Post number one, post number one...What do I write about in post number one? I've been back and forth about what to talk about in my first post. Do I introduce myself? Introduce what I'm doing? Introduce how much I love martial arts? (Is that even possible?)
I think, instead, I'm going to introduce a question; one that I think about on a regular basis:
When does one call oneself a martial artist?
Is there a 'Martial-Artist's Right of Passage' or a similar ritual that officially inducts you into the art? (Or rather tosses you onto the mat, saying 'Good luck! Try not to break anything!') Does it happen as soon as you receive your white belt? Does it come with rank? A title? Paper certification? Is there a time that comes when a new learner officially becomes a student? I've been told that even the masters are students; that one is always a student since one can never know everything there is to know about martial arts. But is there a given point in time or a milestone that must be achieved before one can say 'I am a martial artist' and effectively back up that statement? Is there a point that comes where you just know?
Maybe it happens when you chamber and execute well and your sensei tells you, "Hey. That was a good kick!" Maybe it happens when you can do twenty-five seconds of push-ups and you realize that you've improved. Maybe it happens during your first Randori session or your first sparring match. Perhaps it happens when you get thrown or knocked down for the first time and you realize that you can get back up.
Perhaps, but when do you know?
Does it happen in a consecutive, measureable way or is there an abstract element to it that I've been overlooking? Does it happen as soon as you decide to study? When you choose to give it your best effort? Perhaps it happens as soon as the very words leave your mouth: "I am a martial artist".
Maybe it happens when you bow in and out of the dojo and you finally understand what that means. Maybe it comes with understanding of custom, courtesy, and attitude. Maybe it happens when the black belt code (Honesty, courtesy, integrity, self-control, perseverance, and indomitable spirit) becomes a part of your everyday life, not just a part of your 'karate life'. Maybe it happens when the lessons that you learn in the dojo transfer over into everything that you do.
Maybe it happens when you never leave the mat.
I think that's it. A lot of lessons are learned on the mat, after all.
For example, always getting back up; working with your strengths and improving your weaknesses; giving it your best effort; respecting yourself and others; being open to trying new things; understanding when to be gentle and when to be firm; knowing when to back off and when to stand your ground; never allowing yourself to say the words 'I can't'...
To uphold and apply these lessons to your life is to never leave the mat, and I think that a martial artist strives to do just that.
After all, all of life is a mat, and what you decide to do in between the time when you bow in and bow out is what counts.
So with those words in mind, I will say it for the first time:
I am a martial artist.
And I will never leave the mat.