When a new student joins our family they, or their parents, have several things they would like to see themselves gain. Some want to gain confidence or coordination. Others are looking for strength, self-esteem, or some super sweet ninja moves. Whatever the case may be, we hear tons of reasons why people want to start martial arts. They're all great benefits of training, but the one reason we never hear is to make new friends.
Sure, we will get the occasional parent saying they want their kid to talk to actual people and not just through a headset while playing a video game. Or we will have an adult say that they want to work through some of their anxiety issues by being around people and trying new things. But no one ever comes in and says they want to make meaningful connections with people and build lasting friendships. Most people assume they will come to punch and kick, then leave class. What they fail to realize is that martial arts will provide them with so much more.
Thanks to a lot of negative motion picture portrayals, marital artists have a bad reputation of being rude, boneheaded bullies. Because of this stereotype, when new students come in they are usually nervous despite being told during their introductions that we are all friendly. You can see the fear in a new student’s eyes when they pair up for the first time in class. They don’t want to mess up and anger this ‘new scary martial arts person’.
After a few rounds of working together, they realize that the scary martial artist is just a person who messes up and is self-conscious too. At that point, they loosen up, and may even share a giggle with their partner over what the instructor just said. They might even feel brave enough to cheer on their partner during a game. Something that can seem so trivial, is actually a building block to friendship.
Before students know it, friendships are born and abound. Relationships so strong that they can be life changing. New students look forward to seeing their marital arts friends in class, in the halls at school, or out after work. These individuals become a part of each other’s families. People to work with, to laugh with, to fight through the tough moments with, and to succeed with. Someone who helps you to improve, to focus and most importantly, to laugh. You might not expect it and you might not even believe it, but it happens.
As the old adage goes, friends who train together gain together. Friendship is one of the most valuable yet overlooked benefits of martial arts training, which makes it even more special.