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What Did Martial Arts Give You?

by Keith Pascal

Stick with the preamble … we’ll get to martial arts soon enough. I promise.

Online, I have read a few posts about people who think going to college is useless.

They feel that it doesn’t teach you skills that will make you a fortune, it doesn’t foster creativity, and it’s a conspiracy … a waste of time that the establishment wants everyone to buy into.

Of course, I don’t feel this way, at all.

It didn’t teach me life skills, but … it taught me how to learn.


It taught me to use my brain at a deeper level.

After college, I figured out that I had the ability to create a “course” for myself in almost any subject area.

I do feel that college didn’t teach me all the skills I needed for life.

(I majored in Italian undergrad. and Spanish and Teaching for a masters. I don’t use either
of those in my current occupation.)


When I wanted to learn Photoshop, I took a summer and REALLY learned the Photoshop at a deep level.

I did it on my own with books and online.

I created homework, study routines, practice, tests, etc.

By Fall, I knew Photoshop better than most.

(Now, I’ve moved on. No more Photoshop for me.)

When it was time to learn marketing, BAM. I read everything I could get
my hands on, and I applied it, just like the professors had taught me to do with other subjects.

The whole world is an oyster just waiting for me to create self courses to create “pearls.”


For the last minute or so, we have been discussing college, but I have heard that military service has also imparted lifelong benefit to those who have served.

Many people I know who have served have discipline like you wouldn’t believe.

They also understand all the various roles in any endeavor.

And they develop a strong constitution that can be carried to other areas of life — the army guys aren’t the “quitters.”


But what about martial arts?

Sure, martial arts teaches discipline, to some extent, like the being in the military. And you get life lessons of how to learn, and to consider some aspects of life differently, but it’s more than that.

Martial arts gave me … the ability to practice a skill to higher level of perfection. Rather than simply learning a new craft or hobby, I can dissect it, learn the basics, then take it to an ever higher level, with the same efficiency as learning martial arts.

Martial study also gave me the ability to overcome certain fears, when I trained for it, and treated it like any other martial arts skill.

Note: I even Wrote a book on the subject … Control Your Fear: A Guide for Martial Artists.

Now, let’s get to the meat of this article. What I’m about to tell you is, what I think makes this newsletter different from the others out there.

Here goes…

Whether it’s college, the military, or a martial arts class, there seems to be a delayed effect of learning the meta-skill of each area.

Many people don’t discover all the benefits that they received from each area, until long after their degree, their tour of duty, or their formal martial studies.

Sometimes, it takes years, before they realize that they have become a different, better

What I’d like to suggest is that, we as martial arts teachers, help our students to make this connection before they leave us.

We should give them the skill to recognize how what they have just mastered will transfer to other areas of their life.

Don’t make them wait to figure out how all of this applies to general life, later.

Lead them down the path of transferable skill.

You could make the claim that some professors are doing this in Universities.

They relate their teachings to real life application.

That’s NOT what I’m talking about.

For example, a math teacher might teach that to learn the area of a circle would benefit you in discovering which is a better deal, one large pizza or two mediums.

That’s direct application.

I’m talking about using “how” you learned what you learned in a different area.

For example, imagine that you have practiced an empty-hand martial art for years and years.


Then, one year, you and your family move to a cabin with a wood stove.

All of a sudden, you have to split your own wood, but you have never really handled an axe in your life.

But as a martial artist, you will take steps in a specific order, to not only learn the basics of wood splitting, but to go beyond, and get to the point that you can split any log with just one, easy, efficient swing of the axe.

I don’t even have to tell you what steps to take.

As a seasoned martial artist, you are already pondering how “you” would go from no-skill wood splitting, to precision, split-the-piece-like-a-warm-knife-through-butter level of skill.

I feel your brain matter churning, right now.

So, start giving your students examples of how martial arts can affect your whole being, from not getting upset in volatile situations, to learning a craft or skill with the precision of a master.

Do you teach martial arts these days?

If not, how about applying this to your own life?

Do you need a reminder of how you corrected your habit of not blinking when a punch came at your face?

Can you link that to getting rid of some bad habit, like in bowling, or golf, or on the tennis court?

What about calming your mind before sparring or fighting?

Can you use that skill to teach yourself to squelch your nervousness at having to speak for a few seconds at a relative’s wedding or anniversary?

It’s absolutely fascinating to see how the skill of learning skills can transfer:

How would you learn to chop vegetables at the super speed of a French chef or someone cooking in an authentic Chinese restaurant?

How would you develop that precision?

If you had to add numbers on a 10-key calculator, how would you gain the skill to whip through a column of numbers without ever looking at the keyboard?

What about balancing a ton of plates of food all over your arms the way expert waiters do?

The list goes on and on.

Finally, imagine something that you thought was impossible to learn in the martial arts, but nowadays, you have it down pat. You exhibit real skill.

You mastered it.

So, how would you tackle something that now seems insurmountable, in a different area of life, and have the same patience, the same stick-to-itiveness, and finally develop crazy-good skills at it?

Have a great week,


Keith Pascal

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