People are unique. Each and every one of us is different both physically and psychologically. For example, Britney Griner (formerly of the Baylor University Basketball team) is incredibly tall and also quite agile. Compared to the majority of women, she is unusually well suited for playing basketball. On the other hand, my mother is short and not particularly athletic. Her skills do not lie in basketball, but rather in many forms of art and also in teaching young children. So if both of these women were to walk into a self-defense seminar, do you think that they would come away with exactly the same skills and tactics? If the instructor is worth his salt, they would leave the seminar with a good understanding of the principles of self-protection and be able to apply those principles in ways that worked well for them.
If each individual is different, both in body and mind, why do so many people think that they must be like others in order to properly train in the martial arts? I love the martial arts, and since I love training and what it does for both my body and mind, I want to share it with others. However, when I try to encourage teens and adults to try Taekwondo or any other martial art, they usually respond by saying: “I could never kick that high!” or “I’m just not athletic.” It doesn’t matter what you tell people, they have an image of Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, or Jackie Chan in their head. They think that they will be expected to operate at that level. The sad result is that many people never try the martial arts at all. The good news, however, is that, unlike basketball, you don’t have to be 6’10” to win!
Martial arts training isn’t designed for just one body type. In fact, there are hundreds of different styles with thousands of different instructors. Each style was created by a different person (or group of people), and each instructor teaches it in a way that makes the most sense for them. Truly great instructors have learned many variations of the principles and techniques that they teach so that they can adjust the training to each student’s particular needs. I recently watched a video of a young man who was deformed from birth with no arms and hardly any legs. As I watched, he got onto the stage in front of hundreds of people and performed a pattern and several choreographed self-defense techniques along with his team. His focus, confidence, and dedication were evidenced in every movement of his body. This young man was guided by a great instructor to overcome his challenges and learn to use his own body in a way that worked for him. He will never be able to perform a jump-spin-hook kick, but that doesn’t stop him from using the martial arts training to become a better version of himself!
Martial arts training is as unique to each individual as a finger print. In other words, your training will never look exactly like the guy or girl next to you. You have a different set of beliefs, morals, physical limitations, and goals than the person training beside you. You may learn the same general set of skills in order to achieve rank, but those skills will be applied differently based on your needs. Whatever your personality and physique, it is highly likely that martial arts training can help you achieve your goals. Maybe you want to lose weight, gain confidence, protect yourself or your family, push your personal limits, or just try something new. Whatever your goals and your personality, I encourage you to try a class or two at your local martial arts school and see if you can find benefit for yourself in what you learn there. If that school doesn’t have what you want, try other schools in your area until you find an instructor who understands your needs and can help you reach your goals.