What is the value of martial arts training? Besides from self defence that is. What are we left with? For me the benefits of training are of a particular interest. Whether physical or spiritual we must get something from our practice to continue.
Budo was for me a big step forward in my life. I was never interested in sports as a child and still not much now. My initial training in Aikido gave me an understanding of physicality that previously I had lacked. It made me more aware of various health problems I had had for years before starting. Asthma probably most notably and also flat feet. The flat feet condition is almost completely controlled just by sitting in Seiza on a daily basis. This condition that had on occasion made it difficult to walk sometimes in very inconvenient circumstances has now gone to the point that I probably think about it just every few months. The Asthma I have had since 5 years old and although it can still cause problems I have gained a greater awareness of how it can triggered and therefore calmed. The breathing patterns used in Aikido and Katori Shinto Ryu are a great focus to regaining control of this most basic of necessities. Breathing out when being thrown, throwing or cutting with sword, moving in time with a partner, bringing breath in line with body and mind.
Good Budo training, practice with awareness can give a person a new more natural understanding of their body and way of moving. Through correct body alignment old habits can replaced and a healthier more relaxed way can be instilled. The highest ranking instructors of Aikido, Daito Ryu and Katori Shinto Ryu all have something in common. They tend to be in their later years and still training. Although they usually slow down, this usually comes with an increase in efficacy of movement. These arts all teach good relaxed movement, correct body alignment with a awareness of breathing. Unlike most Sports and hard style martial arts, a practitioner can continue to improve right till the end. No one part of the body should be overly stressed and become worn down. Also harder more strenuous activities causing people to stop training all together can lead to a rapid decline in health as the activity may have been the only thing keeping the person going. I have a few students for Aikido and Katori Shinto Ryu who have come to train with me after many years of study in other subjects. They say that although they enjoyed their previous art/sport, injury made it too difficult to continue. I am always happy to find a way for a person to train, with whatever physical difficulties they may have.
The more psychological benefits of training are far more subjective. I hope that people are open to allow for change in their own lives and that their change is purely positive. That of course depends solely on the individual and what they choose to focus their intend on. You get out of it what you put in. For me the study of martial art is partly the study of aggression. What it is and how to deal with it. I have witnessed and experienced enough aggression and violence to know how ugly a person can get. Horrible as it is, it is also fascinating. If you want peace in your life surely you can not avoid its opposite. To truly understand ourselves and humanity it must be necessary to look directly at the root of the problem. Conflicts arise due to huge complexity of issues. But I think that there are consistences. Greed and the putting an ideology higher than the value of human life are two of them.
I should hope that my training has help me separate aggression from aggressor and see people more as they truly are. Scared and acting out of fear. When we feel safe and secure within ourselves we have the power to direct our own behaviour and can stop being victims of fate and design. It is all too easy of react to anger with anger, it rarely solves anything. Budo has the possibility to create a more empowered individual with the capacity to direct their own lives. This of course depends almost entirely on the individual.