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Martial Arts Addiction

Posted Apr 24 2010 9:02pm
I'm frequently told that we should aim for moderation in all things but when I look to those exceptional people – the people I find truly inspiring – moderation isn't exactly something they have in spades. To be honest, it's never been my strong suit either (and maybe its something in the genes). But, I wonder if martial arts addiction (compulsive training, obsession with details etc) is by definition unhealthy?

A friend in Naha would frequently call me and the other students of the honbu dojo crazy karate-kaholics. He found the amount of training we did down-right ridiculous and I can appreciate his point of view. In our club we sometime talk about the “martial arts-bug”– like it's a kind of virus from which there is no known cure.

Photo courtesy of Jason Jerde
U.S. Psychiatrist Bill Glasser (1976) talked about positive addiction (PA) which he believed could be beneficial for physical and psychological health as long as it fulfilled some of the seven following criteria:
  1. it is something noncompetitive that you choose to do and you can devote approximately forty five minutes to an hour a day to;
  2. it is possible for you to do it easily, in the sense of organizing to do it, and it doesn't take a great deal of mental effort to do it;
  3. you can do it alone (more rarely with others) - but independently of others - not depending on their presence or encouragement to continue;
  4. you believe it has some value (physical, mental, or spiritual) for you;
  5. you believe that if you persist at it you will improve but this is completely subjective - you need to be the only one who measures that improvement;
  6. the activity must be one you can perform without negatively criticizing yourself;
  7. it must be undertaken several times a week until you reach "the PA state".
I'm not sure whether my relationship with martial arts would meet the criteria for "positive addiction" but it's nice to know I'm not alone in my obsessions. Other instructors (who can remain anonymous for now) have confided that they've on occasion, used gym equipment for fore-arm conditioning, practiced footwork in the isle of grocery stores, sanchin kata in the toilet on lunch breaks and even in the isle of planes at night when no-one's looking. Whatever the case may be, martial arts addiction certainly seem to bring out the child in some of us.

I suppose at the end of the day, moderation in life is nice, but maybe there should also be moderation in moderation – an excuse to reserve some obsessive behaviour for those occasional passionate pursuits.

Rather than "moderation in all things" I find myself drawn to a quote by Tempu Nakamura – a popular 18th century philosopher and Yogi:
"Do not try and cut off all your passions. Passions give birth to heroic activity. Fulfill your passions and that will bring bliss".
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