Welcome to Episode #52 of the Fight for a Happy Life podcast, “Martial Artists Are Weirdos.” Weird mustache styles.
Martial artists are not normal people… and that’s okay!
In this episode, let’s take a closer look at what makes martial arts (and the people who practice them!) a little unusual.
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Martial Artists Are Weirdos
Today on Fight for a Happy Life, are you a weirdo?
Hello and welcome to Episode #52 of Fight for a Happy Life, the show that believes a little martial arts makes life a whole lot better. Ando here and I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you.
The bad news is that, as a martial artist, you will never be perfect. Ever. There is always something more you can improve. Now, here’s the good news…
As a martial artist, you will never be perfect. Ever. There is always something more you can improve.
The point is, either way, whether you want to focus on the frustration or the inspiration of improvement, our journey as martial artists is never-ending. Which means, if you haven’t given up yet, hey—you’re pretty cool.
You’re tough. You’re patient. You’re wise. Plus, you’re a leader, not a follower. I mean, the odds are that most of your family and friends don’t practice martial arts, which means you think for yourself.
But there is a dark side to thinking for yourself, isn’t there. Thinking for yourself might sometimes make you feel like an alien visiting from another planet. No one understands you. No one appreciates or recognizes your hard work.
But forget about everybody else for a minute. Let’s just talk about you. Without a peer group or support system, you might find yourself feeling that you’re not very good. You might worry that you’ll never be as good as your teachers. You might find yourself wondering if you’d be better off hanging up your belt and joining a softball team, taking a yoga class, or maybe signing up for Cross-Fit.
I understand. Believe me, I do. Let’s face it…
That’s why today, I have an important message for you. Two messages, actually. The first message is you are not alone. The martial arts—particularly the traditional styles—may never be popular, but there are still millions of students out there.
The second message, in case you weren’t sure about it, is that you, my friend, are a weirdo. Truly. And I’m proud of you for being a weirdo. In fact, I wish there were more people just like you. I’ll tell you why right now.
[03:05] Okay, I’m just going to say it—martial arts is weird. Training yourself as a fighter or warrior is a weird way to spend your time. It’s an even weirder way to live your life.
It’s weird to let people punch and kick you. It’s weird to tie on colored belts. It’s weird to wear kimonos, drawstring pants, or spandex. It’s weird to bow to other people in a culture where bowing is not customary. It’s weird to imagine worst-case scenarios like being attacked by three people with knives and guns. It’s even weirder to imagine yourself crippling or killing all of them.
But hold on… before you think I’m insulting or mocking you, let’s take a closer look at the word “weird”. Weird doesn’t mean crazy or goofy. Weird, more properly, means abnormal… unusual…or different.
So, when I say that martial artists are weird, all I’m saying is that we’re not normal. Numerically speaking, the majority of human beings walking around on this planet do not practice martial arts of any kind. Never did, probably never will. Most people have no interest in doing what we do.
And isn’t that strange? I think it’s strange because most rational people have the exact same goals and desires that we have as martial artists.
Is it weird to want to be in shape? No.
Is it weird to want to speak up for yourself? No.
Is it weird to rehearse setting boundaries with people who try to take advantage of you? No.
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Is it weird to practice getting someone’s hands off of you and maintaining control over your body? No.
Is it weird to develop skills that will not only protect you from harm, but help you protect the people you love? No.
Is it weird to maximize your powers and cultivate peace of mind? No.
The fact is if you ask most people, and I mean almost everybody, they would agree that taking martial arts is a great idea. Not just for themselves, but for their mom and dad, husband or wife, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters… for everyone!
In a world as crazy, unpredictable, and dangerous as ours, what kind of a maniac wouldn’t want their loved ones to practice speaking up and standing up for themselves?
And yet. And yet most people will never take a single martial arts class!
So, who are the true weirdos? Yes, by the numbers, we are. But if you use the word “weird” to mean “crazy” or “goofy”, well, I think we know who the weirdos really are. I mean, how can we be the weirdos when we’re the ones taking action to pursue the goals that everyone says they want to achieve?
Imagine if it was the other way around. Imagine, if you will, a world where the number of people who take martial arts is larger than the number of people who don’t. Imagine a world where practicing martial arts is normal and not taking martial arts is… weird.
Imagine approaching someone at a cocktail party and instead of starting a conversation with, “So, what do you do?” you ask, “So, what style do you practice?”
Imagine someone approaching you and instead of being asked, “So, I hear you’re into martial arts,” they say, “So, I hear you don’t practice martial arts. What’s that like?”
Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where we’re the minority. We’re the strange ones. We live in a world where normal is strange and strange is normal. How crazy is that?
Now, I grant that there are some martial artists out there who make it easy for people to think that we’re all a bunch of weirdos. For example, I knew a couple of gentlemen—Caucasian gentlemen—who not only practiced Japanese arts, they also married Japanese women… and kept a breed of Japanese dog as pets. They both wore wise, little white mustaches. One owned a tea shop. The other spoke in a clipped rhythm as if he had an accent.
Now, I’m not saying they weren’t kind men, good citizens, or unskilled in the martial arts, but I could understand why someone meeting them might think, “Does this whackadoodle think he’s Japanese?”
I’ve met other martial artists who were happy to criticize their native culture and adopt—or pretend to adopt—the merits of a foreign culture. Now, to be clear, I’m not against anyone learning a foreign language, traveling to other countries, opening their minds to new ideas, or paying respect to the culture of their art.
I’m also not against tattoos of Bruce Lee, fancy clothes, or exotic haircuts. Hey—it’s your life, baby. But to me, the martial arts should be a journey of self-discovery.
Self-discovery is not as simple as exchanging one set of values and customs for another. That’s just playing dress-up.
Rather, I’d say true enlightenment and true empowerment are the result of defining your own culture and distilling your own customs.
If those happen to parallel someone else’s, beautiful—make the connection. Take comfort in not being alone. But my advice is to be careful about forcing that connection before you’ve done the work to truly know yourself or you’ll just make discovering the real you more difficult. And you, my friend, are worth knowing.
[09:16] Okay. Even though you are not, presumably, a whackadoodle, and even though you’re living a fairly honest life, I’ll bet some people still think you’re weird. Not strangers, mind you, I’m talking about your own friends and family.
When your peeps find out you’re practicing martial arts, I’ll bet you invite them to come with you, don’t you? I’ll bet you smile and tell them how great it is and they smile right back at you. But do they ever show up? Maybe you got lucky and persuaded one or two, but where the hell is everyone else?
They all said no. Not in person. In person, to your face, they probably said yes… but did they show up? Nah. They never show up. Even though they know they really should, even though they believe in the same values as you do, even though they have the same goals, they don’t show up.
And while you sit there shaking your head, wondering why they’re so weird for not coming to class, they’re sitting someplace else, shaking their head, wondering why you’re so weird for going to class. They’ll never say that, of course, but actions speak louder than words.
So, who are the real weirdos? To be fair, I think every human being is weird in his or her own way.
We’re all weirdos!
We all engage in peculiar habits and inconsistent behaviors. We all suffer from unfounded biases and unpredictable mood swings. But at the end of the day, we have to choose a side—martial arts or not martial arts.
I have clearly chosen to practice martial arts. I have also chosen to record podcasts and videos just to connect with other martial artists. If that gives you some comfort, or if there’s something in these shows that can make you feel less weird, then I will die a happy man.
[11:16] So, let me say it loud and clear, my friend—I don’t think you’re weird for practicing martial arts.
I don’t think you’re weird for trying to tame your mind, body, and emotions through the practice of fighting.
I don’t think you’re weird for spending your free time punching, kicking, and screaming.
I don’t think you’re weird for allowing other people to punch, kick, and scream at you.
I don’t think you’re weird for fighting imaginary bad guys in the park, or your backyard, or your driveway, or garage.
I don’t think you’re weird for standing in a horse stance when you brush your teeth.
I don’t think you’re weird if you stand in the bathroom mirror practicing tough talk… every day.
I don’t think you’re weird for using a front kick to turn the lights on and off.
I don’t think you’re weird if someone surprises you from behind at work and your hands fly up automatically like a trained assassin.
I don’t think you’re weird for still trying to achieve a full split, even at the age of 50 or 60.
I don’t think you’re weird for walking around covered in bruises. I don’t think you’re weird if you’re actually proud of those bruises.
I don’t think you’re weird if you cry or puke after class because someone pushed you out of your comfort zone.
I don’t think you’re weird for going to Google to look up how to get blood stains out of your clothes.
I don’t think you’re weird if every time you buy a pair of pants or shoes, you sneak into the changing room and throw a couple of punches and kicks to make sure they won’t hold you back if you need to fight.
I don’t think you’re weird if you once had a pet, or currently have a pet, named Donatello.
I don’t think you’re weird if you stay up late to watch a terrible fight scene in a terrible movie simply because any fight scene is better than no fight scene.
I don’t think you’re weird if you sit in a restaurant planning an escape route or identifying everything that can be used as a weapon just in case dinner takes an ugly turn.
I don’t think you’re weird for driving five or six hours to attend a class with a teacher who you hope will be able to give you just one new idea that might enrich your practice.
I don’t think you’re weird for arriving at a tournament at 8:00 in the morning just to compete in a single event at 4:00 in the afternoon.
I don’t think you’re weird if one corner of your home is cluttered with staffs, sticks, and swords.
I don’t think you’re weird for sitting on the couch with an ice pack on your knee and a bag of frozen peas on your shoulder after class.
I don’t think you’re weird for walking up to a classmate and saying, “Hey—do me a favor and put me in a choke. No, really—choke me.”
I don’t think you’re weird for loving superhero movies and secretly believing in your heart that you can still become one.
I don’t think you’re weird for changing your diet, not to lose weight, but to see if it makes your punches and kicks any faster.
I don’t think you’re weird for keeping a weapon under your bed… or hidden in every room in your home.
I don’t think you’re weird when you see a martial arts school on the side of the road and pull over just to look at the mats.
I don’t think you’re weird for sparring against a tree or a shrub.
I don’t think you’re weird for hiding a smile when someone yells at you or insults you because you know, if you had to, you could take them out.
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I don’t think you’re weird for bowing to someone outside of class just out of habit.
I also don’t think you’re weird for occasionally saying, “Osu!” to your boss.
I don’t think you’re weird if every time you pick up a broom or a mop you suddenly imagine yourself on a battlefield and start swinging it around.
I don’t think you’re weird if you stand in line behind someone twice your size and think, “Hmm. How could I take this guy down?”
I don’t think you’re weird for smashing empty cardboard boxes with hammerfists and stomp kicks before you throw them out.
I don’t think you’re weird for talking about your “master”.
I don’t think you’re weird when you’re watching MMA on TV and your friend asks, “Do you think you could take that guy?” and you reply, “In a real fight? Yeah. I’d have a chance.”
[15:41] So, yes, martial artists are weirdos…but only in the best of ways. You’re tough, patient, and wise. You think for yourself. You take action. You follow through on the desires to achieve enlightenment and empowerment.
If everyone followed through on those desires, then everything I just listed would be considered normal.
It would be weird to NOT turn off the lights with your foot.
It would be weird to NOT wear sensible shoes.
It would be weird to NOT stay in shape.
It would be weird to NOT face our fears.
It would be weird to NOT speak up for ourselves.
But until more people take up training in the martial arts, we are the weirdos. We’re the oddballs. The kooks. And that’s okay!
In fact, I want you to be proud of being weird. Because we’re different, we have the opportunity to be noticed. That means we have the chance to be role models. Leaders.
We can be examples to our friends and family of how it’s possible to take hits in life but never stop fighting. We can demonstrate how to endure hostility with a calm spirit and a clear head. We can be living proof that training in the martial arts leads to confidence, courage, and kindness. In that way, we can all make the world a better place.
So, never forget—just because we’re not making the popular choice, doesn’t mean we’re making the wrong choice. Far from it. Never let the giggles and whispers of others echo in your head and persuade you to give up.
Because if you do, you’ll end up just like everybody else. You’ll end up just another soul swept away into the deep sea of the majority. You’ll end up being normal.
Imagine that. You… normal. Now, wouldn’t that be weird?
[:] Okay, weirdo, now get out there and keep being weird! The world needs more people just like you!
Until next time, smiles up my friend. Let that smile be your shield and your sword. Keep fighting for a happy life!