Martial Arts & The Journey Inward

Dan Couzens Martial Arts Explored

Dan Couzens Martial Artist Bushido Bristol

A Step Back On The Path

The next step for martial arts is to take a step back onto the path of what it does best, which is to provide a pathway to uncover more knowledge of self, otherwise, know as self-growth.

Martial arts study and martial arts teaching have both been tools that have been vital to me in my personal growth. They are both mirrors that reflect from different directions and when aligned perfectly provide a near total picture of oneself. Two mirrors opposite each other two roles the Teacher and the Student. The reflections are feedback telling me where I need to work, what skill I must develop what aspect of egotism must dissolve if I seek to grow.

But like gardening the job is never done. In the summer when the garden is flourishing, when it is at its point of maximum yearly growth this is the point it needs the most attention. The period of maximum growth is also the period when things can get most out of control.

The difference between someone who knows they can adapt and someone who doesn’t is when they fall short of what is required by life to keep life straight, they put their hand up, pay attention and take responsibility. In the process of acknowledging flaws, taking responsibility and trying to solve the sometimes-reoccurring problems of our lives a type of awareness is developed; an awareness that clearly points to a solution. The solution though is never simple. For change to take place, for self-empowerment to be a reality. A fundamental feeling within oneself has to change; it is not enough to try and just think differently.

The only way for there to be change is to be totally honest with yourself and to be entirely clear about whom you are.

Know Thyself

Martial arts is a way to know thyself. It is for those people who on some level feel an affinity with warrior-ship, who can sense that warrior-ship is not about brutality and violence. It is an approach to life that requires strength, courage and commitment. All the while acting as an ambassador for peace and an encourager of positive human potential.

This is my approach to life. Every day I fail a bit and every day I succeed a bit but every day without fail I grow. I cannot prove it to you it is simply something I know about myself, something that no one can take away. It is a truth that is unshakable it also fundamentally one of the essential elements of life. Growth is what nature strives to do. I am growing and in this way, I feel a profound connection and appreciation for nature. Every day it shows me how. I pay attention to life for it is the greatest teacher.

Martial Arts, Self Defence & Awareness

Martial arts training for me is not just about self-defense anymore. I know I can defend myself at any given time should someone decide to attack. I am not saying I will always survive; I am not even saying I will always fight. I am simply saying I am ready.

Violence is a form of aggression. Some people love aggression because it gives the sense of living more intensely, but it is not a quality someone with a healthy mind will quickly adopt. So when someone becomes aggressive with a person who knows aggression, his or her power is immediately dissolved because it is seen for what it is. Individuals who rely on aggression to solve their problems are papering over the cracks. Cracks that if looked at would reveal an ugly truth, a truth that will humble the observer. When this humbling takes place, the viewer has two options, to feel humiliated or to become humble. If they become humble, then the cracks may start to heal, and a more solid foundation of self-worth is created.

So when I step on the mat, I am not only concerned about the practicality of technique, I am focused on the feeling of connection with the movement itself. I feel deep down into the body and simultaneously into my surroundings and as I move I seek unity of mind body and spirit. The mind in this model encompasses both thought and emotion as one of the same. As you explode into action or move gracefully into the flow, the connection can become difficult to retain. Practice is essential. Repetition of technique, as well as developing and understanding of the principles of martial arts, will create a stronger connection.

The First Step Is All In The First Step.

The first technique you learn in Bushido at the Bristol Dojo is to step backwards at a particular angle. This action immediately begins to create more awareness in the body and more awareness of the surroundings if approached and taught correctly. It does this by given the practitioner a very simple instruction. However, simplicity and ease are not necessarily the same thing.

The martial practitioner can quickly grasp the simplicity of the action, yet may find it tough to perform the technique correctly. It takes a time to develop sufficient awareness of the body to do the technique accurately even at slow speeds. When we speed the technique up to combat relative speed, then this variable creates yet more difficulty. So the challenge in martial arts is not necessarily to gain a great breath of knowledge but to develop a great depth of understanding.


Then there is the grading. The 1st grading and black belt grading have arguably equal significance. You will make mistakes in both. In your first grading you will more than likely make a mistake, emotionally react and show your frustration on your face. But in the black belt grading, you will carry on. No external sign of error is displayed emotionally. You will fully acknowledge it without it hindering your progress.

The reaction emotionally to the mistake serves no purpose at all. It is a form of self-inflicted pain. For some reason, the mind has a habit of doing this.

A great martial artist is great because they only do what is necessary. No more no less. They are faster, more accurate, more energetic and more powerful because of the absence of self-restriction both in their training and in their execution. We train in Bushido Academy of Martial Arts to get out of our way. We train to dissolve ego and fear; we train to be more ourselves.

Eventually, you will feel as if you have received no lessons. In truth, you will have taught yourself worked it all out yourself. Bushido is simply an environment, which gives you the time, space, and the inclination to get started and it’s full of other people on the same journey. The Journey is a way, and our way is the way of the warrior.

Dan Couzens