gracie hall

Gracie Hall: Why I Train Martial Arts

I train martial arts for many reasons: self-defense, fitness, strength, and countless other benefits training provides. The main reason I continued training, though, is that it gives me something to live and work hard for. Besides my loving family and good health and fortune, much of my life has been unstable. My military family moved around a lot, and I never really knew where I fit in or what I was a part of. Sometimes, I’ve even thought I wasn’t good at anything. I have felt like a disappointment in the shadow of my incredible older brother, I’ve felt worthless when being used by boys who made me uncomfortable, I’ve had a terrible self-image, I've struggled with my faith, and I've felt lost.

I used to find stability in terrible, unhealthy ways, and I became someone I wasn’t proud of. In fact, martial arts came to me when I was at my lowest point, and everything changed. Training renewed my entire perspective, not only letting me become someone I love, but also showing me that this person had been there all along. It gave me a much better self-image, confidence, pride, and something I know I am good at, and will only improve in time. Most importantly, it gave me something to have faith in, and something to let me know it’s okay to have faith in myself.

Martial arts training is my stability, because even if I won’t always be able to physically train, the morals, principles, and confidence they teach are ways of living that I can believe in. Martial arts are a way of life, PMA is a family, and I am someone so lucky to be a part of it, it really saved my life.

It's What You Do That Defines You

I’d like to discuss how Batman relates to my journey in martial arts.

In one of my favorite movies, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” there is a part in which the maniacal Joker has rigged two boats to blow up, one filled with innocent passengers and the other with criminals. He gives each boat a trigger that will blow the other up, but both will explode if no one takes action. Of course, this situation sparks a huge debate amongst the two boats about who should get to live. In an extremely powerful scene, a huge, scarred, and angry-looking criminal approaches the ship captain with the trigger. He says, “Give me that trigger, and I’ll do what you should have done ten minutes ago.” The captain shakily hands him the trigger, and the criminal throws it out of a window.

Now you’re probably thinking, “What did that possibly have to do with martial arts? There was no fighting!” Naturally, I have learned techniques, forms, attacks, defenses, and other fighting skills in the time I’ve been at PMA, but martial arts has taught me a much more important lesson: To ignore labels.

In the movie scene, everyone expected the criminal to blow the other ship up simply because he was wearing the orange jumpsuit. Instead, he chose the higher moral path. He was not his label. This concept is something I’ve had a hard time grasping throughout my pubescent time in public school as I tried to be someone I thought would make me cooler. Instead, it sent me down a bad path and caused me to lose sight of what kind of person I wanted to be.

When I started lessons at PMA, my self-esteem was rock-bottom. I never imagined I would be where I am now. As I grew as a martial artist, my vision began to clear, and I saw the parts of myself that weren’t so great as well as the ones that made me “me.” Martial arts pulled me off of a bad path and set me firmly on one full of light and success.

Now, I’m independent, confident, and I strive to be the best person I can be. As difficult as it is to ignore the judgments and opinions of others, what really matters is what you think of yourself and being the kind of person you want to be.

You are not your label.  You are not a dork, nerd, loser, four-eyes, fatty, dummy, jerk, wacko, ugly, or anything else you may have been called. Everyone is made up of too much, good and bad, to be labeled. Labels don’t define you; it’s what you do that defines you. So, just like Batman, do what makes you the best you can be!