Why do we have and practice martial arts? What are they good for?
There are three realms of benefit from martial arts practice: physical, mental, spiritual. We’ll take them in that order. First, there are the physical benefits of practice. Obviously, the martial arts are first self defense skills; the utility in protecting yourself needs little further fleshing out. Beyond the fighting side, however, we find a host of physical benefits. The training keeps you strong, limber, and healthy. Thus we see a physical benefit not only in the form of self protection but in the overall scope of one’s life and longevity. Second, there is the development of one’s mind. Kempo is an endless pursuit, and the learning of the written catalog of techniques takes decades. Sadly, this is not true of all of today’s martial arts, many of which have come to embrace very narrow views of combat. Beyond the learning of rote techniques, within the art of kempo one studies principles of movement; when studying in this fashion, techniques defy description and categorization—their number becomes boundless. Clearly, this sort of study is an exercise of the mind. Not only is the student faced with an ever growing, ever expanding expanse of martial potentialities, but also the practitioner examines each singular movement in a number of different free-style practices such as kata (forms), renzokuken (combinations) and embu (martial demonstrations). The constant growth, reevaluation and work with variations makes kempo a true mental exercise. Third, if martial art is practiced as a true kijutsu (energy art), the student begins to develop powers of body and mind that seem almost impossible. The ability to soar through the air, strike with the power of your entire body to a single point, and toss much larger people to the ground defies the bounds of human potential. As the student seeks the root of these powers, s/he is inexorably drawn to the Root of all things; one recognizes the source of his or her power as the Source of all the universe’s opposing and harmonizing forces. The grasping after understanding of this idea propels one into spiritual exercise and inquiry that could easily span more than a lifetime. There you are! In these three realms we find a plethora of attractions that could draw almost anyone to the venue of martial arts training. As the practitioner grows and expands, the pursuit of a lifetime is discovered.