How to Learn Martial Arts

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What if I want to learn something, I think it’s valuable for me, but the practice feels completely wrong?

This comes up sometimes. A part of us doing something another part doesn’t like. Recently it was in a question from a friend about learning martial arts. I’ll share a bit of her question here, it’s helpful for learning martial arts if that’s your interest. It might also relate to some other choices we make, about how we learn, and what we practice each day.

“It felt like we were consciously destroying our bodies, crushing our feet, legs and joints. Seriously, it was harder than getting kicked and hit by a guy who was twice my size. So my question is: can I practice a contact self defense martial art without crushing my body? How do I go about it? I gave up tai chi because I didn’t like the way the teacher was making us move, we were supposed to be standing on bent knees for 75 minutes and it hurt.”

Well as a start, this experience is pretty normal. And, we always have a choice.


We can approach combat, challenge, by first going to war with ourselves. Or we can approach it by first making peace.


In the first way, you beat yourself up, as much as possible, imagining that this is good practice for beating other people up.

In the second, you create harmony with your self, as much as possible. So when conflict arises, you are not wasting your energy on beating yourself up. This would just deplete you, as you’ve now experienced, before the outside battle even begins.


It’s probably best not to practice depleting yourself, by going to war with yourself. This gives people some satisfaction of feeling very worn out, but is not of much value for moving in conflict, resolving conflict.


It’s more useful to learn how to move well. Also more difficult, than just beating ourselves up. Because it’s not what we’re used to doing.

See what’s inside of you, drop bad habits, build good ones. From here you have a chance to see what’s outside of you, and respond by moving harmoniously, moving well. Which isn’t something you learn by beating yourself up.


Of course, this isn’t a common way to teach. Because it’s not a common way to be.


As teachers, we’re always giving our being. How we are. If our experience of life, how we feel about ourselves, is in this internal conflict, frustration, disconnection, disharmony, this is what we give.


It doesn’t matter much what words we say, if our being is something different. So it’s good to practice something better, so we give something better.


Learn to move well in you first. Give this time. If you’re interested in how to move in conflict, there are some techniques, some forms that make sense in this context. But moving well is first. The right form for moving in conflict has a chance to arise naturally in you, from you, following this practice.

– by Mike


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