Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
Let's face it, being married to (or the significant other) of a Martial Artist is not the easiest thing in the world. We're a passionate folk with strong ties to what we do. Often, we've been doing Martial Arts long before we meet you. We spend hours upon hours each week at our respective dojo's or schools. Many of our friends or the people we associate with also share this Martial Arts passion and our casual conversations often turn towards this topic.
Martial Arts is like a mistress in the relationship. We're often choosing between spending time with you or spending time with our Art. We budget and make allowances for expenses that are specifically related to Martial Arts. We will inevitably end up travelling somewhere with or without you in order to advance our own selves. And if we're fighters, you have to be willing to stand by and watch as we subject ourselves to bodily tortures and injuries.
Unfortunately, if you try to change us, try to curtail the Martial Arts, you end up making us make tough decisions. And more times than not, Martial Arts wins out. As Iíve said many times here and with others I talk to, true Martial Arts is more than just a sport; it's a way of life.
So here are some Do's and Don'ts that might help you survive the craziness of being attached to a Martial Artist.
Communicate. The number one reason almost any relationship fails is because of a lack of good communication. Itís also one of the hardest things to do. Just because we are Martial Artists and many of us teach in front of complete strangers, doesnít make us any better communicators than the next person. A strong relationship is based upon good communication skills.
Know your own limits. As important as it is to be accommodating to your partner, it is important to know your own limits of what you are willing and unwilling to live with. Then go back to the first point, communication, and have a frank discussion about your limits. If, for instance, you think your spouse is spending too much time at the dojo, ask if maybe the two of you could have a date night each week or plan some together time that doesnít involve Martial Arts.
Don't ask us to stop our Martial Arts. Marital Arts is an integral part of who we are. Asking us to stop is like asking us to cut off a limb. It is part of the very fabric of who we are. Without it, we'd be different people and possibly not the person you fell in love with. So please, donít ask us to stop. You may not like what you find.
Train in the same system. I've had people come to me in the past telling me they wanted to start Martial Arts because their spouse was into it and they wanted to impress them to get closer to them. As nice as this sentiment is, it often backfires when the person trains in a system that is different from their spouses. Despite being civilized people, there is still a great deal of pride for our own styles and animosity towards others. Studying in another style will simply prompt questions like, "Well if you were so interested in Martial Arts, why didn't you come talk to me first?"
Don't train under your spouse. This is a hard one to follow and not a steadfast rule. For some people, they can handle the fact that their spouse is training them. They are willing to follow the often strict and cold commands of their spouse as the teacher and not undermine the class. More often than not, this doesn't happen. It's even harder when it's the wife that is the teacher and the husband the student. After all, a relationship with the person you are married to should be about being partners, equals. The relationship between student and teacher is about one person being superior over the other. This isn't possible everywhere or in every situation but if you want to train, it is often best to see if there is another person who can train you within the system/school. That way you avoid the conflict of having this dual relationship.
If you must be trained by your spouse, I go back to my first point again and make sure to communicate with one another. Agree that once you step into the school or onto the dojo floor, you cease to be husband and wife and are now teacher and student. It's much like how couples who work together must learn how to manage the duality of their relationship and be willing to put aside their personal relationship when it comes to business.
Try to get involved. One thing that a lot of spouses don't realize is that you don't need to actually train in Martial Arts to be involved with your spouse. Many spouses help out at events by preparing food, setting up the venue or handling the scheduling. It is through these spouses that many Martial Arts events are ever successful. These often unsung heros of the Martial Arts world allow for the art to shine and make everything else we do possible. So, even if you don't want to train yourself, there are often opportunities around the school to be involved and thus a little bit closer to your spouse.
Being involved with a Martial Artist is not an easy task. There are just a few of the tips I've learned over the years which can help you survive this relationship. Ultimately, you and your spouse are individuals and will need to navigate together to find a way to make this work. But if you do, you will be rewarded with a person who is able to be very passionate and dedicated. If they werenít these things, they would have never become Martial Artists!