Musings: Life Lessons in Martial Arts


I’ve just gotten back into Muay Thai training after a year-long hiatus. There were a few reasons why I stopped and I can make excuses about the politics, about how I allowed the instructors’ lack of integrity affect me etc. But if I were honest with myself, I stopped mainly because I was weak and lacked the discipline and willpower to press on in the face of pressure.

Getting back into the groove of things in a healthier environment with a super supportive partner helped me understand some very important things about not just the sport, but about life and my attitude towards it.

  1. You are never as good as you think. And that’s okay.
    There are few experiences that prove as humbling as a martial arts education. No matter how fast or how much you improve, there will always be an overwhelming sense that there is so much you still don’t know. Being comfortable with that reality makes you resilient, humble and eradicates the ego. And that is the only way to truly learn and improve.

  2. It doesn’t get any easier. Your mind just gets stronger
    The more I train, the more I realise that things don’t get any easier. You still feel as much pain and fatigue with each kick of the bag or punch you throw. The thing that changes is how strong your mind is. Your mind will quit way before your body ever will. It tells you you don’t need to go for training today. I can’t do this. It’s too painful to give my 100%. The true building of character comes from doing the things you don’t feel like doing but that you know makes you stronger and a better person.

  3. Your martial arts journey is your own. You fight to be stronger than you were yesterday. Not for recognition or to be better than someone else.
    As with any competitive sport, it’s easy to compare yourself with someone else and feel good or lousy about your progress by comparison. That was my undoing last year. My sense of not being good enough eventually instigated me to detach and give up. When in reality, I was improving and getting better every single day. Isn’t that a pity? To quit on yourself because you feel like you can’t be the best. I’ve learnt that being obsessed with the goal is missing the point. The true value of pursuing anything in life is about your painstaking process of growth.

  4. Be still and focus. Spending time cultivating good technique reduces effort in the future.
    When faced with an obstacle, our instinct would be to react and hit at it as hard as we can. But I’ve learnt that being fully present and focused can help you think more clearly. That the best response comes not from reacting with brute force or panic but acting from a place of composure and thinking calmly.

  5. Support someone else’s journey. There is greater meaning in growing together.
    Much in line with how someone else’s success doesn’t equate to your failure, it brings great joy to watch someone improve. The true meaning and camaraderie comes from sharing what we know and pushing each other forward even at one’s own expense. This is something I firmly believe in in all aspects of my life. That we all get stronger when we motivate and encourage each other and build each other up. Women have enough stacked against us for us to be cutting each other down or feel bitter about someone else’s success. We need to stick together and with all our powers combined (haha), we all become better than we were before.

So there you have it! What I’ve learnt so far. It’s only been a couple of weeks and already I’m getting so many insights into myself and how I live my life. I’m trying out Brazilian JiuJitsu as well now. Yet another world that, while daunting, definitely offers a lot of growth. I’m excited! Martial arts is about much more than fitness. It reveals the weaknesses in your character and tests your will to overcome them.

The real question is.. Are you game? x

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