You might say that anybody that takes a martial arts class is a martial artist. Then again, you could say that anybody that is climbing up through the ranks should be classified as a martial artist.

I ask the question because many people that are in a martial arts class have never thought about it before. It is possible they A) do not think of themselves as a martial artist or B) do not know specifically what constitutes the title of “martial artist.”

I submit that being a martial artist is a state of mind. This is not an original idea. However, I believe I must define it so that the uninitiated understand the term a bit better. The public might look at martial artists as violent people, people that like to fight, lethal weapons in their own mind, oddballs, etc. This are only the images that are sometimes conveyed by the media in order to attract curious viewers.

Since the term martial artist is a state of mind, the idea may be somewhat different with different people. I believe what unifies us all is the desire to be stronger, more self-sufficient and less apt to create problems for yourself and others due to unhealthy behaviors or the lack of physical and mental fitness. I might add to this the ability to live in society without fears of attack by predators, and the tendency for martial artists to grow older without disabilities.

In Wing Tsun, we all seem to be unified by a common desire to build unusual skills. These skills may seem inconsequential to some, but I dare say, they may have saved my life on a few separate occasions. The stopping power of my vehicle as enhanced by my fast reactions in hitting the breaks or turning the wheel to avoid a car, a person or an obstruction.

Although most martial arts involve drills that build skill but are not particularly entertaining, they also involve practice sessions of a semi-competitive quality from Wing Tsun’s short fights called “lat sau” and sticky hands or the sparring matches in other styles. These friendly sessions build comradery. When you have had a few of these sessions, it will easier to think of yourself as a martial artist and be proud of it.

-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg