Embodying the Art

“In order to understand the true essence of martial arts, you must have the rest of your life, your relationships, your money, and your health, in balance.” — Joe Sheya

Ideally, martial arts teach us about more than just fighting. They teach us about all aspects of human interaction, from relational etiquette to posture, balance, spacing, initiative, leverage, timing, and, of course, force management, both inside of ourselves and through another person. These lessons, if we are introspective in any way, begin to inform our personal lives, but our personal lives also inform the way that we learn these lessons.

If our personal lives are out of balance, it can be extremely difficult for lessons from our martial practice to find fertile soil from which to grow up into something meaningful. While we will still benefit from our martial practice as we would with any physically and mentally challenging activity, we simply will not understand the deeper lessons therein until we are ready to do so. If there is depth to our practice’s teachings, they need a clean, clear space within which to settle and take root.

It is our responsibility, if we are serious, to do the work in our personal lives to put them in order in such a way as to reap the benefits of the lessons being passed down to us in our practice. Obviously, if we only want to learn the superficial aspects of the martial arts, all we need to do is show up and train, and, to be fair, some martial arts only have superficial value to offer. However, if we are all in, if we have found a practice that has a history, a philosophy, and a character that we want to embody, there is work outside of the dojo that must be done in order for us to become that which we value.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as a founding member of the Severna Park and Baltimore Holistic Chamber of Commerce.

Artwork by Ana, except where otherwise noted.

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