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Why do you Train?

Posted 09-03-2009 at 02:31 AM by

Hello All… I posted this up before, and I'm digging it up to put it in a place that is more accessible for retro-active reading. In any case, if this stirs any thoughts or feedback, please feel free to contribute.

I simply propose you ask yourself the question: “Why do I train?”

It can be generally surmised that a part of the posters that frequent a MMA forum may have trained in the Martial Arts or are aspiring to. In either case, you have probably asked yourself the question, “Why do I train?” or “Why do I want to train?”

As simple as it may seem, with a moment or two of reflection this question becomes more and more relevant with regards to how you train. When you begin to put together an answer for the proposed query, you will probably find that those answers fall into one of two categories: Inspirations and Aspirations. Figuring out what category your answer falls into can go a long way in exposing the impetus behind what we do and forecasting what path our future actions will take.

The American Heritage Dictionary (according to Dictionary.com [http://dictionary.reference.com/brow...ation])defines inspiration as:
a. Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.
b. The condition of being so stimulated.
2. An agency, such as a person or work of art, that moves the intellect or emotions or prompts action or invention.

On that end, we all have things, people, places or events that have come to inspire us to do things. For example: One of my greatest sources of inspiration in regards to the martial arts is Bruce Lee. Like many people I was first exposed to him via his movies. Through those movies he was able to convey a pure unadulterated energy and passion for the martial arts. The entirety of his relatively small stature was explosive and overflowing with athleticism and grace. In reality, the only thing that I had in common with the man was the fact that I was also short. However, it dawned on me that by training in the martial arts I could possibly (although at a very slight chance) come to a point in my life that I could do what he did on screen. Even when I had learned that his death had predated my birth by around 3 years, and that many of the moments he had on screen was due to “the magic of movies,” being exposed to that first late night glimpse of Enter the Dragon had sowed the seeds of interest in the martial arts.

That was probably my single biggest inspiration. If you are in the position of wanting to train, or if you’ve barely started, your inspirations are most likely at the forefront of your mind. That’s good. That’s where they should be. In fact, your inspiration(s) are probably different than mine, and that’s fine. Inspirations are as numerous and varied as those who have them. When one gets deeply entrenched in their own training, it becomes hard to see those inspirations in the same light.

As we all know, time passes and the act of training starts to become challenging; it becomes more of a challenge to find the volition just to make it to the gym. Sometimes it seems a lot easier to find worthwhile “alternatives” to getting worn out, sore, whilst avoiding big sweaty opponents who try to hit you in the face or twist your extremities into odd and painful shapes or positions. Other times injuries and other parts of our life create situations where change appears imminent, and the accompanying aches, pains, scrapes and bruises (and their resulting bills) make us pause and re-evaluate whether such activities are worth it. At this point, the question as to why we train becomes even more important than before and reflection upon our aspirations is tantamount.

Dictionary.com ([http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/aspiration]) defines aspiration as:
1. strong desire, longing, or aim; ambition
2. a goal or objective desired

Many times we are forced to re-evaluate what goals we aspire to attain through our training. What I find frightening is that at many times we may not even have those aspirations defined, and answering the question of “Why do I train?” becomes such a depressing challenge to address that training becomes meaningless, and quitting seems the only inevitability that can be logically reached.

Like inspirations, aspirations are as varied and different as there are people who choose to follow them. Some of us train with aspirations of competing in the professional realm of MMA. Some of us train with aspirations of getting a black belt in our respective arts. Some of us train with aspirations to be able to defend ourselves if a situation arises that merits the use of our trained skills. Some of us train with aspirations to get in better shape or to lose that extra layer of “winter fat” that started to cling on many winters ago (yes that same layer of winter fat that has apparently asked its friends and family to visit and never kicked them out of the house). Regardless of the specifics, our aspirations are what drive us on through the more difficult periods of training. Whether it be fiscal difficulty, injury, or a sudden sweeping change in our lives, the strength of our aspirations will determine whether or not we continue to lace up our wrestling shoes, tie the belt on our gis, take that next breakfall, shrimp across the mat one more time, go another round, strap our gloves on one more time, or even choose to train that day or the next. What we aspire to do or become is the single biggest reason why we choose to train or to continue training. It what makes all of bumps, bruises, scrapes, aches and pains “worth it.”

So ask yourself, “Why do I train?” I ask this not only in the hopes that you can identify your own inspirations and aspirations, but also in the hopes that you can understand the inspirations and aspirations of those around you (inside and outside of the forum). I do this because I hope it will help you come to a deeper understanding of yourself, and also to help you steer clear of tearing down the aspirations of those around you.

I see all too often (on and off the forums) the scenario of a person asking another, “Why would you train that? It’s been proven not to work in the UFC/Ring/Cage, etc.” It is all too often stated in such condescending tones that one’s choice of martial art is “useless.” Many times styles are labeled as “TMA garbage” or “crap” if one chooses to expound that they don’t train in the nuveau holy trinity of MMA styles of BJJ, MT/Boxing, and wrestling. Does the aspiration of competing in a professional MMA bout hold itself in a higher light than someone who wants to lower their weight in order to avoid health complications so they could live to see their grandchildren being born? Is it any nobler to know that your shins are conditioned or that an asthmatic kid can actually move around and be active due to their involvement in more “traditional” styles of martial arts? Does it make ones training any less important because they do it primarily for their cardiovascular well-being instead of doing it in hopes to of submitting an opponent in a tournament?

All things considered, when you put things in context to each individual person, I think not. What may be relevant to you may be completely irrelevant to someone else. I bring this up not to dissolve any objective stance or to abscond any remnants of common sense of ethics within our martial experiences. Rather I do this in hopes to promote a level of understanding with each other at the least as human beings, if not with the deference and respect I would hope we reserve for each other as martial artists.

In an interview that Bruce Lee had the Pierre Berton Show on December 9th, 1971 he was asked why anyone would want “to learn a Chinese martial art?” This was asked in reference to Lee’s school in Hollywood where he had taught James Garner, Steve McQueen and other Hollywood alumni. The answer to which Lee had responded, “…the way that I teach it, all types of knowledge ultimately mean self-knowledge. [It] is, therefore, these people are coming in and asking me to teach them, not so much how to defend themselves, or how to do somebody in. Rather, they want to learn to express themselves through some movement, be it anger, be it determination or whatever. So, in other words, what I'm saying therefore, is that they're paying me to show them, in combative form, the art of expressing the human body.”

Lee had come to an understanding beforehand that his students had varying inspirations in mind when they came to him. Based off of that their aspirations were just as diverse. However, he treated all his students the same because in the end they would learn how to reach their aspirations via their individual means of expression. Regardless of that form of expression, each student (even Lee himself) had at some time or another answered for themselves the same question…

“Why do I train?”
Posted in Martial Arts
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    The Don's Avatar
    Thanks man I enjoyed this and it gave me inspiration for my next blog post.
    Posted 09-29-2009 at 01:48 AM by The Don The Don is offline
    Onganju's Avatar
    Thank you sir! I'm trying real hard not to sit idly and just lurk, and any feedback is refreshing to me.
    Posted 09-30-2009 at 10:28 PM by Onganju Onganju is offline
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