This I Believe is an international project engaging people in writing and sharing essays that describe their core values. More than 90,000 of these essays, written by people from all walks of life, are archived on their website.
Naturally, some essayists shared their beliefs on, and experience with martial arts. Here are a few of their stories.
Life Is A Spiritual Struggle
by Joseph Laycock (Brighton, Massachusetts)
Over the din of boxing gloves pounding against leather bags, I struggle to hear this Brazilian explain yet another way to choke someone unconscious. This is a martial arts gym. Most of the regulars are amateur fighters with dreams of going professional. When they’re not here, some of them work as firefighters or bouncers. I’m definitely the only schoolteacher in the room.
My students take interest in my training. Sometimes I’ll enter the classroom with bruises or a slight limp from the gym. In world history, I’ll discuss the cultural significance of the fighting styles I study. In Thai kickboxing, the eight striking weapons — fists, shins, elbows and knees — represent the eight-fold path of the Buddha. Brazilian jujitsu has more improvisation than Japanese martial arts, which reflects different cultural attitudes towards tradition.
Every class asks me the same questions, “Have you ever beat anyone up?” And, “Why are you a teacher instead of a professional fighter?” When I tell them the truth — that I have never been in a fight and have no aspirations to go professional — I get a range of reactions from disappointment to accusations of cowardice.
“So why do you do it,” they always ask.
I believe that life is a spiritual struggle. My battle is not against another fighter but against the unjust and apathetic system that is attacking my students… [continued]
I Believe In An Indomitable Spirit
by Rachel (Seaville, New Jersey)
Perhaps the most formidable thing on earth is a person will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. I believe I am one of those people.
I struggled a lot with schoolwork and achieving average grades, because I have Attention Deficit Disorder. School in itself was demanding enough, but coupled with the challenge to accomplish my goal of becoming a black belt in Martial Arts, it was near impossible.
To this day, I live by the disciplines I learned as a five-year old red belt, while being trained in the art of Tae Kwon Do. There are five characteristics that are held far above any other: Courtesy, Self Control, Perseverance, Integrity, and an Indomitable Spirit. There is one specifically that stands out among the rest that has helped me to achieve far more than anyone has ever expected me to: The Indomitable Spirit.
My Martial Arts training was a constant in my life, while the rest of it came crashing down around me… [continued]
by Payton (Apple Creek, Ohio)
“Chuck Norris could have been a nuisance to the rest of the world and become a serial killer. Instead, he was determined to become an important part of this world. It is too bad that we all cannot be as smart as Chuck.”
I believe that hatred can destroy anything. All it takes is a few words or a couple rude remarks. Once the person cannot control himself anymore, destruction will follow. All that is left is sadness.
Examples of this angst transforming into rage can be found all around us. We encounter this atrocity every time we step into a school building or other public place. Although it is all around us, it is usually concealed within a container also known as the human mind.
I know a person who had every right to feel hatred. He had a bad childhood and went back and forth between his parents and foster parents. After a time of being picked on, he threatened to bring a gun to his school. [continued]
This I Believe
by Felisha (Chicago, Illinois)
I believe that people should find something they love and go all for it.
Not long ago, I believed something different, something that ended up giving me a more pessimistic look on life instead of helping me, like it was intended to do. I believed that people should find something that they were good at and go all for it. I thought that everyone had a talent and they should peruse that, but I soon realized that there were some kinks in my belief, two that brought misery and envy instead of happiness and a sense of completion.
I was at my friend’s house one day. It was a slow day, and I, as usual, was probably thinking about something else I could add to my mental list, but then, for some reason, I did something I didn’t think I would ever do. I told my friend how I was jealous of her. How I thought she was really talented, and how she was lucky.
Then, she looked at me with a look that said “huh?” and she told me, “I’m not talented, I just practice.” That knocked me over the head, more then she probably realized. She wasn’t talented… she just practiced? [continued]
This I Believe
by Geoff (Oconomowoc, Wisconsin)
“Though it is generally thought of in a negative light, doing nothing is actually a positive activity if done in the right doses.”
I believe in nothing. Ha, gotcha! Now you’re thinking, “oh boy here comes another apathetic, lazy teenager, talking about how unfair the world is and how they can justify not doing any work.” But in reality, doing nothing means so much more than the literal sense of the word. It provides you with a chance to focus yourself, to recharge if you will. Doing nothing is one of the most important things I do all day.
When I do nothing, I like to be organized. Sometimes I will watch TV, turn on a mindless show that I can just zone out too. Sometimes I turn on tennis, letting the repetition of the ball moving back and forth calm me into a thoughtless trance. Sometimes I listen to music, losing myself in a catchy riff or a soothing rhythm. But none of that is really necessary for me to do nothing, which is half the beauty of it. All I need to do nothing is NOTHING! [continued]
I Believe Martial Arts Prevents Violence
by Terell (Bronx, New York)
I believe that Martial Arts prevents violence. As a martial artist, you have self control and can sometimes control others with your ability to manipulate them with your confidence and your desire to resist fighting. You can talk your way out of almost any problem that comes your way.
When I was young, I didn’t have the ability to resist fights. In the third grade one morning at “The School of Excellence,” my friends and I were in the lunch room hanging out, doing what third graders do in the morning, you know, talking about what happened on wrestling last night. Ms. Burger, our teacher came over to the table and told us to lineup. Before I got on line I asked her if I could go get a fruit. She told me, “Okay, but hurry up.”
As I walked to the fruit bin, I saw that there was only one orange left so, I ran over and got it. I peeled the orange as fast as I can so I wouldn’t get in trouble, a fifth grader told me if I didn’t give him the orange he would kick my ass. Now I wasn’t your average third grader. I was big and stocky with a nasty temper. I looked at the fifth grader, and he looked at me. I told him, “You’re not getting my orange, and you can try to kick my ass.” [continued]
I Believe in the Power of Duality
by Thomas (Goshen, Indiana)
I believe in the power of duality. That two principles, two actions can contradict each other, and yet complement and improve each other.
Martial arts. Tough guys. Scary, deadly, dangerous. A powerful and imposing figure, his large shoulders cast a wide shadow. Shaved head, broken nose, cut and shattered knuckles.
Ballet. The word conjures up images. Images of little girls wearing delicate tutus. The slender and graceful figure holding a high arabesque. Ballet is for the frail, the gentle, the artsy.
Jean Claude van Damme versus Rudolf Nureyev. Two forces acting in opposition. Violence versus expression. The clear boundaries between one and the other are not questioned, can not be questioned. A person is one or the other. Yin and yang of blood red and lavender blush.
Yet, ballet made me a better and more complete martial artist.
One martial art studio I attended rented out space from a two story ballet studio. One class left me collapsed on the floor, waiting for my legs to stop pulsing. Hoping the pain would subside so that I could drive home, my instructor approaches me.
“You think your legs are hurting now, try taking a class up stairs,” he said with a half smirk on his face, pointing upwards towards to sounds of pointe shoes tiptoeing across a hard wood floor… [continued]
This I Believe
by Deborah (Princeton, New Jersey)
“When I first started going to class, I wondered why so many people had been attending for six, seven, even ten years, always working on the same routine. Now I know.”
I believe in balance, in yin and yang, give and take. I came to appreciate the concept of balance late in life, at age 50, when I began to take tai chi, an eastern discipline oftentimes described as meditation in slow motion.
Moving slow has never been part of my makeup. I have always been known for doing things quickly, for moving too fast or for being the proverbial bull in a china closet. When I was a child my mother used to say I walked like an elephant. Needless to say I never took ballet. For me, grace was only something I said before meals.
Tai chi is based on a martial arts discipline that emphasizes strength, defense, and balance, enabling you to swiftly and efficiently render an attacker or enemy incapable of harming you. Tai chi is also about strength and balance, about moving gently and precisely, flowing like a slow-moving stream. It involves shifting your weight from one side to the other, feeling the energy flow within you. It also is about defense, but with tai chi you channel potentially harmful energy away or allow it to dissipate. It is a defense against the assaults of the world—the stress, imbalance, injustice… [continued]
This I Believe
by Sean (San Antonio, Texas)
I believe that you can’t truly accomplish anything without putting your heart into it.
There are many things in this life you can “accomplish” by just sliding by. Be it school, work, some extra-curricular activity; like say, martial arts. Any of those things you can do without really trying. But can you really accomplish anything for yourself if you don’t?
Many argumentative teenagers such as yours truly, may say yes. But I don’t mean just doing the task. I mean getting something out of the task. However, that cannot be accomplished by just doing what ever it is you have to do. You have to put you’re heart in it to really get something out of it! Though that may sound corny, possibly even a little cliché, it’s true.
An odd topic such as this requires an example. I’ve been taking martial arts (more specifically Tae Kwon-Do) for the better part of the last 10 years. And for 8 of those years, I kind of just “did” martial arts and somehow managed to get my Black Belt in the process. I got very little out of it though. I may have managed to gain a false sense of confidence, maybe a few friends, and something more to do every week, but that’s about it… [continued]