Over the years, Chinese martial arts have attracted the attention of the people from different cultures. Through practicing martial arts, people can learn self-defense skills, strengthen their physique, improve their health, enrich their cultural life, and make friends with others. What is more, they can develop the good habit of discipline and nurture their inner strength. The benefits of learning martial arts are just immense.
Good martial-arts skills require many years of practicing. Day after day, year after year, whether in the sultry heat of summer or cold weather of severe winter, you have to keep practicing. Jet Li, the Chinese movie star, started to practice martial arts when he was a small boy, and it took him over 20 years to become a well-known martial arts player; Xu Shi-you, the Chinese army general who was well-known for his martial-arts skills, learned his superb skills at a Shaolin temple through experiencing a lot of physical hardship; he is said to have mastered the skill of lightness, e.g., walking on a tiled roof without making noise or reducing his weight when he landed on certain objects. Once you have decided to learn martial arts, you have made a commitment to persisted practice and strong discipline. The improved physique and discipline will benefit you in other areas in life and will help you achieve success.
Some people think that martial arts are just a way to learn self-defense skills. This is a narrow interpretation. In fact, there are many virtues associated with martial arts. Traditionally, martial-arts players in China would have to learn the morals of martial arts or the “virtues of martial arts.” But what are these virtues? The following are a list of these virtues.
Martial arts mainly for self-defense. Although the fighting skills can be used for attacking purposes, the players should exercise good control when using them. They use the skills they have learned primarily for self-defense purposes. In Chinese martial-arts schools or during private tutoring, they will be told to restrain themselves when using martial arts. They are not supposed to provoke a confrontation with others for no reason. This virtue is always shown in Chinese martial-arts movies: the good guys, including Bruce Lee, always show tolerance and restraint when they deal with bad guys, and they use martial arts only when they are repeatedly bullied and cornered.
Protect the weak and fight the bully. Although martial arts players are not in a position to provoke a confrontation, they are taught to protect the weak and fight the bad guys. The weak here refers to someone or some people who have been bullied or taken advantage of. They are the underdog of the society. They need someone strong to protect them and uphold justice for them. That is why in Chinese martial-arts movies, you see good guys come forward to protect the weak and stand up to the bullies because these good guys have a responsibility to do justice. This is the heroism promoted by the culture of martial arts.
Respect the old, the teacher, and others. Martial-art culture promotes modesty and despises arrogance. In Chinese martial-arts movies, old kungfu masters are described as being wise, deep, and respectable. Even the American movie The Karate Kid portrays the friendship between an oldster and a kid, who has learned a lot from the former. And teachers are called sifu in the martial-arts circle.
The ability to endure hardship is encouraged. The Chinese character for endurance is written like a knife’s edge hanging above a human heart, which means that it requires strong will power. The spirit of endurance is shown throughout the practice of martial arts. To learn good skills, you have to endure physical hardship, repeated practice, and even pain and suffering. Swollen legs, bruises, and painful arms are just part of the routine. And in many situations in life, you have to learn to endure mental hardship, tough issues, and even the insult from bad guys. You use your fighting skills only when you have reached your “last straw.” However, such endurance that you have developed over the years will help you cope with life’s tough situations. Many Shaolin Boxing masters are monks from Shaolin temples. They can close their eyes and sit in prayers for hours; they can also practice Shaolin Boxing for hours on end. Their ability to endure is amazing. Their “Five Taboos” are very tough: no alcohol, no sex, no theft, no trashy talk, and no killing. However, they are the best Shaolin Boxers.
Courtesy and good manners. It is wrong to think that martial arts tend to make people aggressive and harsh. In fact, good manners are required of those who practice martial arts. They are expected to be polite and well-mannered; they are supposed to be humble and courteous; they should respect others and control their language and behavior. They should not show off their skills; they cannot be aggressive, arrogant, and bombastic.
All in all, the above virtues are part of the martial arts practice and are expected of those who try to learn martial arts. While learning the fighting skills, you should try to learn those virtues at the same time.