Bruce Lee Dancing

Bruce Lee Dancing

Martial arts have always served a practical purpose for me, thus my emphasis on functional self defense rather than art or sport.  And this purpose has helped me to avoid being limited by or tied to any one system, teacher, or set of concepts.  Maintaining that focus has helped me to identify the fluff that comes with so many disciplines, physically and mentally, and to ignore it.  But martial arts have also served an equally if not more important purpose for me, to openly explore and expand my physical and mental capabilities, to know and express myself without the imaginary boundaries we tend to create for ourselves.

The vast majority of people live within a box made artificially small by their own imaginary boundaries, limitations, and expectations.  But when your practice has no rules and in order to move forward you must think outside of the box, if you practice deeply, it tends to spill over into everyday life.  The imaginary boundaries become visible for what they are.  Right now, we can do anything that doesn’t violate the laws of physics.  The past doesn’t matter.  The future has yet to be determined.

For me, these aspects of freedom and exploration are more beneficial and certainly more enjoyable than the self defense aspect.  Although, it’s possible that without the functional self defense emphasis to cut away the BS, real freedom and exploration would be limited.  In any case, I’ve benefited greatly from practicing martial arts, aside from developing practical self defense skills.

Dan Inosanto Drumming

Dan Inosanto Drumming

But functional martial arts are harsh.  Practice often hurts, although over time the hurt isn’t an emotionally negative thing.  And, functional martial arts are necessarily about expressions of violence.  So despite how much fun practice may be or how much you may enjoy the company of the people you train with, martial arts are a violent pursuit.  Everything you do relates to injuring or at least beating another person.  You can and should, in my view, maintain a friendly and non-violent attitude, otherwise you’ll become a tense and unhappy person.  But there is a limit to the kind of things you can express though your actual practice.

I’ve written before about the similarities between martial arts, music, and dance.  They’re all arts that allow you to freely express yourself and to explore infinite possibilities.  For me, music has become a terrific compliment and counter-balance to my martial arts practice.  It’s another way to learn and explore in an infinite space.  But unlike with martial arts, music is not inherently harsh or violent.  With music, you can express violence if you want to, but you can also express happiness, sadness, excitement, tranquility, and so on.  If you’re into self defense and martial arts as much as I am, I highly recommend music as a complimentary discipline.  It’s no wonder that Bruce Lee was also a competitive dancer, and that world class martial artists like Dan Inosanto recommend their students learn to play music.  In addition to the complimentary benefits that relate to martial arts, balancing a violent pursuit with a peaceful one is great for happiness and peace of mind.

I’ve also written before about my primary instrument, the oud.  The fretless nature of it allows for limitless possibilities in terms of sound, and any kind of music can be played on it.  I highly recommend it, or any other instrument for that matter. To conclude, here’s a recording I recently made combining new beats with a composition written in 1610:

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