Martial Arts and Human Development
Human development follows a pre-programmed progression through certain stages. All babies do the same things in the same order. They lift heir heads, they push themselves up, crawl, stand with support and then walk.
It’s not just physical. Emotional and cognitive paths progress simultaneously. As kids learn to move around they learn to judge distances, heights and the effects of gravity and at the same time they learn about separation and attachment. They are separate but connected to the mother.
With language development they are learning more than just words. They learn, through the mechanics of their jaws and respiratory system social skills and how to express feelings.
As they get older they develop social skills along with jumping and skipping. From horseplay they learn how to fall, and from falling they learn that it’s okay to take risks and that they can always get back up--that they can experience conflict and survive.
Development is short circuited by the fear of a parent who interferes with talk like “that’s dangerous” or “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” Getting hurt is part of the developmental process too. When a parent worries the child excessively it internalizes the paranoia and short circuits development.
As adults raised this way we have limited range of physical motion as well as cognitive and emotional or behavioral options for dealing with problems. We didn’t learn that success only comes through repeated failure. Failure is practicing how to get it right.
Martial arts training can step in and help our personality develop where we left off by learning how to deal with conflict and face our fear. We can continue to develop to the full extent of our natural inborn capabilities, including physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual. We don’t reach our potential because something interrupted the process. Martial art training enables us to go back and pull out the stops or blockages and become more fully human.
Moshe Feldenkrais, in his book Higher Judo (p. 40) wrote, “Furthering the development of any function of the body that became habitually fixed, restores harmonious growth of personality…the vitality of the whole organism is increased and a new interest in life appears.”