As I look around for information on martial arts, I often see discussion or outright drum beating about becoming super healthy, super strong warring machines, in short, the beast mode mentality. I have an issue with this.
Weight lifting and hardcore exercise has its value. For some, it is exactly what they want. Mixing in some martial arts into that regimen would appear to make sense, but it seems to be more about exercise and less about martial arts. How much martial art training is needed if time is devoted to becoming a physically overwhelming beast?
There is a middle ground and even a low ground. A martial art can be learned for the art itself, and most often is. Some would argue that almost everyone that begins training a martial art says something like, “I want to get in shape.” In shape does not mean dead lifting beyond their body weight, not for everyone anyway. That said, if there are aspirations of entering the cage or ring, one must be in the best shape possible.
However, I would argue that the average person who takes up martial arts trains for the art with a side effect of becoming more healthy. The operable phrase being “more healthy,” more healthy than they were. Instead of leading a sedentary lifestyle, they now take on a physical activity that gets them moving a bit, but their fundamental interest is the art itself. Learning the art or science causes them to shed a few pounds, gain a few more minutes of wind, and perks up their energy levels. But that is a long way from focusing on building a beast or being able to knock out one-hundred pushups.
We all have a natural beast mode. In the face of conflict, adrenaline or sheer ferocity kicks in, it is short lived and unpredictable, but it is natural. Experienced martial artists, whether physical beasts or willowy wisps, know that the trick is controlling that natural effect and using it to advantage. But beyond this is the simple question, what are the chances that a beast mode will ever be needed?
Physical confrontations are not as common as many may fear. I am not saying they do not happen, nor am I denying the seriousness of such situations. I am simply saying it is not a common event. Again, unless the intent is to climb into the ring, most people will live their entire lives without ever needing to call up a beast. I doubt that very many people lay on their death beds and lament that they never developed a six-pack or went down to 4 percent body fat. People may wish they had been more healthy, but at that point most regret simpler things they let slip by, such as connecting with friends or family, or visiting foreign lands, or writing their memoirs, or learning to dance, or water ski, or a martial art. But few bemoan not becoming cut.
If becoming a physical beast is the goal that is fine and dandy. But we must recognize that is not the goal of every practitioner. Some enjoy the science itself, and are delighted that it improves their baseline activity level. They do not want, nor need, more than that. How many of us need a beast mode, really?