The Pursuit of Craft: Why Do Martial Arts at All?


This is a not too uncommon question that comes up from both outsiders and insiders of martial art.

What is the purpose that your art is serving? What are the ends that you're driving toward? What will it look like when you're done? Who will you be?

I pondered this question today as I sat in the members' lounge at Academie Duello, looking down over a handful of my students who have come in before classes to do some solo practice. I could see them going through forms, practicing individual techniques, working on adjustments instance, posture, or simply flowing with their weapon in hand. Some of them are wearing headphones, listening to their own training soundtracks. A few are deeply engaged in the finer points of their practice in front of the mirror. A couple of them are working intensely, others in slow and constant motion.

The people I see below me are not here today, and every other day, to win their next tournament, or dominate their next opponent, or become buff specimens of the human race, though some of them may have tournament, sparring, or fitness goals. They're here because they're honing their craft.

They have learned that there is much to be gained from the rhythmic and constant pursuit of an art. That an art can be a touchstone in your life. A place to return to each day that rewards you both with its familiarity and its ongoing capacity to provide you with new challenges and new discoveries. To pursue a craft is to center yourself on the journey rather than the destination.

In many ways, these folks have let go of "Why?" They still have goals and rewards. But even if a goal has just passed or their next one is a dauntingly far distance off, they'll be here every day anyway. Though goals are a fun flavour to add, they're not the point.

Here's to letting go of "why" and finding the peace and reward in showing up again and again and again.

Devon Boorman is the Co-Founder and Director of Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay, which has been active in Vancouver, Canada since 2004. Devon’s expertise centres on the Italian swordplay tradition including the arts of the Renaissance Italian rapier, sidesword, and longsword, as well as knife and unarmed techniques.
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