Martial Arts Training is not ‘just fighting’

At Total Martial Arts academy in Swindon we talk about developing our junior students holistically or developing the ‘whole person’ rather than ‘teaching people how to fight.’ This article will look a little deeper into What this means.

Some schools say that the sole purpose of training in the Martial Arts is to learn to fight and the rest is just ‘fluff’ and extraneous, but is a ‘fighter’ a Martial Artist?


The majority of our students wanting to learn Martial Arts don’t come to the Martial Arts to learn to fight, 99% of the phone calls we take are from parents who want their children to be confident, fit  and to be able to defend themselves.  These goals reinforce each other. What’s most likely to kill you?  It’s not the street mugger or bully, your own health is most likely to bring you to an early demise, therefore the first rule of self-defence is – look after your health!

If you work on your posture, breathing and mental condition and then exercise sensibly you are likely to stave off the biggest threat to your existence.

To then prevent a lot of trouble in your life you need to work on your ‘emotional intelligence’.

What is ‘emotional intelligence’?  An emotionally intelligent person has well developed interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences, the level of emotional intelligence is an indicator as to how well someone will do in life, they will understand and manage their emotions, be friendly and outgoing, self confident and self motivated, value relationships, be a good team player, listen well, lead others, like to work and learn in groups and set and work towards targets.

Any good Martial Arts Instructor will teach all these aspects and personify the qualities.  Think about how much trouble one could avoid by using these skills.  Controlling fear and anger, being able to show confidence and deal with other people’s problems in a friendly and natural way are the qualities that can stop violence in its tracks.

It also means that someone with these skills can develop good training relationships, learn faster and get on much better professionally at work.

The author of ‘Maximum Achievement’ Brian Tracey said:

“Today, the greatest single source of wealth is between your ears.  Today wealth is contained in brainpower not brutepower.”

The learning parts of the brain are the Neo-Cortex where higher order thinking and problem solving take place and the Limbic System where our emotions and long term memory function – we remember best when we use our emotions in learning.

Under stress we revert to the Reptilian Brain which blocks the Neo –Cortex and Limbic System from thinking and remembering as we are in primitive ‘survival mode’ so learning is slowed down or prevented.  This is when we go into a stressed ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mode, losing our temper or panicking.  It doesn’t shut down the right hand side or ‘intuitive’ part of the brain so we are still able to react appropriately to dangerous situations and control our emotions.  Think of when you are driving and how you intuitively read the road and situations that may occur and react instantaneously without going into panic.

The learning process is also enhanced if proper, permanent learning pathways are used, connecting the information to something that is relevant to the student in a way that excites or stimulates their imagination and emotions in a positive manner, challenging their thinking and making them want to find out more.

Stress should be applied gradually in such a way that the student learns how to deal with it in a positive structured way, using established knowledge, intuition and confidence.

People learn in different ways and the Instructor needs to be able to present the information in a way that they can process.  Some respond to visual stimulation, in the form of demonstration, pictures, diagrams and so on, some to auditory, hearing explanations, moving with rhythm, cadence, chanting and sound and some kinaesthetically by practical application, touching, doing and moving.

As a coach, we need to use all three learning styles, but some prefer to learn in one or two of these ways.  A good teacher is aware of this and is careful to present the knowledge across all three spectrums.

This is why lesson planning is so important, if the students are aware of what the content and outcome of the lesson is supposed to be, how the knowledge is being given to them, how they are going to process it, how it is going to be practiced, verified and validated, how they will have the opportunity to challenge it and give and get feedback, then they are on track to progress in self development and emotional intelligence.  This will give them the overall ability to develop physically and mentally and defend themselves against anything that might influence them in a negative fashion.