I'm sure you have heard this comment or something like it, "Dude I Love BJJ I'm a total junkie!". Or maybe "I'm living the martial WAY baby, I'm addicted to Karate!". It is very possible that the statements are more true than we imagine. Can a person be addicted to Martial Arts? Absolutely, positively yes.
Right about now you may be saying, "Yeah I know this guy that... yeah but not me". Or "Even if I was it's not like alcohol or crack for God's sake, it's good for me!". Maybe yes, maybe no. What characteristics do all addictions share? What do substance addictions and process addictions have in common?.
Addictions allow us to not feel our feelings or unacceptable emotional states by distracting us or removing us from feeling by providing us a way to escape. Addictions "help" us avoid anxieties by avoiding reality. Constant pleasure seeking through stimulation or tranquilizing ourselves is potentially very damaging in the long run.
All addictions are also chemical addictions even if nothing enters your body. Why? Because our bodies and brains are an amazing self contained pharmacy. Our martial practice can release a flood of life enhancing chemicals into our systems. Adrenaline excites and stimulates, endorphins relax and soothe us. Any substance or practice that can stimulate us, tranquilize us, help us avoid pain and experience pleasure hold the possibility for addiction and dependence. We can also use the arts to meet psychological needs that are unique to each individual.
In the same way that the chemicals in our bodies are good and exist to benefit us, martial practice can be a great benefit to the practitioner. It can also enslave us.
Martial arts practiced in a healthy manner and environment can help provide us with many many life affirming benefits. When done well the arts help us to become strong. Not so strong as to become invincible, that is a fantasy. We have the opportunity to become strong enough to embrace reality. That my friends takes strength.
Very belatedly--what an interesting post, Mark.
To me, an addiction interferes with your life, so that may be a way to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationship with martial arts.
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