Everybody has experienced a crisis at least once in their lives – be it related to their personality (e.g. during adolescence), their family, their work, their love life, money, health, self-esteem; the list goes on. Furthermore, there are also global crises which affect us, i.e. the economic crisis which has wracked the world during the last couple of years, the numerous natural disasters which occur, even war.
It should be noted that a crisis is only experienced as such when it affects one personally and directly. A crisis is intrinsically linked to perception; the same event might be experienced as a crisis or not by somebody according to their perception of it, and will therefore be dealt with differently.
A person’s perception of an event as a crisis can be said to be determined by his/her position within the hierarchy of needs, as portrayed by Maslow’s Pyramid (see figure below). When one or more levels of needs are threatened by an event, this event is experienced as a crisis.
According to Maslow’s theory, human needs are divided among levels. Of these, the most basic four are “D-needs” or deficiency needs, while the secondary level needs are “B-needs” or being needs. Maslow’s theory suggests that in order for a human being to focus on his/her B-needs, his/her D-needs must be satisfied first.
Whenever an event threatens any of the D-needs, a person cannot focus on or develop his/her B-needs, and will therefore stop striving for constant betterment. Hence it is imperative for a person to be well-prepared and able to deal with the threatening events or crises which he/she will encounter during his/her lifetime.
A fundamental character trait in being able to deal with a crisis event is the ability to change and adapt to any situation. This is best illustrated by the phrase Banpen Fugyoo, which can loosely be translated as “ten-thousand changes, no surprises”. This is only possible when one has a deeply-rooted belief in oneself and is able to overcome one’s fear of the unknown. All feelings, all responses, are a result of two main feelings or triggers: love and fear. Everything one does stems forth from one of these two primary feelings. People are naturally afraid of that which they do not know, and the practice of martial arts is key in overcoming this (and any other) fear.
However, a person should train martial arts not only on the mats, but in every aspect of their life. That is what is known as Budo: the martial way. The seven pillars of Budo are courage, humanity, justice, courtesy, honesty, loyalty and honor. And only by applying these to everyday life as well as in training, is a person able to overcome any fear and become a reflection of his/her higher self.
The first thing martial arts teach is to overcome one’s fear by facing one’s opponents. The fear of being hit is overcome when one surrenders and accepts that one is going to be hit. Only then can one be free to move out of the way and allow one’s body to naturally respond. Through the training on the mats is a person able to overcome all sorts of obstacles, both physical and mental/emotional, which in turn increases one’s belief in oneself (self- confidence).
The practice of martial arts also brings with it both acceptance of self – including one’s weaknesses – and acceptance of others – trusting others intrinsically during the training. This increases one’s overall tolerance of the differences between oneself and others, which in turn increases one’s adaptability to different situations.
Another main aspect of training martial arts is that it increases one’s awareness – both of oneself and of one’s environment and any potential threats. This is closely linked to the development of safety of self – a primary premise in martial arts. A complete martial arts training should allow for the development of the five physical senses (sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell) and the sixth sense: “shiki” or consciousness.
Martial arts provide a strong sense of belonging, as one of the traits of martial arts is the acceptance into a “family” of practitioners. This again increases a person’s self-confidence and belief in oneself.
All of the above are applicable to most of the martial arts which are being practiced nowadays, as they actually apply to Budo itself and not to a specific martial art. The important thing is to choose the right teacher – somebody who is versed not only in the technical aspects of training, but who is also aware of the other dimensions and who is striving to live according to the seven pillars of Budo. A teacher is often also a mentor and a friend; trust in one’s teacher is paramount when it comes to training a martial art. A good teacher also strikes a balance between being an instructor and being a student.
To summarize, martial arts aid a person in becoming well-rounded, in drawing on his/her strengths, and in accepting and working with his/her weaknesses. This in turn enables a person to be prepared when facing a crisis and allows him/her to draw on his/her experiences. The type of martial art is not important, and while having a good teacher is desirable, in the end it does not matter as Budo is one’s own and a person walks his/her own martial path. There are no right or wrong choices – there are only choices; and every one of them leads to experience and growth.
"Martial arts do create better human beings. Be aware of all the variables you need in your life in order to obtain victory in it, for it is a precious gift." – Henrique Narciso, 10th Dan Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu
"Budo is not necessarily THE way, but it certainly is an interesting way." – Jan Peter Tanja, 10th Dan Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu