Martial Arts

Martial Arts Philosophy Mindset {Aliveness}

Aliveness possibly the most important philosophy in martial arts. This martial arts philosophy implemented correctly into your everyday life, will provide you better self defence than any physical training ever will in this modern age. A few weeks ago I wrote an article Are Martial Arts Practical which has some similarities on today’s subject. Though today I want to discuss this philosophy more in depth and why it’s essential that every dojo implements it.

Martial Arts Philosophy Mindset Aliveness

What Does Aliveness Mean In Martial Arts

Aliveness in martial arts is described as being realistic in your training, questioning everything about your style, being smart. That’s the main concept of this philosophy it’s all about being realistic, suspicious and smart, avoiding brainwashed martial cults. Let’s start breaking down each element of this philosophy.

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Being Realistic

I’m sure you’ve seen how certain questionable martial art dojo’s train, it’s like their trying on purpose to be robots. Everythings scripted, monotonous and unrealistic, these are dojo’s that do not understand the importance of the aliveness philosophy.

Now don’t interpret me wrong, if you’re a beginner that has just started out any form of combat sports these drills are essential. Though after grabbing the concept of the technique it’s time to spice things up. The first martial arts that I practiced, that was guilty of this un-aliveness sin was shotokan karate. Therefore I’m going to diss a shotokan practice, which I’m sure a lot of other martial arts have the equivalence of.

Kumite for those that are not aware what kumite is, it’s basically someone punches you and you have counter it. Sounds like a decent practice doesn’t it? but the way we trained it, totally ruined any possible benefits we could get from it. We basically had 5 counters and we always did them monotonously one then two then three you get the idea. Not to mention that the person attacking kept holding his hand out after the punch, with the attack stopping an inch away from the actual target, I’m sure everyone does that in a real fight.

How could we have implemented the aliveness philosophy into our practice, while still learning the fundamental counters for our next karate belt grading syllabus, simple. Instead of the attacker doing 5 head punches, followed by 5 body punches, followed by 5 low punches, etc. The attacker could charge forward with the actual intent to hit while using randomised attacks. This would have improved the striking ability of the attacker, unlike the way we did it which added no value to the attacker. The defender would have had to actually use his reflexes, due to the attacks being randomised. Therefore actually improving his defensive skills, figuring out what’s there just to pass the grading, and what’s really applicable in a fight.

The same way we have implemented the aliveness philosophy in the kumite drill, we can do the same for all other common drills in self-defence martial arts, such as:

  • Shadowboxing
  • Punching bags
  • Practicing techniques on live targets
  • Punching mitts and shields

These drills can all be enhanced, with this martial arts philosophy. Though keep in mind that none of these drills can truly replace that of, full contact sparring. The most essential ingredient in any martial art dojo that claims to improve self defence.

I have no problem with dojos that use martial arts as a way to relax, do some exercise, or socialise but don’t claim that you teach self defence. If there is no full contact sparring, than it isn’t self defence plain and simple.

  • How can you know what techniques actually work, when a real situations presents itself.
  • How can you hit when you always aimed to stop your hit an inch away from your opponent’s body. Sure they will tell you to fully extend your hand while in a real fight, sorry to burst your bubble but it doesn’t work like that.
  • Do your throws actually work, when your opponent is actually applying force to stop them.
  • Is your opponent going to fight you with your dojo’s routine.
  • How can you block an attack when you never defended a real attack.
  • How are you going to react when you get hit, that’s right you never got hit did you. Therefore never actually building any pain tolerance.

Being Suspicious And Smart

Your self defence martial art style might be doing all this, which is great. Though is it really practical, you might be the best in your class but considered the worst in any other functional self defence system. Being open minded is the second element we are going to discuss from this martial arts philosophy.

  • Can you really define your skill if you’re fighting people that only use the same techniques that you use?
  • Would these techniques work against other styles?
  • Are there more efficient techniques / stances than the ones your style uses?
  • Can your defensive techniques be sufficient against other styles?
  • Are there any athletes in popular combat sports that use your style?

These are all questions we need to ask. Let’s take a recent example to further solidify the critical importance of integrating the aliveness philosophy into the mindset of every self defense martial artist. The fight between Wei Lei (Tai Chi Master) 41 years old and  Xu Xiaodong (MMA Coach) 38 years old which unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know it ended in 10 seconds.

To put this into perspective Wei Lei is the master (supposedly the best at) ‘Tai Chi Thunder style’ while Xu Xiaodong is an MMA coach, yet Xu Xiaodong still dominated the fight with ease. How did this happen?

Simple the concept of aliveness isn’t there. Wei Lei preferred to amaze his students by punching rotten melons, then claim he can turn the fruit into a mush without hurting the shell. Instead of actually sparring with other people, getting to know other styles, I mean what’s up with that guard, what’s that supposed to do?

How can we see for ourselves, whether our martial art style is in fact effective against other styles?


This is a practice used by many athletes, where someone practicing a specific sport takes another sport to improve a specific aspect in their main sport. In martial arts we usually cross-train with another martial arts style. This gives us the opportunity to demonstrate our martial art style against other martial art styles.

I recommend any martial artist that’s serious about implementing this martial arts philosophy, to join an MMA dojo. The reason is that every MMA dojo I attended in, highly valued the aliveness philosophy. Trust me they are not going to kick you out if you want to spar with MMA fighters. It was like an early christmas present seeing a martial artist wanting to spar with us.

Besides the win – win situation, due to both athletes having the benefit of learning something new from the other style, it’s amazing fun. Who doesn’t like pitting his style against another style. The techniques will be different you just don’t know what they got up their sleeve. I remember particularly this one guy coming from an american kenpo dojo.

I was in a dominant position preparing for an armbar. Just before going for the armbar he caught my fingers and twisted them back in which I ended up submitting instantly.

Though small joint manipulation is not prohibited in MMA, therefore I would have still won under MMA rules, there are no rules in the street. This shows that I was not properly keeping my fingers safe. Why?

The reason is that none of us knew these techniques, therefore we didn’t have any defensive measures against them, we were not prepared.

This shows that even though you’re implementing the aliveness martial arts philosophy, in your dojo’s training regime. You are not properly utilising the aliveness philosophy unless you compete against other martial art styles. This can be done by cross-training, dojo challenges or competing in various events.

Utilising modern technology

Though technology will not substitute the previous practice, it’s still a great place to discuss martial arts related topics. There are numerous facebook groups, reddit subreddits and forums that you can :

  • Compare techniques.
  • Discuss techniques actual effectiveness in street fights.
  • Asking for advice on personal technique videos.
  • Different guards and stances there advantages their disadvantages.
  • Learning tactics against other styles.
  • Debunking martial cults.

It’s important you don’t just join groups about your specific martial art, for the obvious reason that those people are going to be biased. Though when you’re on other martial arts groups keep in mind that they might be biased as well. It all comes down to being smart, being able to distinguish real criticism from biased criticism.

This is done by analysing their argument,

  • Is it well constructed.
  • Does it make sense.
  • Pointing to other sources to prove their claim. What are those sources credibility.
  • What are other people commenting on their statement. Do they make sense, or are the commenters being biased.

The internet is a large place, having all these people from multiple martial arts discussing their views. It would be such a waste of useful information not to participate.

So many people could have avoided being scammed by martial cults, if only they leveraged the use of the internet. Doing a bit of research on your style and seeing what critics are saying.

Implementing The Martial Arts Philosophy Into Your Life

Being able to distinguish fantasy from reality is a skill that’s going to influence your life’s success. In this modern era, brain power triumphs over physical defence when it comes to your well being.

As physical violence has decayed, new predators rose up.


Everyone knows what scammers are, but few realise they are being scammed.

Applying the same martial arts philosophy concept in your investments/friends, will prevent you multiple setbacks. From loss of money to emotional pain.

Question everything.

  • Is it possible for the person to deliver their promise, or is it just phantasy.
  • What’s that person’s credibility/background.
  • Do they have ulterior motives for what they are suggesting you do.

I hope you understand the importance of aliveness both in martial arts and your everyday life. If you haven’t been practicing it, it’s never too late to start.

Make sure to tell your sensei/coach about the importance of this philosophy, if it’s not already applied in the dojo. If they are against it, most probably they are not a legit self defence system.

Sources :
All images have been taken from pixabay or myself with a Creative Commons CC0 licence.
Videos are embedded so that the original creator will still gain the views and any monetization they have.

Martial Arts Philosophy Mindset {Aliveness}
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Martial Arts Philosophy Mindset {Aliveness}
The Greatest Martial Arts Philosophy {Aliveness}, The Missing Ingredient, That Defines Self-Defence From Glorified Yoga.
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Martial Arts Nerd
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