Walker Texas Ranger and other Rambo type personalities employ martial arts techniques to effortlessly annihilate a small army of assailants. Entertainment of this nature constantly floods our television screens, cinemas and video games. Consequently, most Americans visualize martial arts as nothing more than glorified violence. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Historians believe that the martial arts are a direct descendant of ancient fighting systems that originated over 5,000 years ago solely for self-preservation purposes in the then uncivilized world. In today’s world, however, martial arts’ training focuses on personal development and important life skills that one utilizes on a daily basis.

If martial arts were solely a means of self-defense, the American Lung Association would not employ martial arts to teach asthmatics how to take control of their breathing and more importantly, their lives. The Blue Cross/Blue Shield Corporation would not establish on-site martial arts programs for international giants as the Compaq Corporation to improve productivity and at the same time reduce stress, absenteeism and health insurance claims. Additionally, schools for emotionally challenged, problem plagued youth would not include martial arts in their curriculums as a means of promoting a positive mental attitude in their students who traditionally act out in a defiant manner.

By viewing a martial arts class, the spectator can easily detect the physical benefits of this activity. However, the physical aspects of the training are merely tools utilized by the instructor to transcend into the psychological, intrinsic values of the lesson. Students are constantly reminded of their moral obligations to society and the seven virtues of the feudal samurai:

Thus, the martial arts are rarely used in today’s society for combative purposes. However, they continue to be a superb method of self-defense enabling its students to defend themselves against such devastating enemies as alcohol, drugs and unhealthy peer pressure. The martial arts are so much more than just a sport or a means of exercise. Students of these arts strive for the attainment of human perfection.

The martial arts are comprised of hundreds of different styles or systems. Many students commute thousands of miles annually to train in a specific style or with a particular instructor. The owner of a martial arts school cannot place an ad in the help wanted section of the local newspaper to hire instructors in the traditional manner as health clubs often do. Because of the uniqueness of each school, most staff instructors have to be “home grown”. As a pre-requisite, a student first needs to earn the rank of Black Belt, a process that takes on average four to six years of weekly training. This new Black Belt then usually has to serve a formal apprenticeship under a Master Instructor. Speaking from experience, in the Japanese and Okinawan arts, this apprenticeship is a ten year process. A martial arts classroom is a formal educational environment where the following subjects are taught in one form or another.