There is a myth surrounding martial arts training in the West, which assumes that those who practice the many different physical movements of their chosen art, and who simultaneously submit to the accompanying psychological discipline, are immune from the effects of every day life, illness, injury, and possibly even death. This mistaken view appears to be premised upon the notion that through the agency of martial arts training ‘change’ – as a distinct entity – ceases to have any real meaning. This assumption could not be further from the truth. The practice of martial arts can not occur if change does not happen. That which is referred to as ‘mastery’ comes about only because change has occurred, but it is a particular type of change which is guided and supported by the defining philosophical and technical boundaries of the chosen martial art itself. Each different martial art channels what might be described as ‘natural’ change in a particular manner. Due to the disparate nature of the martial arts, change can be nurtured in many ways, but it is change that is the defining factor in any long term training regime.
The human body is subject to the unstoppable change of aging. This is a forgone conclusion that no known agency can prevent. As time goes by the body changes, this is an important and crucial point that must be acknowledged as martial arts mastery is based entirely upon the aging process. Indeed, no mastery is possible without long term training and the accommodation of martial training to an aging and maturing body structure. This outer process of maturity is not a negative aspect but a very important part of the process of the move toward understanding. As the body matures, the mind becomes stronger, calmer, and more knowledgeable. It has been older people who have defined traditional martial arts training, creating not only effective self-defence vehicles, but also martial structures that have enabled the body and mind to become fully enhanced through the aging process. The body and mind grow into the martial arts practiced.
Injury and illness are not errors. They are the inevitable consequence of possessing a human body that from time to time, over reaches itself and becomes in some way limited or unable to function at maximum efficiency. No matter how trivial or severe these events may be, there is always a means to train that is subtle and often unviewable to those whose body is functioning healthily. The point is that an injury or illness, regardless of its severity, is an opportunity to understand change to an ever deeper degree, and through this understanding enhance the knowledge base associated with one’s chosen art. Training in this way requires that cliché, prejudice, and stereotype is completely uprooted from the mind, as such assumptions prevent the ability of the practitioner to effectively adapt to the ever changing circumstances that originate both with and without the body. The ability to understand change is the hidden strength implicit in all Asian martial traditions.