Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)
I started Martial Arts at a time in my life when I was discontent with my emotional, physical and cognitive health. I was unhappy with myself and listed all the reasons I felt that way to come to a very solid conclusion – I was not getting enough exercise. After having four kids in five years, my exercise and sports were naturally not at the forefront of my time. My solution? Karate. Why? It would provide me with the physical outlet I needed, would be a cognitive challenge, and would feed my emotional need to do something for “me”. Also, I considered self-defence, like CPR and First Aid, a tool I wanted in my “just in case” tool box. But what I found through Martial Arts was much more than I expected. I always struggled to explain this to others until I read a wonderful post from Sensei Master Michael Sirota (http://www.sirotasalchymy.com/master.html). Sensei Sirota lives in British Columbia and has created an entire Martial Arts program for people with disabilities. He is heavily involved in the Para-Olympics and is, in my mind, a pillar in the Martial Arts Community. I was fortunate enough to meet Michael in person last year.
In his post “Why Martial Arts”, Sensei Sirota highlighted the benefits:
Self-Defense: “practice the fight so you don’t have to”. This speaks to the fact that Martial Artists develop a quiet confidence that is seen but not heard. This confidence makes them less vulnerable as a target of violence, and teaches them to identify potentially dangerous situations early to promote avoidance.
Athletic Enhancement and Fitness: Many athletes combine their sports training with Martial Arts to maintain endurance, flexibility, coordination and swiftness. Being able to strike, kick and move quickly mimics the explosive, fluid and coordinated movements needed in sport. There are few other activities that burn as many calories, or result in such an overall body workout.
Other Health Benefits: Martial Artists tend to take diet and exercise seriously. This is part of the intensity of their training and their commitment to wellness. Martial Arts requires concentration and focus, things relatable to all areas of life. Martial Arts is a commitment with the built in motivation of moving through belt levels to achieve the goal of Sensei.
Respect and Courtesy: Contrary to popular belief, Martial Arts is about restraint and playing nicely in the sand box. It has been proven that children (and adults) trained in martial arts tend to be disciplined, composed and respectful. This is beneficial in all areas of life, especially relationships, school and work.
So, if you are looking for fitness, emotional strength, confidence, and cognitive stimulation, there are few other activities that will provide more bang for your buck. And, fortunately, there are many forms of Martial Arts to choose from, making it likely that you can connect with a style and form that aligns with your interests.