is the goal? Life always ends at some point and all we have is the memories and experiences of the journey, so why focus on the endpoint? The martial arts is no different - it is my realisation within the martial arts that a black belt or 2nd or 3rd Dan is just a marker, a single moment in a larger journey. The importance to me is that I have enjoyed the journey so far, that I have experienced so much and learnt a great deal about myself in the process.
For almost half my life now the martial arts have become the mainstay of my existence. Martial arts is the rock I lean on when things go wrong, an old friend I turn to that always provides solace in times of distress. It is what I do when I'm happy, when I'm excited, when in Love and out, when sad, emotional, angry or depressed. Martial arts is the joy in my smile, the strength in my heart, and the fire in my eyes. It is as much a part of me as the blood that pumps through my heart, and to me, is just as essential.
My childhood vision of the martial arts though stylised and shaped by pop culture was not far off the mark. But martial arts was never about obtaining power, strength, determination, resilience and a greater understanding of the universe - it was the journey to realise that I always had them. These are not aspects of the martial arts that have been brought to the man; these are aspects of the man distilled into my martial arts.
Ultimately, martial arts to me are the discovery of that man.