Active Living

How the Dojo Shaped My Attitude Towards Fitness

Martial arts have demonstrated to me the incredible capabilities of the human body –of my body. They have changed my perception of where my limits lie and what I can and can’t achieve. They have shown me that progress is a real thing –an attainable thing.

Four successive snapshots of me performing a jiu jitsu throw on a training partner.

Snaps from a highlight video one of the Jiu Jitsu clubs in the city put together. That’s me with my head cut off! Credit: Ken Remark Photography

When I started martial arts I was a blank slate –or, as my instructor would say: “I came in green.” I am not that martial artist anymore. I’ve acquired talents and I’ve identified strengths and weaknesses. Overall, I have improved.

I remember my first belt test in Shorinji Kan Jiu Jitsu (the exam of-sorts one has to pass to earn a shiny new belt and rank in the style), I remember how anxious I was and how hard I considered it to be. Looking back now, and having witnessed some of my newer training partners’ tests since completing my own, I can’t believe how significant it was to me at the time. It just goes to show the progress I’ve made. Having said that, the fact that it seems so ridiculous now, doesn’t mean that it was any less notable or that I shouldn’t have felt proud or accomplished back then. The same applies to fitness.

We all have our starting points, surpassing those starting points –those initial limits and abilities- is not insignificant because you can still only run a mile without stopping, or because playing a team sport still makes you anxious. All progress is significant. This isn’t a statistics class –thankfully! We don’t have to justify our feelings of accomplishment and shouldn’t compare those accomplishments to those attained by others. Take pride in the little step you took today towards a happier, healthier, fitter you! It DOES count, no matter the “p-value”. In case you didn’t know –and I wouldn’t blame you- the “p-value” is a measure of statistical significance! Exclamation marks make everything more exciting, right?

Martial arts have also given me an appreciation for my body. I’ve learned that it can always do more and go further than I think it can. My body powers me through challenging pressure-testing scenarios, it enables me to effectively dispatch attackers. It gets sore, it recovers, and it primes itself for the next challenge. In order for it to be able to do the most for me, I need to do what I can for it in return.

I am active because I’ve learned to love my body and appreciate it and what it allows me to do. I’ve found that that appreciation is far more effective at motivating me to stay active than a desire to “fix” it or punish myself with negative reinforcement. I encourage everyone to take a step back, to not base their decision to be active –or not-on an evaluation of self that happens in front of a mirror. Go outside, do something physical and try to remember how that feels. Be grateful for what you can do and don’t’ dwell on what you can’t do. We were built to move; isn’t it wonderful?

I think it is and I love discovering all the different ways in which my body can move and work. This term, I’m doing that through an Olympic weightlifting class, so check back for those sweaty details!

Buddy the elf meme with text overlay: "I just like to lift. Lifting's my favourite."

This is my go-to meme. Buddy is my favourite!