(Find the podcast episode of this blog post here.)
Recently I have observed how I have come to define myself mainly based on the practice of martial arts, and being a martial artist.
Martial Arts became my world. I made it the centerpiece of my world. All my thoughts, imaginations and daydreams would be about martial arts, and how to further myself as a martial artist. It consumed me to such an extent that if you imagine your mind as a box, then martial arts was filling up my box completely. Leaving no space for anything else. Consequently, this resulted in disregarding other things and parts of my life if they weren’t about martial arts.
There was a weird belief seated in my mind. The belief that a true martial artist must only focus on martial arts. There can be no space for anything else in life, but that which is martial arts. I must abandon, and give up all that is not martial arts. All focus, attention, effort, and energy must be concentrated on martial arts. Martial Arts only. Thoughts, words, and actions were only allowed in the context of them being about and serving martial arts.
It took over to such an extent that I developed this mental/mind quality. I could in a very quick moment analyze whether what I was doing or about to do was about martial arts. If not then I would want to disregard it and walk away from it. Never allowing me to even just explore it some more. Simply because it wasn’t helping my martial arts, or wasn’t about martial arts.
What Are You Defined By?
When we quiet our minds and let ourselves be honest with us we will see where we define ourselves according to certain things we are doing. Be it martial arts, some sport, or other subject, point or action. When we confront ourselves with the question of how much something we are doing is taking over our lives, and what part it plays we can start seeing where we have defined ourselves by. We can see to what extent something has become our life and identity.
The Fear-Gatekeeper & Losing My Identity
When I became aware of this point I noticed a fear inside me. I was afraid to challenge this self-definition of me having defined myself solely by martial arts. I was scared to stop that and no longer define myself only through martial arts. I was crippled by the anxiety to admit to myself the realization and understanding I had that it is quite limiting to define myself only through martial arts. It was limiting me because I was disregarding other disciplines, subject and parts that were here in my life to explore and test. So, I passed on potential opportunities and things that could have benefited my self-development, self-understanding, and self-expansion as a being and person. Just because they weren’t about martial arts.
Martial Arts As A Tool
There is this deeper idea and belief that it’s either 100% martial arts, or it meant I wasn’t a true martial artist. Yet, what martial arts are to me wasn’t defined in the first place. I saw the process and path of martial arts as black and white only. In actuality, there are many shades of gray in between that black and white. Meaning that to walk the martial arts path and life does not imply to limit oneself to only the teachings, and principles that were established so far by the ones that walked this path before us in the realm of martial arts.
Conclusively the realization and understanding were that martial arts are a TOOL. A tool I use to serve ME. It must serve the purpose to aid in my process of understanding myself, my mind, my body, and my self-expression. The tool ‘Martial Arts’ should serve the higher goal of being used as an additional medium to continuous self-actualization, self-expansion, and self-creation. This one tool must not take over all my life either for it is but an additional tool and set of methodologies, and principles to study, explore and apply/live, but there are also many other tools in life not to be disregarded just because they don’t fall under the category of ‘Martial Arts’.
The Martial Arts Mask
I didn’t know this initially, but what happened right there is that I personified martial arts. I created a personality out of it. I put on a mask with which I would say ‘I am a martial artist’. This personality would have an array of specific thoughts, memories, images, emotions, feelings and behaviors attached to it which I act out when I step into it.
Now the fear was that if I challenge this personality by which I know myself by, will I lose myself, and my identity? No. Eventually, I realized through the self-introspection process that I am not a suit, or personality, or character only. I am not limited to being one way or doing things one way. I don’t have to. Also, I wasn’t born with this martial arts personality. I created it throughout my life. Many things from family, to school to movies, to the environment, contributed to its creation.
To rule out any misinformation that may arise, I am not in any way saying that it is bad to define yourself or see yourself through martial arts, or as a martial artist. That’s not what I am saying. I, too, see myself as a martial artist. What I am saying though is that I saw the need for me to challenge my relationship to martial arts. I recognized the need to and became aware that I had this weird self-defining relationship to martial arts.
I was making it too much. I was making it my entire world. I was existing as only that, and that was a pretty small world, and identity. For, I became aware that I could be much more if I allowed myself to take in, and give other parts and things in life that aren’t necessarily about martial arts also a chance. To explore them. To test them out. To not define and see me only through the lens of martial arts, and so also my entire world and life.
We don’t need to label ourselves as just ‘being a martial artist’, or ‘being a painter’, or ‘being a content producer’, or ‘being an entrepreneur’, and so on. Labeling limits. We DO certain things, we LIVE certain ways, we FOLLOW certain principles, but we are not ‘I AM THIS and THAT’. This gives tremendously much more freedom for self-expression. This way we are far less stuck, and more free to do more things and discover, and expand further than just one discipline, or subject.
We should use every single tool and method we find in our lives to help us with the ultimate goal, which is self-actualization, self-understanding, self-creation and self-aware living.
Am I Doing Martial Arts For Me Or For Others?
Another fear that I discovered was that I am afraid what other martial artists will think of me for writing this, and challenging this belief and point that I have to make martial arts 100% of me and my life. But, that only reflected for me that I am then walking my martial arts journey in the shadow of the fear to be judged by other martial artists. That sucks. So, I need to fix that starting point. It must be me walking my martial arts journey for me. Martial Arts is a tool for me, it is a medium for self-expression, and expanding that self-expression.
I will be going up to here for this post. There is definitely a lot more to the martial arts personality that I would like to discuss in the future. I will bring this discussion and topic of the martial arts personality back.
Thank you very much.
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