Imagine the scene. Your alarm clock fails to go off and you wake up late. You stub your toe on the bed in a rush to get into the bathroom, realise you’re out of toothpaste. In a panic to get ready, you end up shouting at the kids, arguing with your partner and leaving the house in a mood. You drive to work and get in late, you bark at your co-workers, who all keep their distance from you. Then you simmer for hours before you finally calm down.

Now let’s rewind this scene and add in the kind of benefits that come from a steady and sustained martial arts practice. You wake up late, but realising that it’s your own fault for not setting. In the bathroom you find that your partner has used up all the toothpaste, but instead of getting angry at her, you take a deep breath and make a mental note to get some from the store on the way home. Kissing your kids and wife goodbye you leave the house and just manage to get into work on time. Then, You find that one of your co-workers is celebrating their birthday and offers you a slice of cake. Your day is getting better already!

Benefits of Kung Fu

Kung Fu

These two different scenarios, from the same set of circumstances, demonstrate how having a regular, sustained, practice in the martial arts can help benefit you in your everyday life by giving you more control of your emotions. Of course, practicing kung fu won’t give you superpowers. But it can give you a firm centre around which you can weather the storms of life.

As well as sparring, kung fu usually involves the practice of set forms. Forms require discipline, perseverance and stamina to complete. They have many of the same benefits to the mind, body and spirit that meditation provides. After practice you should feel calm and relaxed, not worn out and exhausted. While hours spent in the gym can feel like a kind of punishment, kung fu practice should heal you and help you grow from the inside. As you start to get healthier from physical exercise your mood also improves. You feel calmer and more balanced. More in control of your emotions.

Kung fu works because you can’t simply think your way to being like this. The kung fu masters of old realised that the mind, body and spirit were all connected. If you wanted to change your mind, say to make it more disciplined, then you also need to change your body through a physical practice. It’s the physical practice of the martial arts that produces these life changing results.

But the benefits of kung fu practice go beyond just the individual.

Positive Influence in Practicing Kung Fu

kung fu
Robert Downey, Jr. speaking at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con International, for "Avengers: Age of Ultron", at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.
Gage Skidmore, Flickr CC License.

“Martial has just been… I can’t even say how much it’s impacted my ability to stay well and focused,” the famous actor and kung fu practitioner Robert Downey Jr said on his Oprah appearance. “It’s a spiritual practice. It’s grounded me and its primary purpose is to promote a sense of spiritual warriordom and to respect your society and to be prepared to defend yourself and your society if necessary.”

Traditional martial arts have a firm road of progression from beginner to advanced. They tend to be better placed to deliver these kinds of benefits to society than the modern sportive versions of the martial arts, as their continued existence from generation to generation has ensured that they are preserved in a way that has benefits not only to the individual, but also to the wider group. It’s a bit like the theory of natural selection: if they produced individuals who were overly aggressive or didn’t contribute positively to the greater good then they usually cease to be passed on effectively.

Ultimately, if you stay in the Kung Fu for long enough you’ll find that success isn’t just about you. It’s also about how you can help those around you and be a positive influence in the lives of others. Once you are in harmony with yourself, you’ll be able to spread it to other people in many different ways.

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