Dan Couzens Martial Arts Explored, Self Development

dan couzens blog martial arts bushido bristol

Martial arts can be broken down into three overlapping areas of study. The Martial, The Art and The Way.


The martial is the physical approach and the ability to be able to deal with a combative encounter. What skills do you need, what is your mental approach. It is the harsher side of life, the side that is challenging, where you need to step up to meet it, rather than expecting it to meet you. That said, as seriously as we take this approach, we also add a healthy dose of humour and approach the lesson with enthusiasm and energy; they are really enjoyable sessions.

The martial is about developing speed, power, focus, accuracy, strategy etc. and testing this in training. The training will constantly shift the variables so you are able to safely develop your martial skill. This is an on going ever-evolving process.

I use the combative aspect of martial arts to drive performance. It is the stressor that pushes one’s ability and keeps your martial arts training honest and grounded. Once you have developed knowledge of technique you also need to develop specific types of fitness. This brings into consideration conditioning ideas around martial arts, such as mobility, flexibility, strength, endurance and power as well as spatial awareness, coordination, balance, timing, fluidity and the ability to read what is going on in your environment. No small task!


Art is about developing creativity and expression, the technique should be more than just effective, it should be graceful. Art implies depth; this is why Kata is still relevant. You are painting a picture with your body; the tatami (mat) is the canvas, you are the brush and your knowledge of the subject is the paint.

Creativity is a highly valued aspect of martial arts training in Bushido, and as you advance in your studies, your creativity will develop. Just in case you consider yourself non-creative, don’t worry, it is in our human nature to be creative, it is like a muscle, it just needs to be worked and your creativity will flourish.


The way is about noticing principles that can apply to all aspects of life as well as developing a greater level of inner awareness. In a previous blog I talk about getting organised and gaining focus. It’s about situational management through inner understanding of the mind and body, therefor, giving you greater control over your actions, this applies directly to self-defence.

Here you can look at your motivations and its correlation to your goals; what you will see is that we have multiple motivations often pulling us in different directions. On top of this, our minds can be our own worse enemy; self-doubt, fears and habitual behaviours can all get in our own way.

The way of martial arts is to point to the realisation of what an amazing opportunity being you really is, and what an incredible experience life can be once we get out of our own way.

Dan Couzens