One thing I can say is that when I step outside now, I can feel the sun on my face and it feels good. I can't remember the last time I felt at peace, and it did not come easy.
I love fighting. I do. I always will. I absolutely love that first rush when my hands go up, I love the second rush when my opponent comes at me, I love the look in the other guy's face when he realizes that I'm better than he is, and I love it even more when I realize I have encountered someone who is at a higher level than I am. I love the seconds that decide winning or losing, when there is a technique coming at me that I haven't seen before, and I wonder if the defense I have spent so much time perfecting is good enough. If it isn't, is my mind and body strong enough to withstand the impact? What if it isn't? Am I really ready to accept the fact that I can lose?
When you fight, you don't think, you act, and this is how I became such an instinctive person. You learn to read little nuances in people, watching how they walk, talk, gesture, and use their body. You figure out weaknesses and exploit them for all they're worth. Best believe they'd do it to you.
I've been studying martial arts since I was around six, first mimicking what I saw in Bruce Lee films and then moving on to actual styles. I've been formerly schooled in American Tae Kwon Do, but over the years I've studied kickboxing, muay thai, aikido, wing chun, ninjitsu, boxing, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I'm not really proficient in any of them, now that I think about it. I have realized that I might be a good fighter, but I'm a lousy martial artist.
When I was training, I eschewed forms but excelled at sparring. I didn't see a point to forms. I mean, if I get into something on the street, I'm not going to go into a series of movements and hope I bore the other guy into submission. I'm going to kick the shit out of him. When I trained, I didn't bother with forms. I wanted to increase my speed and hitting power. I wanted to turn my blocks into something that injured my assailant.
That's the destructive lure of martial arts; the more you learn, the deadlier you become. Knowing that you can cripple or kill with a well-placed strike is an addictive feeling. It makes you feel like you're better than everyone else.
Within the last two years, all the injuries caught up to me and left without the ability to fight, I felt empty. I still feel empty. I know that no matter how hard I train or practice (roughly five hours a day, off and on) I will never be at the level I once was.
A friend of mine, one I hope to spar with one day, told me simply to "relearn".
The road takes you to some amazing places. At thirty-one, I am now taking to heart every lesson I eschewed as a child.
I can't give up the martial arts, even if I have to give up fighting. I sincerely believe that part of the reason why I'm healthy is because I spend so much time training. Martial arts is what you make of it; it has the power to heal, as much as it does to destroy.
So I study forms now. I rehearse them a few hours a day, and my body is still getting used to it. My knees hurt and buckle when I try to maintain a front stance. I really did a lot of damage to myself over the years.
I don't have it in me to quit, though. I'll keep studying and finding ways around my own weaknesses until I strike the balance between instinct and logic. I'm told that the ultimate goal in martial arts is to learn to avoid confrontation.
I'll let you know how that goes.