Many times as martial artists we focus solely on the application of our art and we forget about the artistic side of the martial arts.


This is also something as a whole that is missed by many through all of the punches, kicks and physical applications that are viewed as simplistic and not possessing the highbrow nature of “Art.”


First, what exactly is art?


Art defined by is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination in physical, visual, auditory or tangible forms. This can include everything from music, sculptures, literature, dance, cinema and a litany of other things that all fall under a very large umbrella term that at times, encompasses more than it’s general term or definition.


Simply put, art is subjective. It is up to the artist or the consumer to determine what may be considered art.


So, how do we nurture the art aspect of our training to become better martial artists?


Even the greatest artist, whether he or she is a painter or a musician, must understand the basic structure of their skill. Musicians must have basic rhythm, an ear for music, understand rhythmic structure of some form or another and so on. The same for a painter in the more traditional sense. Meaning someone who creates art through pens, pencils and brushes must understand basic anatomy, shadows, shading and the various little elements that go into making a finished work.


This goes for martial artists as well. We learn our basic forms, the proper way to punch and kick and the basic structural integrity and physics behind our techniques. However, once we learn our techniques and even refine them over the years, we lose the creativity, individuality and expression associated with this particular art.


The goal of the martial artist should be mastering their body and technique into a form of unconscious fluidity and expression of the self. As a musician flows with their music and a painter lets the brush guide them, we must do the same physically and find the individuality in how we train.


We must find the art in our body movement and technique!


The martial arts is very similar to dance in it’s ability to be an expression of the body through movement. If you watch a high level Wushu, Capoeira, Karate or Tai Chi forms, the similarities to a dance sequence are almost indistinguishable in any of these styles.


Witnessing a martial arts master is like watching poetry in motion. Everything they do is fluid, yet strong. Powerful and at the same time soft. They become one with their body, mind and spirit and it is where the art in the martial arts truly shines.


Instead of constantly feeling rigid in your techniques, a martial artist must find their own rhythm. It is the state of mind that Bruce Lee talks about in his famous quote, “Be like water making its way through cracks…Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”


Find the YOU in your technique!


Art is subjective. Art stems from individuality and the inspiration of the individual. Why should the martial arts be any different?


There is only one you in the world and the best way to improve as martial artist is to find yourself in your training. We all have unique preferences, body shapes, likes and dislikes and it is important to nurture the things that feel right, in order to improve your abilities.


You may excel at kicks, while your friend excels at Kata. You may be tall and some techniques just don’t make sense for you to perform because of your height, in comparison to your shorter classmates. We all have unique talents and skills and it’s important to let them grow in our training and express ourselves accordingly.


Make what works for you work and put what doesn’t to the side. Craft your martial arts training into exactly what it is, an individual artform.


Don’t forget…


When you are training, you aren’t just throwing kicks or practicing form, you are expressing yourself physical in an art form that happens to have self-defense and combat principles.