Martial Arts is a physical, mental, and emotional pursuit of excellence and skill. This is not an uncommon phrase; it’s typical to hear people describe the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of Martial Arts training. The question is, what does it mean to be strong in each of those facets of our discipline?
Strength in the physical sense is defined as the maximum output that our bodies can manage. A weightlifter who engages in strength training will find a weight that is the absolute limit of their abilities, and dedicate the effort required to get those weights up in the air. When the muscles strain and struggle to achieve that new limit, they become stronger and ready for a new challenge at a new level. In Martial Arts, this physical training develops a body that can support the development of increased structure, skill and ability.
Mental strength goes a level deeper beyond physical strength. Once physical strength is in place, mental strength can act like artillery; it can support the actions and efforts of physical strength. Like fuel to an engine, it guides and drives the willpower. Mental strength is the toughness of will; it is the ability to persevere and take successes and failures as equal reasons to continue trying. In Martial Arts, mental strength will guide you through your training. It will allow you to stay confident amongst failures and humble amongst achievements.
The deepest kind of strength is emotional, or spiritual strength. This is the strength that comes from within. Emotional strength is where you draw inspiration from, when your physical and your mental willpower begins to waver. If your body cannot handle the stress and challenge, and your mind cannot process what is happening, it becomes the job of your emotional or spiritual being to understand what to do. This emotional strength comes from the understanding that there is something greater at work; an idea or a principle that guides all things. Like love, this strength can overpower any and all challenges you face. In Martial Arts, you must find the source of this strength in your spirit and your emotions, and keep that ready for when times become difficult.
Mastering these types of strength will not only improve your abilities in Martial Arts. Mastering your strengths will be an improvement in the quality of your life. Like all meaningful pursuits, Martial Arts is analogous to the path of life itself. It is full of challenges and difficulties, laughs and achievements, growth and struggle. How do you increase strength? Like the weight lifter, you must find your barrier, be vulnerable to your limits, and take the risk of pushing them. Whether you succeed or fail, it is the rebuilding that will make you stronger. Invest in your strength, and you will find that it will repay you ten-fold.