Becoming A Martial Arts Master

Martial Arts Life #1: Becoming A Martial Arts Master In Life

What is a master? Thoughts come to mind of Bruce Lee or Morihei Ueshiba or even more mythical masters of legend. But what does it mean to become a master? Can you ever truly master a martial art? I hope that through this post we can look more fully into mastery and how to begin on the path.

Many people cringe at the word “master”. To master something denotes having it all–as if you’re done and there’s nothing left to get from it. How lame would it be to dedicate years of study to something, only to reach the end and be done with it. I guess that’s the beauty of this life. It’s hard to master ANYTHING. Just when you think you’ve really got it all there’s always another layer to peal back if you’re willing to do the work and look.

Yet there does seem to be a certain class of person who deserves the title of master. A person so ahead of the game that he can focus on bringing others up with him. A Martial Arts Hero. Even men like Lee and Ueshiba were constantly demonstrating their openness to learning more. They were always pursuing something deeper than what they already had. Yet they have been a hero to thousands, if not millions. They’ve inspired people to achieve far more with their lives.

So what is a martial arts master? What’s our ideal? A martial arts master is both a warrior and a scholar. A destroyer as well as a creator. He is both martial as well as an artist. He embodies both the yin and yang of life. When the chips are down he never gives up. He fights to the end. He will not stop. He knows the meaning of tenacity far more than the best dictionary. He is that person who you want on your side. Yet among all that fire and passion, among all that drive and courage, he is tempered by a softer, gentler side. He is “for” life. He does not kill to kill. He kills in order to bestow life. Why do hero’s fight? To protect the lives of those whom they love. They feel a love for life and a compassion for others that goes beyond the fear of death. Every moment is to be valued, for every moment is the most precious. In fact, the martial arts master understands that it’s the only moment we’ve got. With the spirit of a true artist of life he feels gratitude for the life force coursing through his body. He is FULLY alive, in touch with himself. He lives openly, fearlessly.

In this day and age it’s very easy for us to find role models to inspire us. We just have to turn on the tv. And the martial arts master is all over the media. The Last Samarai is a perfect example in my mind of the true martial arts master. Even outside of movies dealing with the martial arts you find people with the spirit of a master. Of course, these are fantastical examples. But what about someone who hits closer to home? Who in your life strikes you as a martial arts master? Is it your instructor? Is it your brother or sister? Is it a close friend? Is it a mentor? What about you? Can YOU be your own best hero–your own best example of who you want to be (and are)? Can you pick up your journal and be impressed with the person who did so much and fought for so much? What about other people? Are you a hero to others? Do you strive to bring people up and to inspire them to live a higher life? Do you seek to get or to give in life?

My first exercise I would recommend is to write down 3 or 4 people who really inspire you. Then write a paragraph for each describing why. What do they bring to the world and to you yourself? Just having this awareness can help you to set your own values and ideals.

Through this blog I want to constantly look at this martial arts master. I will take him as my guide. I want to zero in on him and dissect what makes him who he is. Then, using the information gleaned, I want to explore ways to integrate him into our own lives. The main three areas in which I’ll explore the martial arts master is in:

* how he relates to himself (mind and body)
* how he relates to others
* how he relates to his environment and to the world

Through this exploration we’ll discuss such topics as:

* Developing a warrior’s attitude
* Developing a warrior’s body through fitness and nutrition
* Finding our true Selves
* Being real with others and with the moment
* Respect and appreciation for others
* Honor and integrity
* Sharing our lives by living with Purpose
* Creating in life as well as Destroying in life
* Etc., etc., and lots more etc.

Will these posts benefit YOU? Are you a practicing martial artist? Do you love martial arts but for whatever reason are not training at the moment? Do you just love the martial arts ideals without any interest in training? Then yes, these posts are for you.

So now that we’ve defined our ideal–our “master”–let’s look at our own journey. How do we approach our own process of discovery and development? The martial arts are the perfect vehicle for growth and self-discovery. You reveal yourself on the training mat. It’s life under a microscope and not only how you train is how you fight, it’s how you live as well. In the dojo your fears, your insecurities, your ego, your strengths and weaknesses, your work ethic, how you relate with others–these are all pinpointed and given the opportunity to be examined and worked on.

In my next Martial Arts Life post we will go deeper into the path of mastery, contrasting it to some other paths that have been outlined for us by Aikido Sensie George Leonard in his book Mastery: The Keys To Success and Long-Term Fulfillment. Until then keep kickin’ butt–your own especially.

Sifu Forrest Caudill

Forrest is a certified instructor in two martial arts and runs the Austin Impact Jeet Kune Do school in Austin, Texas. For more resources and information check out his website at

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