One of the reasons I enjoy practicing martial arts so much is that it changes me. I often feel that while intellectual learning may grant me more knowledge, it doesn’t have the power to change me.
I was raised on the belief that physical aggression is bad and forbidden, and that displaying any form of physical aggression is primitive, shameful and humiliating.
I remember two instances in which the faintest expression of physical aggression as a child brought on such a severe reaction that I understood quite well that such a behavior is not tolerated.
This and other forms of feminine gender socialization have made me much more comfortable with being or imagining to be the target of physical aggression than being the agent of physical aggression.
Merely playing the role of the attacker during martial art class can be extremely difficult for me. I feel out of place, embarrassed, my limbs heavy.
But I adapt to it. After a while, playing the role of the attacker comes more naturally, eliciting less embarrassment. I feel relieved. This relief comes from having the opportunity to rework and change the corporeal and emotional patterns I was socially wired to in relation to aggression.
During this class, I not only became more proficient in one language of the human body (one can view different martial arts as different forms or dialects of body languages), I had also changed. When I change, I feel as though something in the world outside me has reached through to me and penetrated my soul.