Coming Home to the Martial Arts

martial arts home

I have always had a love for the martial arts, ever since I was about 6 years old. Having grown up a small guy with an older brother basically meant that I was going to be a punching bag for most of my childhood for my sibling and his friends.


I wrestled for a couple of years in middle and high school, but I never actually won a match. You can imagine how happy I was to finally get to start studying Aikido once I hit 14. Ever since then, I have generally had martial arts as a part of my life.


It hasn’t always been a straight line. During that time, I went to college and became a professional with a family, and life has gotten in the way a number of times. But I always come back to practice eventually, although it’s always been at a different school due to a move.


Whenever I come back, there have always been expectations. I always work hard, no matter where I attend, and I always like to think it’s like riding a bike… It’s not entirely false, particularly once you’ve put in a number of years, but it’s not necessarily as easy as you might think, either.

riding a bike

I would imagine that most people who have an on-again-off-again relationship like this have different experiences in terms of what it’s like to get back on the horse so to speak, but for me, there’s always kind of a new learning curve. I’ve known others who have taken time off but then went on to study again in their original system and pick up where they left off.


What’s interesting is that when you move on instead of returning to your old style, you notice the limitations of where you’ve been. Now, for many, there is something kind of romantic about their particular art. I still have a deep love for Aikido and an affinity for Chinese techniques after spending so many years studying them. Because of that “romantic” sort of feeling you get when you think about your art, it is easy to overlook the shortcomings of it. This tends to wane as you study different systems and see the strengths and weaknesses of different fighting styles.


What else is interesting about moving on is that you always start from the beginning. As such, you tend to go back through basics because you are studying new curricula with new emphases and different philosophies on how to fight. This is a big limitation to progress. Yes, the basics are the most important stuff, but if you don’t stay with one system, you’ll never get to experience all that it has to offer. So what you end up with is a little bit of insight into many different arts with no real deep insight into any.


One thing I think I can say for most people who are involved in martial arts for a long period of time is that it is not easy to maintain consistent practice and class attendance during certain seasons of life. The on-again-off-again relationship is normal for most hobby practitioners, even if it’s a near obsession. School, work and family become priorities, and sometimes we have to put our “extracurriculars” on hold for a time. Life is what life is, and it’s just something we have to accept.


The question is “what will you do when you can practice again?” Will you come back to this same school? Will you go back to a previous system? Will you practice something entirely new? Or will you move on to something different and completely unrelated?

joyful martial arts

I always come back because it brings me joy like nothing else. I can’t imagine life without martial arts. Regardless of what gets in the way, even if I get pulled away for another extended period, returning to practice will always feel like coming home.


I'm Steve D'Agostino, founder of Martial Arts Weapons and Training. Thanks for visiting and reading my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • http://buddhistronin.wordpress.com buddhistronin

    Great post! I can totally identify with what you have said in this post. I have also been on the move most of my martial arts years. At first I thought it was a curse to have to keep changing styles and starting over. But later on I realized it was a total blessing. Thanks for posting!

  • Shawn Stalder

    Excellent post sir! I have certainly had a similar experience, which has given me the opportunity to study four different systems of martial arts. I would personally love to go back to my original system, however their aren’t any schools in the area I now live, so I have found other systems.

    • kungfuninja

      Thank you, Shawn. Yeah, it can be tough to have to “settle” when you can’t find what you’re looking for, but it can create an opportunity to find a new one to fall in love with! It makes me happy to hear you didn’t give it up just because you couldn’t find a the kind of teacher you wanted. I’m curious – what was your original system?

      • Shawn Stalder

        Good evening! My original system was American Kyokushin in which I earned NiKyu (2nd degree brown). It holds a special place in my memory because my Sensei was so influential in my life (I was in high school). I moved after graduating high school and did some Hapkido, then I moved again and found myself training in Okinawa Kenpo (Shuri-te). This system also holds a special place in my memory as my instructor really influenced me. I taught Shuri for about six years before moving again and starting my professional career, which led to a decade of inactivity. In the last two years I have been training in ITF Taekwon-Do and just recently tested for Black Belt in that system.

        What systems other than Aikido have you done?

        • kungfuninja

          Wow, that’s great! Well, after studying Aikido for a couple of years, I did American karate for a little while, which didn’t cut it for me. It was more about sport, and that’s just not really my bag. So I studied Sil Lum Kung Ku for a few years before going off to college. After I graduated, I moved to Raleigh and studied Choy Li Fut, Guan Ping Yang Tai Chi, and Baguazhang for 5 years or so. After a brief (4-year) hiatus, I moved again and found a Bujutsu teacher, so that’s what I do now. His system is called Kazan Ryu, or volcano school. It’s a Samurai school, so we do all kinds of things like Japanese jujitsu, weapons training, combat fighting, and Ninjutsu. I just started with my son about a year and a half ago, and I’m almost halfway to black. I don’t foresee us moving again in the next 20 years, so I think I’ve found my home among the Samurai and the original mixed martial arts! Hell, I even started learning Japanese! 🙂

          • Shawn Stalder

            Awesome sir! I’m glad to hear you’ve found something you really love. I have to admit I’m more of a traditionalist (which is why I love Shuri-te so much) rather than sporting styles. I hope to start teaching Shuri-te within the year as a small school (which I think provides better teaching than the large schools with lots of students). It’s funny that you’ve started learning Japanes, I’ve been trying to do so as well as trying to learn Korean. Very interesting languages!

  • Kevin

    Nice article. I have never had (or made) the opportunity to try martial arts but I must say there has always been a draw to it. Something to do with the allure of controlled strength I think. Thanks for the great info.

    • kungfuninja

      Thanks, Kevin! Yeah, martial arts has added something particularly special to my life. I understand the allure, with the mysteries of the ancient orient and the culture, mixed with the practice and the learned ability to protect the ones you love… I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

  • Miranda

    I really enjoyed reading this. I too have struggled with keeping up with martial arts because of this thing called life lol. Although, I practice Jujitsu, but have learned recently that Aikido is quite similar. There’s something therapeutic about it though because I always go back to it when I need to ease my mind. Thank you for posting!

    • kungfuninja

      That’s right, Aikido and Jujitsu are similar in many ways. Biggest difference is that Aikido tends to be more “artistic”, while Jujitsu is more to the point. Part of my practice now includes Japanese Jujitsu, and I love it. There’s just nothing quite like throwing people around in all sorts of fun and excruciating ways! 🙂

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  • Philip Brockman

    I did enjoy the article Steve. I had a foster father who instructed in Jujitsu during his service days. He put all of us kids into Bobby Lawrence studios after Chuck Norris did an exhibition in New Port Be CA, and even took us to Frisco to watch a Bruce Lee exhibition when he moved up there from Los Angeles. But it was the Marine Corps where I was introduced to Aikido. Unlike Hokkaido and Kenpo, it was less kicking. But may have served me better when I went to Thailand and got the you know what ‘kicked’ out me.
    My good friend studied Sansu Kunfgu, and his master John and he did the stick fighting scenes in Hidden Tiger Crouching Dragon. Ian Jacklin is one of my fb friends who was a kick boxing champion in Los Angeles as well, performing in a couple low budget films.
    All the martial arts are great physical exercises. I still use a total gym as my toner, stretch and walk excessively, even in my mid 60’s. Teach your students well, and they will live a happier, healthier life. Awesome dude; rock on.

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