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How Martial Arts Changed My Life The Lotus Effect
From 5-years-old onward, I wanted to learn martial arts. I stayed busy with sports for most of my childhood, but I remained captivated by the idea of learning those ancient art forms. After years of asking, I finally convinced my mom to sign me up for a class when I was 17. It was a life- changing experience. That year I studied Aikido, a Japanese internal art, whose name roughly translates to “the way of harmonious spirit.” Stepping into that dojo as a teenager propelled me into a larger world of study. Over the course of my college years, I would branch out into the Chinese arts, including Tai Chi and Qigong. The literal translation of Qigong is “life energy cultivation.” Unlike much of Western medicine, Qigong concerns itself with the study of the healthy. Mastering this 4,000-year-old Chinese practice means learning how to recognize what healthy energy looks like in an individual — only then can you learn to correct deviations.
I started learning meditation techniques that I realized just how unhealthy I was.
Letting my problems go unaddressed was hurting me. As one of my martial arts teachers once told me, “If you don’t deal with something here and now, that energy has to go somewhere.” It’s like a balloon filling with stress and anxiety; at some point, it bursts. That’s when you wake up with a sore neck or clenched jaw from grinding your teeth all night. Arts like Qigong gave me a way of confronting my stressors. I could close my eyes and confront what was bothering me, not by thinking about it, but by feeling it. If you’re reading this and something is stressing you out, close your eyes. Try switching your mind from thinking to feeling for about ten minutes. I know it’s difficult, but you should come away feeling more relaxed. Being able to master my own nervous energy was just the beginning of how martial arts changed my life. Studying these arts has helped me learn how to better help others in my life, be they friends, family, or patients. This is the lotus effect. Just as the flower opens from the center, spreading into innumerable petals, a single step into a dojo can ripple across countless lives.
“Stepping into that dojo as a teenager propelled me into a larger world of study.”
Before I could learn to recognize energy in others, I had to learn to recognize and diagnose it in myself. Many people think of martial arts as a way to teach children discipline. But I was already a pretty studious and disciplined kid. Instead, these internal arts taught me how to relax. Coming from a high-anxiety household, I never realized just how much I suffered from stress. I used to shake uncontrollably while giving presentations as a kid. Nervousness was just part of life for me. It was only when
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