And why the profound effect?
Andrea Harkins – aka The Martial Arts Woman – is a published author of two motivational books, a martial artist, instructor, motivator, blogger, and speaker. Kristy Hitchens – aka The Mortal Mouse – took up taekwondo just over a year ago after watching her son train for five years. As a newspaper journalist and freelance writer she made sense of the journey by writing about it. When she discovered others could relate to the benefits of martial arts she experienced, blogging seemed an obvious step.
This is what happened when their minds came together from opposite sides of the world, Andrea in Arizona USA and Kristy in Australind, Australia…
Something seriously weird has been happening to me.
And when I say ‘weird’ I mean MORE weird than toy rubber snakes jumping out at me from my make-up drawer, bed and wardrobe and other random spots.
Or my undies coming out of the drawer all tied together in one long rope. Ok. YOU can laugh!
(Master 11 is going through an irritating pranking stage. *eyeroll)
The ‘weird’ I am referring to are things like this:
- Dear and long-time close girlfriends coming at me in greeting with their hands held in some kind of funny karate chopping, ninja style thing.
- Squeezing Taekwondo practice into every. spare. moment. To the point where I’m throwing out a few tornado kicks while I wait for a pot of water to boil on the stove or chatting to my Dad on the phone through my grimaced face as I push the limit of that leg streeeeeeeetch.
- Hearing my daughter earnestly echo back at me the same thought-provoking and confidence-building speeches I have given to her lately. “It’s not a good thing to compare yourself to other people like that mum!” *sniff!
But really, this stuff is only quirky little surface things I’ve noticed since starting Taekwondo training a bit over a year ago.
The truth is, in such a short time, I feel like a changed person. Like my soul has literally shifted.
Overly dramatic you think? Once I might have thought the same thing. Oh parleeeeez!
That was until I experienced The Martial Arts Effect not only for myself, but began hearing similar stories from women all over the world who had experienced the same thing.
Taken up a form of martial arts training – typically after 30 – and experienced dramatic change in their lives.
This had me wondering: Why?
Why doesn’t this kind of thing happen when you take up netball or start going regularly to a group fitness class?
So in my usual style, I began researching. It’s the journo in me.
Andrea has some great insights on this based on her years of experience not only as a martial arts practitioner, but as a teacher AND as a guest speaker and author.
We came up with two theories based on Mastery and Passion and approached both in our own unique styles.
But first: More about Sensei Andrea and her journey into combining Martial Arts & Motherhood…
I can relate to Kristy’s experiences. I began martial arts at the age of 26, “BC” (before children). I had my first (of four) children a few months before my black belt test back in 1994.
When I had him, attending class and practice was limited between work, drool, spit up, and diapers. If I did go to class, he screamed the entire time I was gone, leaving my husband miserable upon my return.
When I could, I practiced at home in a narrow stretch of hallway by the front door.
After black belt, I began volunteer teaching for underprivileged kids, a stint that lasted seven years. At the center where I was teaching, they would babysit my son, but all he wanted was mommy. So, as I stood in front of a group of kids at the center to teach, I would hear him wailing and crying in the background.
Or, they would roll him by in his stroller to show him that I still existed, which truly only made his crying worse!
Hmmm…teaching other kids or being with my own? The guilt consumed me until I decided a couple of hours a week wouldn’t be harmful to him! And, alternatively, I was changing lives. The scale weighed in their favor.
As the years progressed, I ended up having four children. That never stopped me from training or achieving. I took my 2nd degree black belt test while pregnant with baby #2, and I continued through the years, changing diapers, wiping spit-up off my shoulder, and going to class with various baby infused stains crusted down the front of my uniform.
You do what you must do.
Mastery, while used in various contexts, is basically acquisition of a new skill. Through its systematic belt system, Martial Arts requires an ongoing process of Mastery.
For me, each 10-week term requires a new set of kicks, self defence techniques and patterns to Master. I then have to demonstrate that mastery in a physical demonstration or Grading Exam before progressing to the next level.
So far the start of each new term kicks off about the same for me.
“I need to be able to do wharrrrrrt???”
“I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do that”
Guess what? Haven’t failed a Grading Exam YET! With practice and perseverance (Ok! Frustration, swearing, sweating and hurting too), every skill I think at first I am going to struggle with, eventually comes together.
And when it does, the feeling is simply MAGIC.
Not many other activities, sports, recreational pursuits have such a clearly defined system of progress or mastery as Martial Arts.
Plus: We’re all working towards the most universally-recognised symbol of excellence there is: Black Belt.
This ongoing process of Mastery adds to your life a new sense of fulfilment, achievement, confidence and happiness.
ANDREA on Benefits of Martial Arts 1: The Magic of Mastery
I am not a Master. After 29 years in the arts, I never tested for or achieved that rank. I did pursue third degree at one point, but my instructor of the Tang Soo Do system I learned unexpectedly passed away and I no longer lived in the area. I learned another style for two years but was told my “commitment was not sufficient.” I finally found a Kung Fu and Tai Chi program but ended up moving cross country and had to leave it behind.
Being a martial art master was never a part of my plan, I suppose. The truth is, though, I have accomplished an amazing mastery of sorts, thanks to martial arts, and that is the mastery of me.
Through martial art practice, writing, and speaking, I have realized that my purpose was accomplished. It was not as much about “me” as I had originally thought, but more about others. My job turned out to be one of motivator and using martial arts as a conduit for positivity in a world where negativity often prevails.
I excelled in the original Tang Soo Do system that I learned. This is when the “mastery of me” began. I sparred, I defended, and I practiced. I never knew that I could do any of that! I had no prior sport-elated experience, was not athletic, and if not for my husband dragging me to my first class, I would have never gone.
Prior to martial arts, I did aerobics and weights over the years, and while those classes were engaging and energetic, their only purpose was to keep me fit. Martial arts did that and taught me to defend, be empowered, push my limits, excel, achieve, and the list goes on.
Like Kristy, I surpassed the “I have to do what?” moments. I had many anxieties, especially while driving to the tests. My stomach churned, and I was sure I would never pass. On more than one occasion, I earned an award for “best exam performance.” There was a disconnect with my anxiety and my actions, thank goodness!
These are the shared experiences of the martial artist. The rollercoaster ups and downs of learning – failing, achieving and believing. Mastering a martial art skill leads to mastery of oneself in so many different directions. Achieve one belt level and you begin to realize that you can achieve more in your life, too. Break one board and you know now how to break through life’s “board break” moments.
KRISTY on Benefits of Martial Arts 2: Passion
Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion – Georg Hegel, German philosopher
Thought leader Tom Bilyeu says a passion in your life won’t magically appear one morning over a cup of coffee. He says it is the product of an interest that develops into an ongoing process of mastery.
Tom says passion isn’t hidden inside. If you want it, you have to work at it.
So why should you work at developing a passion?
T.S. Elliot says that is kind of hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it for themselves.
“It is obvious that we can no more explain a passion to a person who has never experienced it than we can explain light to the blind.”
It’s true. Perhaps you CAN’T understand its importance until you have it. But if you’re feeling like you’re life is lacking something, it could be that little dash of passion.
It makes life more meaningful. It adds spark, colour, motivation, inspiration. Living without passion would be like being trapped in an old black and white movie.
You see in other people because their eyes literally light up when they talk about their passion. Wouldn’t you like to feel that way about something?
Through the process of Mastery required by the study of Martial Arts, a passion develops.
And THIS I believe, is another of the reasons there is such profound change when it comes into your life.
All of a sudden, you are living your life with passion. It’s not like all those mundane, tricky, icky, sticky life issues we all battle with aren’t still there. They are, but you are now SO MUCH BETTER equipped to deal with them without being tossed about like a kite in the breeze.
ANDREA on Benefits of Martial Arts 2: Passion
For many martial artists, passion explodes as they settle into training. Why?
It is because they have found a purpose. Passion is revealed as they understand how capable and empowered they are.
They leave class realizing they have accomplished. For all the times they were told, “You can’t do it,” they practice another kick or punch, and are able to say to themselves, “Yes, I can.”
Through the continual pursuit toward mastery of the martial art and mastery of self, passion develops and grows. Martial art passion is what pushes you forward, even when feeling defeated or disappointed. It is the internal reminder to get up and try again, because you know it is the right thing to do, and because it is a part of you.
When you lose a martial art competition, passion prompts you to train harder get better. If you find yourself struggling with a skill, passion is what drives you to figure it out.
Very few begin learning their martial art with passion, but as they travel the path they realize that they have found the key to something that they never want to let go. That is, development and mastery of who they are, and the passion to discover who they can become.
Benefits of Martial Arts 3: The Sisterhood
While oceans divide them, Andrea and Kristy put their heads together as strangers but were almost instantly bound by their shared passion for inspiring and encouraging women just like them to discover the magic of Martial Arts. They hope their thoughts and insights have empowered you to go out and build the sisterhood by sharing YOUR passion with others OR to take that first brave step and discover its transformational potential for yourself.
- Visit Andrea’s website: www.themartialartswoman.com
- Buy Andrea’s books:
- Connect with Andrea on social media.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like to check out these prior Taekwondo blog posts by The Mortal Mouse:
My articles published elsewhere: