Practitioners of martial arts understand that it’s not just a physical sport, but a mental one as well. There’s a distinct correlation between the positive or negative effects our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes and our biological function.
By the same token, how we treat our physical body - what we eat, how much we sleep and how often we exercise - can impact our mental state as well.
Thoughts and emotions play a large role in our overall health and well-being, our outlook and our view of the world.
Set the stage for mental and physical growth
For centuries, martial artists have cultivated this connection, seeking to balance the energy that comes from both the internal and external bodies. In the words of Lau Zou, ‘Before mastering anything, we must first master ourselves’.
Physical training is typically the first step in establishing a strong mind-body connection. By mastering control of your body, you can set goals that build upon each other, leading you to more in-depth mental challenges.
For example, a more complex maneuver, such as a front leg axe kick, takes far more concentration and stamina than mastering just a basic front kick. But without that solid knowledge of the simpler tasks, the more challenging goal will not be reached.
Growing in strength through martial arts
Martial arts builds on an individual’s strengths, allowing students to increase their physical developments alongside their mental challenges. As students hone their bodies and develop techniques that work with their physical structure, their energy increases.
This increased internal energy enables a student to become more alert and aware of not only themselves, but of the people and environment around them, and how all are interconnected. It gives students a deeper understanding of how other factors can affect their own state of mind, so they have more self-control when faced with personal setbacks or external problems.
Handling adversity through self-control
Once a balance has been struck between the mental and physical states, it becomes much easier to handle stresses that might otherwise derail a person’s ability to overcome problematic situations. And as the balance becomes a way of life, through practice and repetition, the benefit extends beyond martial arts training into other areas of life: school, home, work, relationships.
With the ability to reflect on a situation before reacting, a person is far less likely to ‘fly off the handle or ‘shut down’. Instead, the strong connection between recognizing the factors are influencing a situation and how that person is being affected allows them to stay calm, focus and in better control of their body.
The importance of balancing mind and body
To put it simply, our minds affect the health of our bodies and the actions we take. With these elements working together, an individual can better manage the adversities they will face in life. With its focus on physical strength as well as mental conditioning, martial arts keeps this critical mind-body connection healthy and strong.