1. You Must Start Training While You Are Young
Short answer: no.
Long answer: Absolutely not.
Most martial artists understand that no two people perform exactly the same, however many forget that the same person performs differently at different ages as well. The preferences, disposition, and physical abilities of a martial artist are likely to be different at age twenty and age twenty-five. We know that this is fine.
Of course, the same can obviously be said for a martial artist who begins training at age six versus sixty.
And that is also fine. What’s important, regardless of when you are beginning your martial art journey, is to tailor your training to you and what you can do.
Recognize aspects of yourself, mentally and physically. Train in the ways that improve who you are and what you can do instead of seeking to improve who you used to be and what you were once able to do.
Don’t forget the most important thing! Even if you begin training when you are closer to your hundredth birthday than your first birthday, you are practically dancing circles around those who decided it is already too late to begin.
2. Advanced Martial Artists Are The Most Dangerous To Practice With
Despite how fearsome an advanced practitioner may look in their execution of techniques, they are actually likely to be the safest to work with.
More injuries result from beginner students who have unsure movements and excess tension in their actions than from advanced practitioners who have spent plenty of time learning the ins and outs of their techniques.
Rather than run away from the “big and scary black belts”, I’d advise you to seek them out. If you are the teacher running the class, encourage ranks to match up with different skill levels.
The students will benefit from the variety of persons and the classes will be safer as advanced students can help guide the newer ones along—of course, be sure the advanced students still get to train at the practice levels they need to!
3. You Can’t Train If You Are Injured Or Out Of Shape
Let me start by saying that it is good to rest and recover properly when you are injured.
As much as we martial artists love to focus on the aspects of training that rely on physical exertion, physical recovery is equally important. Take a break before your body decides to break down further.
With that being said, just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. Heck, isn’t the purpose of training to learn how to overcome the challenges that get in the way of our health or survival?
Rather than train around the injury—and certainly rather than training through the injury—find ways to adapt your skillset as you would if it were happening in a live situation. In most cases, you can intelligently modify your actions to accommodate your new handicap.
This means you distill your techniques and tactics into the essential elements that make them work, then rebuild them in a way appropriate for your momentary challenge.
Mind you, go slow and work smart.
In the case of a more serious injury that prevents even movement adaptation (e.x. spinal injury), seek other methods of improvement. This is when book studying and introspective thought are extremely powerful.
Even the most physical sport has mental and strategic aspects that can be worked on while in bed.
4. A Good Martial Artist Is Automatically A Good Teacher
While some schools and teachers do guide their students into becoming high-level coaches and teachers, this is a skill set that does not automatically grow out of a person’s ability to punch, kick, and grapple.
Being a high-level teacher involves an eye for recognizing nuances, an awareness of human emotion and thought, adaptability, a creative mind, and many more skills. What training will do is provide a personal blueprint for martial art progress. It is then up to that person to study their own blueprint, sharing the appropriate lessons from their accumulated experience and guiding others so that they can trek their own path towards greatness as well.
5. Martial Art Masters Have Magic Powers
Martial artists may not be able to shoot fireballs out of their fingertips after decades of training, however, some of the abilities earned can certainly seem borderline supernatural.
Unless you have been secluded from all aspects of pop culture, you can likely conjure up an image in your head of an orange-clad Shaolin monk breaking chopsticks and bending spears with their throat or appearing immovable despite a mass of people trying to shove them.
Though some of these skills are more similar to a magician’s than a martial artist’s, they still often require mastery of timing and misdirection. Like martial art techniques, many of these tricks require much rehearsal and expertise to execute properly.
6. The Internet Is Only Filled With Martial Art Phonies
While there are certainly plenty of “masters” who would be tapped out by a wet paper bag falling on them, there are also many great lessons from authentic martial artists on the internet nowadays.
While I wouldn’t recommend attempting to learn martial arts from the internet if you are a complete novice, a martial artist with experience can look online and glean additional perspective on what they have learned in person.
The key is to balance an open mind with an appropriate amount of common sense based on your experience. Be willing to let go of preconceived ideas, however, don’t lose yourself in your pursuit to understand how others perform.
For more thoughts on martial arts in the modern age, be sure to check out how the internet has changed martial arts!
7. Studying Martial Arts Automatically Make You A Virtuous Person
An instructor may withhold rank if you aren’t meeting non-physical requirements, however, this isn’t the way every school operates.
Regardless, the dojo can be a powerful place for self-improvement.
Whether for a child or an adult, sometimes we do just need somebody to help us stay accountable for our actions. It is similar to the struggles most have in pursuing better health; most people know how to lose weight and be healthy, they simply struggle with the discipline to actually do it.
Inspiration is one thing, action is another.