There is much outside of the actual practice of martial arts that can aid one on one’s journey as a martial artist. This past summer, I spent some time familiarizing my son with the famous Chinese novel, Xi You Ji (Journey to the West) and watching with him episodes of a Chinese TV show made regarding it.
Xi You Ji is considered one of the four great classic novels of China, along with Shuihu Zhuan, Sanguo Yanyi, andHongLou Meng. I used to teach excerpts from all four when I taught Asian literature and would recommend these books in original form or translated copy to anyone seeking a greater understanding of China or martial arts in general, for one can learn much about a culture from its literature. Shuiju Zhuan (Water Margin), Sanguo Yanyi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms), and Xi You Ji (Journey to the West) in particular contain quite a bit of martial arts action and background information as well.
The primary protagonist in Xi You Ji is Sun Wukong, a monkey born from a stone egg. Sun Wukong, through various means becomes an unbeatable fighter who fights using a magic staff. However, although he is unbeatable, he is still bested by Buddha, who captures the monkey in his hand and traps him underneath a mountain. It is only through a long, perilous trip to India (the Journey to the West from the title) that Sun Wukong learns humility and becomes a true master of himself.
This mental aspect of becoming a better martial artist through self cultivation is a topic that is explored in many Asian books dealing with martial arts (for example, from Shuiju Zhuan one can look at Lu Zhishen or Wu Song). However, in Western culture, the hero model is very different. Therefore, I find that the time spent, especially with the younger students at Aim High, explaining the purpose of martial arts and the importance of not abusing what one has learned is especially important.