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Inner Peace and the Martial Arts

Reprinted from "Martial Arts and Real Life" by Fred Villari

When was the last time someone called you up and proposed a couple of sets of tennis to get a little inner peace? I’ll bet it wasn’t recently. Nobody seems to talk about inner peace through tennis or inner peace through golf or inner peace through backgammon. But when the subject of martial arts is brought up, most people automatically associate it with the search for inner peace. In fact, for many people, the quest for inner peace is their primary reason for getting involved in the fighting arts. Martial arts are not a hobby that can be isolated from the rest of your life. You can take time out to play tennis of basketball, but you don’t take time out to “play” at the martial arts. They are always there, and what you know of them pervades all that you do. The physical, mental, and spiritual aspects are inseparable.

The martial arts are an appropriate path to inner peace for several reasons. One is that the martial arts are not a competitive sport. Your progress in the arts is marked by the awarding of belts of different colors ranking from white for beginners to degrees of black for the more advanced. It is good to have this recognition that you have mastered certain skills, buts that’s all it is. The belt is only an acknowledgment, not a goal. The successful martial artist does not go around saying, “Gee this guy’s got a brown belt and I’ve only got a green one. I better work hard to get ahead of him.” The student does not plan and scheme and worry about getting his next colored belt like some businessman trying to close a deal before the end of the month. He doesn’t compete. The only person he wants to be better than is the person he was yesterday. He deals with the present, not the future. Inner peace in the martial arts does not come from having done; it comes from doing.

The martial arts bring inner peace for other reasons. There is solitude in the discipline. There is harmony with nature. And there is that immense sense of safety and satisfaction that comes with knowing that if some thug should attempt to assault you on the street, you can annihilate him in less time than it takes you to tie your shoe.

What exactly is inner peace? You could say it’s a sort of magic that can be worked through the martial arts. But it’s certainly not some supernatural spirit that invades your body only when the time is right. To me inner peace is confidence. And it is living in the now, experiencing each moment as it occurs, not obsessing constantly about past mistakes and future plans. Inner peace is being the eye of the hurricane, peaceful even as turbulent events swirl around you. I think having inner peace means you are controlling your environment; it is not controlling you.

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