This past week in the US you celebrated the July 4th holiday. Here in Canada, we also celebrated the birth of our country on Canada Day, July 1st. Both holidays represent the independence of two nations. In honor of these celebrations, I thought it would be good to take a moment and consider the relationship between Martial Arts and the ideals of independence.
If you look back through history, Martial Arts was very tied to the concepts of freedom and independence. In China, many people learned Martial Arts as a way of freeing themselves from various oppressions around them. Martial Arts in China are said to have really developed and taken form during the Warring States, a period where China was divided into 7 warring states (like mini-countries) all their own freedoms and dominance. This trend continues over the years as you witness the rise of Martial Arts training as a means to defend and develop independence from various oppressions.
In the West, Martial Arts also held significance around freedom. If you look at such styles as Pankration, the basis was originated as a means settling disputes. As it grew and developed into the other Greek sports of the time, it was an active part of the Olympic Games, which was a sign not only of the strength of the empire but also a chance for different city-states to represent themselves independently of the empire that conquered them.
If you move further west, other Martial Arts like disciplines, such as European swordplay, came into play during times of conflict and fights for freedom. These skills were particularly useful in hand-to-hand combat and handling smaller numbers of opponents. Abilities to perfect these skills were highly respected amongst the communities and gave birth to concepts such as the knights.
In times of conflict and war, it is easy to see how important a role Martial Arts can play in historical events. Before there was robotics or heavy artillery, there was the basic fight between men, hand-to-hand, in a struggle for life and death.
But even today, in a relatively technologically forward world, where direct conflict is rarely seen by most people, there are still reasons for people to find independence. Today, the "independence" that many seek when they go to train Martial Arts is that of a personal level. Perhaps it's an independence from being bullied or having low self-esteem. Or it's an independence of being able to physically move again or protect oneself from physical harm. Whatever the reason, majority of students will start Martial Arts in seek of the very concepts of "independence".
Even though the holiday celebrations are over, take the time to consider the freedoms you have gained from your Martial Arts training and celebrate in all you have accomplished so far! Happy Independence Day everyone!