On Working Out and Worshiping Boats…

Today is an exercise day. This means that when I managed to drag myself out of bed I waved the Indian clubs around for thirty reps. I then performed thirty wall push-ups in a row. Then it was thirty dumbbell flies while lying on the floor, thirty dumbbell presses and then thirty curls. Depending on how the day goes, I may perform this routine again when I get home this evening.
It occurred to me that there was an interesting analogy here. I don’t work out because I enjoy it. I don’t work out because I want to get particularly good at curling weights. There will be no convention where an adoring crowd surrounds me and cries “Wow, look at him curl!”
I exercise because I want to be stronger. Better muscle tone seems to eliminate some of the random aches and pains I used to get. I look better if I work out, I walk straighter with better muscle tone and project more confidence. Working out helps bring down the beer gut. I am still carrying a little layer of subcutaneous adipose –I will never had a six pack!- but beneath that thin layer of fat is now a very firm wall of abdominal muscle. My stunningly beautiful girlfriend loves the leaner meaner look and she is not the only member of the opposite sex to approve.
Thinking about this reminded me of one of my favourite quotes from Bruce Lee: “A boat is just to take you across a river. Once you are across you leave the boat and proceed on your journey. You do not stay and worship the boat.”
What Lee meant was that martial art styles as you first encounter them are just a means to an end. They are paths to a destination. These paths all go to the same destination if you follow them to the end. To claim that one path is “right” and all others are “wrong” is foolish and immature. Katas, Forms, Stances, Postures and other exercises are just that, exercises to teach you skills or ideas you will need at that time or will need to move on and advance.
I use the weights because they will produce a certain result. Whether you like working out or not is not the issue, it is whether you want the reward. Martial arts are not self-defence, they are one of the tools you can use to get to a state where you can more effectively protect yourself.