Nick Lemire asked another great question: “What is your definition of Martial Art?”
I would say martial arts is part self protection and part self expression. A true martial art helps you develop the tools to powerfully defend yourself or loved ones and at the same time allows you to practice mastery over your body to express yourself so well that even your movements become art.
Practicing a martial art teaches you a lot of things. One of the things you learn is that the enemy is inside; you’re the only one holding you back and you’re the only one you need to make peace with and be in harmony with. The enemy can be self doubt and learning about yourself though martial arts develops the confidence and defeats that enemy. Maybe it shows up as an old and ineffective way of doing things and martial arts teaches you to stop “muscling” life and instead use better technique. I think a martial artist spends more time doing this sort of fighting than fighting guys in the parking lot.
Another thing martial arts teaches is that your body has its own wisdom. You figure out what works for your body and what doesn’t. Certain things feel good and other things, not so good. You develop a sensibility of knowing what technique fits where. Bruce Lee once said: “When there is an opportunity, I do not hit, it hits all by itself.” I think it takes listening to your body and accepting what it wants to get to that level of expression.
I’m getting the feeling that ultimately, martial arts comes down to benevolence, as contradictory as it sounds. I say benevolence because I believe that if you take the time to train, learn about yourself and develop self mastery, you’ll find what you want is in the best interest of the greater good. So another way of defining martial arts could be: doing good for yourself and for others.