I have been studying martial arts for close to 6 years now (6 years in November). Some people may wonder why I do.

No one really questions why I started martial arts. They assume I started it because I wanted a black belt. It seems that in this society people just assume something is done strictly because of the goal or material reward in the end. Honestly, I never studied martial arts just because I wanted to be able to say I have a black belt. (Of course, I'm a little proud of that achievement, but it's just a little fact about me that I have one.) I decided to study martial arts because it fascinated me. At first it was just a great way to get fit (and still is!) because I also got to learn new things while getting exercise. Over time though, martial arts became such a tremendous part of who I am that once I got to black belt, I knew I would continue studying. Studying martial arts is a journey of a lifetime (read my taekwondo essay). Such is the reason why I still study martial arts.

There is so much depth of knowledge waiting to be uncovered in martial arts that will likely take more than a lifetime to study and learn. What a person uncovers and learns while studying martial arts is more enriching and fulfilling than what can be offered in our consumerist society these days. In our society right now, there is a tremendous need to learn and grow beyond our abilities. This is where martial arts can help.

When one begins martial arts training, a change occurs. Yes, martial arts can change you at the start. It is often said that when it comes to martial arts, the first step is the hardest. I'm sure many people will know what I mean. Anyone who has ever walked by a martial arts training centre and peeked in, curious about what the students were doing... anyone who has ever thought about taking martial arts, not sure about which one to take, but felt drawn to peek a head in the door to see... well, those are the ones on verge of a change. They just need to take the first step. This first step is actually walking inside and talking to the Master who runs the training centre, who will more than likely offer one free trial class. This is where the changes begin.

In the years since I started taekwondo, I have seen many new students take their first class. Some new students are quite shy, some are more outgoing. Some fall in love with the martial arts right away. Some are too concerned with the physical aches from the exercise and aren't sure if they can keep up the training. In all cases, every one of these students began a change for the better.

Martial arts will test your resolve, your determination, your limits. It will determine what kind of person you are. It might change you a little or drastically. (I know one person who started out taking martial arts because he wanted to get back at all those who used to make fun of him. In the end, he no longer cared about those who made fun of him.) Everyone knows about the physical changes martial arts can make, but it goes beyond that. Martial arts can change you mentally and spiritually. You will experience life differently and will perceive things differently. You will also begin to feel a finer connection to the world and will understand the delicate connection we have with everything around us. You learn that every action you take is important and is connected to the world. Your limits will be pushed in martial arts. You will achieve beyond what you ever thought possible. (Once I thought, "I wonder if I can do that..." Now I think, "I can do that if I just practice.") Your resolve and determination will be tested when the training gets tough (the training will always get tougher) or if you get hurt. I know of many people who have had to recover from some injury and came back to martial arts (myself included) more determined than before. These are some of the many remarkable changes that will occur through martial arts.

The biggest reward in studying martial arts is not the attainment of a black belt nor the recognition of one's achievement, but rather the knowledge gained and the improvement in one's life through martial arts. In the years since I first started taekwondo, drastic changes were made in my life - changes I feel were necessary for my happiness and changes for the better. The knowledge I have received from martial arts has become a big part of my life. The knowledge is the reward because now I have something I can share with others. I can pass on and teach others what I have learned. For me, that is the most important reward from martial arts - being able to help others. Helping others achieve something is one of the best feelings in the world.

So why do I study martial arts? Because through it, I can help others.