Exactly why do we train in the martial arts? There are as many different reasons as there are people. But what could be considered good reasons for training in martial arts within the context of the cultures from which they derive? I think that we have to look at the differences between western and eastern style martial arts. To be sure almost every culture on the planet developed some form of martial arts. That being the case i do not consider one type of martial arts as being superior or inferior to another. At different times and in different places they were and are used differently.
First we must say what we mean when we say "Martial Arts". Well the "Martial" of course relates to war, combat of some sort. The art part is a little more abstract but it is safe to relate warfare or combat as being artistic if looked at it in a certain light. Like all artistic endeavors it must be studied and practiced to transcend the limits of just normal functioning. With the added catch that if you really were no good at it in less modern times you would probably end up dead and certainly wouldn't be able to defend your family and tribe. So we know that in less modern societies martial arts probably meant something very different than what it means to us. The art part is probably a more recent way of looking at it since, say here in the west martial arts is more of a martial science. For the most part, at least here in the west, martial arts is the romantic word for older Asian systems of combat. It is the ideal that we have of the oriental mystique unless we are lucky enough to find an authentic teacher of the martial arts.
The one real question we never ask ourselves is whether what we are learning is really relevant or actually works in these modern times that we are living in today. We are all awed with what we see on T.V. but is that a real reason for dedicating ourselves to a rigorous regimen of physical and mental training that may consume years of our lives and cut deeply into our pockets? For those of us who make this commitment what where our initial thoughts that validated this course of action? Was it the fear of getting pounded on the pavement by some thugs because we lived in a bad neighborhood? Or was it that we just got tired of being teased in school? Could it had been the ideal of the Asian mystique? Or maybe our parents just put us in a class after school so that we would learn a little discipline and they could go to the movies together a couple nights a week? And if older, then for the health benefits? Most of us i think committed to the study of a martial arts for varying reasons. As we trained our reasons changed also. That is a bit of the art part. Through the training we reach a level of proficiency in our chosen style and learn that it is an endless study.
So how do we go about deciding why we truly chose this course? First we answer the question:is the martial arts we chose really a practical one for us and what benefits we want to gain from it? Are we really willing to put in the time and pay the money that is necessary?If so then only time will tell whether our efforts are truly worth it. Say for instance, you take a martial arts to learn pure, bare-bones self-defense and are relatively young and in good health. Then a western style martial art like boxing may be best for you. If your true goal is self-defense then you don't care about uniforms, belts or rankings and titles. If on the other hand you are more inclined towards an art that has combat aspects but teaches some code of spiritual refinement then one of the more traditional styles may be for you. Why we train then comes down to each individuals temperament and the benefits he hopes to derive from his particular style. Why we train in the martial arts is actually what we are living for in our everyday walk in life.