Why Invest in Learning a Wisdom Tradition Like the Martial Arts or Make Sure Your Kids Do?

By Sensei Neville Billimoria, San Diego CA

A Whole-Person education means getting you Career, College (if that is in the cards) and Citizen Ready

That requires competence– academic achievement and character– Ethics “adherence to the unenforceable” or “what you do when no one is watching”, with the discipline, life skills and mindset, heart set and skill sets to be successful – however YOU ultimately define success.

Academics can give you smarts but not wisdom.

We all know people who are so smart they are stupid.

Wisdom is applied knowledge, intuition, and experience combined to guide us in our thoughts, words and deeds…

Whether you want to apply a modern western psychological construct and actualizing your highest self as expressed by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where it all starts with our personal and psychological safety (student safety and campus climate) then moves to our feelings of love and belonging & ultimately to big existential questions like “who am I?, why am I here? & what is my purpose?


If you prefer an Eastern philosophical construct the likes of:

Lao Tsu- chapter 38 of the Tao Te Ching later realized to actually be chapter 1 which guides us on the ascendency from; Ritual-Justice-Kindness-Goodness- Virtue

Or Kung Fu Tsu (Confucius) = “Pen and sword in accord”

Or the Samurai philosophy “ichi e, ichi go” – this moment is unprecedented, this moment is unrepeatable,

or other traditions, martial arts has something for everyone’s development on the journey from self-protection to self-perfection.

Like meditation or yoga, think of these as ancient skills for modern times.

They are 2,500 years old. They are the latest thing.

Whether is it grit and resilience= growth mindset which is why our system is named after the willow- you can burn it down, you can cut it out, and it keeps on growing, fostering:

  • Flexibility in daily life
  • The courage to stand up to your own truths and beliefs
  • Promoting the practice of lifelong learning (in communities of practice)

These are skills that will serve you well, + it is great exercise and good fun!

While different martial arts styles fit on the continuum from hard styles to soft, exoteric to esoteric, practical to philosophical, or modern to traditional they all tend to cultivate courage and self-sacrifice with values such as honor and humilitya service orientation and a respect for collective wisdom– standing on the shoulders of those that come before (sen-sei or sifu)

Whether you are pursuing the arts or sciences, (40% of UC San Diego students are in the social sciences btw) a whole person education  is “what you have left once you have forgotten all the facts and figures”.

The shelf life of knowledge is 12 to 18 months, meaning what you learn as a freshman could well be outdated by the time you graduate from an institution of higher ed, yet in that same time you might invest in a college experience you can complement your academics with lifelong skills and habits that will serve you for life!

I started teaching martial arts on campus when I was 19. I have been teaching martial arts, yoga and meditation on the UCSD campus for 40 years and I keep doing it because of what it has done for me, my family, my community, and for the thousands of students I have had the privilege of both teaching and learning from…

But this is not about me, this is about you!

You might be wondering…

So what is the best group to join?

Which is the best martial art?

When kung fu meets karate, or mixed martial arts meets ju-jitsu who wins?

Good question!

This reminds me of the story of the Zen master who goes to the butcher and says to the butcher, “Give me your best cut of meat”.

The best cut. The best cut?  “Every cut is the best cut!”

There is no best university. Only the best university for you. (if higher ed is or was part of your journey)

There is no best major. Only the best major for you.

Similarly, there is no best style of martial arts. Only the best style for you.

That said, here are some tips to help you on the martial path.

  1. Commit to starting and maintaining a practice. This “I have no time, have you seen my schedule”, excuse is just that- an excuse. Excuses are like belly buttons. Everybody has one. Champions consistently do what others are unwilling to do. If you want to be a champion or achieve success in your life, you have to decide to do what needs to be done and do it. Period. No Excuses.
  1. Visit prospective groups that interest you, watch the classes, and pay close attention to the interactions between the student and teacher as well as the students with each other. Ask yourself what kind of learning environment supports your growth? Do you do better in a collaborative, relaxed space or do you need a good kick in the pants to bring out your best self? Pay attention and put yourself in their gi, jhing mo, hakama, or shorts, and see what fits…
  1. Experience martial arts for yourself! Try it before you decide you think you know what it is and what is right. Don’t believe everything you thinkLeadership is a decision, not a position. Take the decision today to become the leader you are meant to be. You are the architect of your fortune. You are the architect of your misfortune. A fool blames others. A warrior takes accountability for themselves…

A new year is a special time to connect with nature and your own inner nature. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

The world needs you and your highest self to show up and make our world a better, stronger, kinder more compassionate place where everyone, especially you, can succeed, be valued and be loved.

Martial arts can bring out your best self and has been doing this with its timeless, universal principles for 2,500 years in both the East and the West.

Strive not to be the Master but the Master Student and Artist of Life!

The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step

Take that step today

God speed and much love to you on your incredible journey in the martial way.

Remember:The difference between a black belt and a white belt is that a black belt is a white belt that never quits!

The Story of a Chinese Farmer:

Alan Watts ~ The Story of the Chinese Farmer – YouTube

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