The Pursuit of Craft: Why Do Martial Arts at All?

Why? This is a not too uncommon question that comes up from both outsiders and insiders of martial art.
What is the purpose your art is serving? What are the ends that you’re driving toward? What will it look like when you’re done? Who will you be?
As I sit today in our members lounge at Academie Duello, looking down over a handful of my students who have come in before classes to do some solo practice. I see them going through forms, practicing individual techniques, working on adjustments in stance, posture, or simply flowing with their weapon in hand. Some of them are wearing headphones, listening to their own training soundtracks. Some are deeply engaged in the finer points of their practice in front of the mirror. Some are working intensely, others in slow and constant motion.
The folks I see below me are not here today, and every other day, to win their next tournament, or dominate their next opponent, or become buff specimens, though some of them may have tournament, sparring, or fitness goals. They’re here because they’re honing their craft.
They have learned that there is much to be gained from the rhythmic and constant pursuit of an art. That an art can be a touchstone in your life. A place to return to each day that rewards you both with its familiarity and its ongoing capacity to provide you with new challenges and new discoveries. To pursue a craft is to center yourself on the journey rather than the destination.
In many ways these folks have let go of “Why?” They still have goals and rewards. But even if a goal has just passed or their next one is a dauntingly far distance off, they’ll be here everyday anyway. Though goals are a fun flavour to add, they’re not the point.
Here’s to letting go of “why” and finding the peace and reward in showing up again and again and again.

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