How Martial Arts Gave My Life Discipline

by Michael Jai White
For many audiences actor Michael Jai White is best  known for his work in Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get MarriedThe Dark Knight Rises and CSI: Miami. The New York native can currently be seen in the action packed drama Vigilante Diaries now on VOD, Blu-Ray and DVD. White says that his very physical role ln Diaries isn't taxing at all thanks to his active lifestyle that keeps him "physical all the time." But he admits that's partially due to his lifelong practice of martial arts. When White spoke to Z Living, he shared other benefits of the Asian practice. He discussed how it helped him overcome childhood insecurities, gave his life discipline and ultimately helped him achieve his lifelong goals.

I started marital arts because of my insecurities. I was a very sensitive kid growing up in Brooklyn, New York where times were harsh. And it was a form of armor for me growing up. Being a sensitive kid what you tend to do in an inner city is to protect your sensitive nature. As with anything you want to protect, you want to put it a 3-inch thick safe, but in this case I became that safe. And I protected myself and I wanted to be able to fight and defend myself and the things that I cared about. Later on, I learned other aspects about marital arts that were an asset to my life. But I had no idea it had so much to offer.

I’ve been practicing for about 40 years now and today I do eight different styles of marital arts. A lot of the styles have aspects of several things like yoga, breathing, stretching within them and it’s all very therapeutic and healthy.

The chinese style of martial arts that I do called Kyokushin is representative of the most spartan and combative style. And there’s Wushu on the other level, which is the most acrobatic and soft style. I like that these are two extremes and I try to come in-between the two when I practice them. I think all this points to having good balance. And practicing marital arts is something that guides you to finding balance in your life. But the main thing martial arts gives you is that it increases your discipline. And with discipline you can accomplish anything you set our mind to. Because it’s your mental attitude that pushes you through and helps you to overcome any obstacle. And life is all about overcoming obstacles. Having that mental attitude is the best thing for any concept of martial arts. That’s the thing that I draw from and use in my day-to-day life. It’s the fact that mentally I can overcome anything that I set my mind to.
I don't think you're ever too old to increase your discipline, mental attitude, focus or to improve your health. There is no age limit. Many people start martial arts as children, but sometimes when you begin martial arts so young you don’t fully appreciate all that it has to offer. I would encourage people who are older to grasp it as well. Because on top of learning, becoming stronger in your discipline and your mental focus, it’s not a bad thing to know how to defend yourself and your loved ones. Martial arts has been an asset to my life. And, it has saved my life.

--As told to Ronke Idowu Reeves
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