What do you think of when you hear Kung Fu? Probably a lot of fighting, people getting hurt and Jackie Chan – just like I used to. But after eight years of practicing Kung Fu, my perspective on martial arts has drastically changed. It’s respect, compassion, humbleness and devotion that are the values at the heart of Kung Fu.

Through pure circumstance and a trial Kung Fu training session I stumbled upon martial arts. Coming from 11 years of ballet, I was just going to give Kung Fu a test run in that initial session. Afterwards, I was hooked and wanted to get to know the sport better. I signed up and wasn’t disappointed. Putting aside the positive effects on my fitness and physique, it had a powerful effect on my everyday life.

Most notably, what I had never expected before: doing martial arts has actually helped me to live a more peaceful life. Hard to believe? Let me explain.

Balance

A young woman stretches in a kungfu pose in a gritty gym. kung fu, martial arts, gym, workout, balance
Having a balanced mind and body is key to perform under pressure.

Sports, especially martial arts, teach us how to excel in high pressure situations. You feel the pressure, your adrenaline goes up, but instead of feeling panic, you take a deep breath and get ready to cope with whatever life or work is throwing at you. Breathing techniques are a crucial component of martial arts – if you want to land a hard punch, calm down or do that one push-up more. (Fun fact: I just “breathe away” my hiccups now – no useless headstands or “Boo!” – shouts from my friends anymore.)

Empowerment

A young woman punches a boxing bag in a gritty gym. martial arts, power, strength, fitness, gym, workout
If you have trust in your own strength, confidence comes naturally.

Not only do physical changes come with practicing martial arts. A strong body gives you a sense of achievement and has a wide-reaching effect on your life.One of the biggest results is an increase in confidence.

Just the fact that you know you can defend yourself makes you carry yourself in a different way, because you trust your reflexes. Walking through a dark alley as a young woman still isn’t fun, but filled with confidence you’ll positively strut through it. And that alone can already make you safer, because one of the first rules in self-defense is: “An offender is looking for a victim, not an opponent,” – and that way you certainly don’t look like a victim.

Philosophy

A woman wearing a black traditional kung fu uniform places her hands together in a thankful gesture. kung fu, respect, tradition, thanks
Kung Fu is full of life lessons. Learn how to treat others and yourself with respect.

What resonates with me most is the mutual respect among practitioners of Kung Fu or other martial arts. Every lesson or test starts with a ceremonial bow, showing respect for each other. Although it’s a simple gesture, it effectively sets the tone for the training and creates an atmosphere of solidarity and communal spirit.

“You don’t do martial arts simply to best your opponent. You do it to better yourself.”
Svea Polzer, functional trainee at adidas and GamePlan A editor

A core lesson from the ancient Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu, can be summed up as “fighting without fighting”, or the best fight is the one you avoid. So, even though you try to master all the punches, kicks and forms, the most valuable lesson is in determining how to avoid a fight.

‘Kung’ translates to skillful work or hard training, while ‘Fu’ means time spent. You could interpret the name as a skill achieved through continuous hard work. Kung Fu is an art of self-mastery. Appreciate how far you have come, but constantly refocus on where you want to go. Never assume the journey will be easy, that big milestones will just come to you.

Before practicing Kung Fu, I had never anticipated that martial arts would be filled with valuable life lessons. Regardless of if you feel like trying this sport now or not, my advice for you is simple: go through life with confidence – even if you are unsure, be confident in your demeanor and you will find strength. Be at peace with yourself. And most importantly, treat yourself and everyone else with respect.

Which sport has helped you live a more peaceful life? Ever tried martial arts? Let me know about your experience in the comments below.

12 COMMENTS

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by Frank 06.04.2018
What a great and inspiring post, Svea. You definitely made me wanna try it.
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by Svea Frank 09.04.2018
Thank you, that's great to hear! I can only recommend it :)
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by Marie 13.04.2018
I love this! I've been attending cardio kickboxing classes for about 9 months and attended my first martial arts class last week. I am completely hooked.

I feel so much calmer at work after an evening of training.
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Svea Polzer
Svea Polzer | Editor Marie 19.04.2018
Hi Marie,
Thank you for sharing! I really enjoy cardio kickboxing, it's a great workout and so much fun. Good luck with your martial arts class!
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by Tanja 15.04.2018
I’ve been thinking about trying kung fu or something similar for quite some time now - thanks for convincing me to book a trial session!
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Svea Polzer
Svea Polzer | Editor Tanja 16.04.2018
Hi Tanja,
It's great to hear that my article actually convinced you to sign up for a trial session. I hope you enjoy it and experience the same (or other) great effects that martial arts can have on you! :)
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by Lena 20.04.2018
"Go through life with confidence..." - what a great article, thanks for sharing helpful advice! Might want to try martial arts, too, some day!
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by Rachel 20.04.2018
Compelling and beautifully conveyed!
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by Trung Kien Vo 27.04.2018
Hey Svea,

great article. Very inspiring. I'm also with martial arts (Traditional Taekwondo) for 16 years now. The very best about it, is that the training and progress is a reflection of life...and fancy moves for sure ;)

In this day and age it is even more important to follow a hobby or an art, which balances out the daily stress. Hope this article reaches a lot of people and inspires them to try out martial arts.

In this sense, Be water Svea! ;)

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Svea Polzer
Svea Polzer | Editor Trung Kien Vo 22.05.2018
Thank you so much for your kind words! I couldn't agree more, progress through training - and also failure sometimes - reflects life and helps balance stress. 16 years is impressive, keep it up :)
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by Benjamin 15.05.2018
This is all very true! I did Judo as a child and throughout my teens, but gave up as "other things" took priority. I cannot for the life of me remember what those "other things" were. Putting everything into perspective, I'm going to go back to the dojo and finally get that black belt that eluded me all those year ago.
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Svea Polzer
Svea Polzer | Editor Benjamin 22.05.2018
Great to hear that you want to go back to Judo, Benjamin! I wish you all the best on your way to reach your goal and get that black belt.
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