17 Important Life Lessons from Martial Arts

17 Important Life Lessons That Martial Arts Will Teach You

The physical and mental benefits of training in a martial art are endless, but the lessons taught inside the gym don’t go away when you take your mouthguard out.


Warning: a couple of images contain blood


1. Leave your ego at the door.

mmaoctagon.plThis is one of the cardinal rules of any dojo, but it will apply anywhere you go, with anything you try. Leave your pride behind and open your mind to learning instead— you’ll be surprised at how much farther it takes you.

2. You can learn something new from everyone you meet.

taekwondotimes.comWhether it’s the new guy who somehow has a flawless left hook or the white belt whose incessant questions enable you to become a better teacher, everyone you’ll meet in your life has the ability to show you something new. Take it as an opportunity to better yourself and to help others with what you learn.

3. You either win, or you learn.

graciebarra.comYou will get tapped out, knocked out, and tossed like a ragdoll, and all of that is just fine. Winning a sparring match in the gym or a major tournament is a thrilling feeling, but when we are defeated, it only shows us what we need to work on. If we change our outlook on how we view our shortcomings in the rest of our lives as well, our losses cease to become losses and instead become opportunities.

4. The journey is what makes the destination so satisfying.

gbnewcastlecity.comOf course everyone wants their black belt, but in the end, it’s just a piece of fabric that holds your kimono together. The literal blood, sweat, and tears that are shed along the way are far more valuable. The years of work that are put into learning your art are ultimately what you remember. Take each day as it comes and focus on the little goals— the grand achievements will come with time and experience.

5. Good technique will always beat force.

judogi.co.ukThe guy who puts all of his energy into beating the absolute crap out of his opponent is almost guaranteed to get tired quicker. It’s the calm, smart, technical fighter who almost always comes out on top. When we take a moment to breathe and analyze the struggle we’re facing instead of going all-in without a second thought, the outcome is much more likely to work out in our favor.

6. Never judge someone by their appearance…

cheezburger.comWe’re taught this lesson in preschool, but it becomes much more relevant when the 120-pound guy (or girl) is making the 220-pound former wrestler wish he’d just stayed home. Once you earn a few bruises from someone you’d never have expected to dish out such a whoopin’, you’ll make SURE to get to know someone before passing judgment.

7. …And stop worrying about how you look.

cagepotato.comYour face will be red. Your hair will be a mess. There will be snot and sweat. And you will not care one little bit. Few things teach you that your abilities are more important than your appearance than when you’re at risk of being kicked in the face. At the end of the day, the feeling of overcoming what you never thought you could will always be better than looking ‘hot.’

8. Most of your limits are set by your own mind…

sportskeeda.comSure, your shoulder can only bend so far before you hear a nauseating “pop,” but you’d be surprised how far you can push your limits if you set your mind to it. One more step, one more roll, or one more punch is nothing when you think about how much work you’ve already put in. No matter what you do, know your limits and then prove them wrong.

9. … But never be too proud to say when enough is enough.

minimartialarts.comIt’s much better to tap out than to fight to the death and end up with a broken elbow. While we should always push our limits, it’s better to admit defeat and come back to fight another day than to sideline ourselves forever due to our own pride. We’re only human, and it’s ok to admit that.

10. Seriously, take care of your body.

graciemag.comHaving a sexy beach bod might not be that important to you, but if you subsist solely on ice cream and beer, you’ll feel it when you train the next day. Your cells will heal faster if you put good food into your body, stretch, exercise smart, and take rest days. Your body is a temple that can kick some serious ass, and you should treat it as such. After all, it’s the only one you’ve got.

11. Let go of the little things.

theglobeandmail.comSometimes, your training partner’s fist will accidentally find your face when they’re trying to grab your kimono. They’ll apologize, you’ll tell them not to worry, and you’ll both continue what you were doing. All of your relationships become easier when you remember to judge people for their intentions rather than their actions, especially if they don’t ruin your whole week.

12. Being a good follower is not a bad thing…

kokoro-iskf.orgOur culture likes to make people believe that being a follower is a bad thing, but there is no shame in listening to and learning from those who have more experience than you. There will always be a technique that you don’t completely understand, and it’s ok to let someone else teach it to the new guy instead. Being a good student is just as important as being a good teacher, no matter what you do.

13. …But don’t be afraid to step up and lead when you’re needed.

suljosblog.comJust as your skills were shaped by great teachers, there will come a time when you need to be the guiding light for someone else. It might just be a one-time correction on another student’s form, or you might be a continuous role model for someone who wants to learn to fight just like you. When the opportunity to lead comes your way, embrace it and treat it like the honor that it is.

14. Success doesn’t come without a great deal of pain.

nytimes.comNo matter how careful you are, nobody comes out of martial arts without having suffered a bunch of minor injuries (and maybe a couple of major ones). But anything worth having is also worth suffering for, and the taste of victory either on or off the mat outweighs the pain of all of the kicks, punches, and chokes that it took to get there. Just as the Japanese proverb says, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”

15. Your actions will say more than your mouth ever could.

If you train, you know it’s only a matter of time before some kid in a Tapout shirt who claims to have trained UFC struts into the dojo and starts running his mouth… and then gets his butt kicked. If you keep your mouth shut and let your abilities speak for you, people are going to be way more impressed than if you proudly proclaim how awesome you are.

16. Not everyone who hurts you is your enemy.

joshmdrake.comIf you ever watch a martial arts competition, it might be the only time you’ll see two people hug after beating each other up. Despite what UFC promos might want you to believe, most martial artists don’t hate each other. We know that no matter how many blows and throws were exchanged, we are all humans fighting the same battles and working towards our own success… and that there’s a lot to be learned from those battles.

17. You and your family will not always share the same genes.

tapout101.comYou will, however, share hugs, tips, memories, and bodily fluids (usually not on purpose). Your training partners become your brothers and sisters, and your gym becomes your second home. The value of this sort of non-obligatory love is immeasurable, and you will treasure it just as much as you do the love for your own biological family.

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