Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

Healthy or Obsessed?


I’ve noticed that when someone works out at the gym or runs every day, other people tend to applaud his or her discipline with words like “healthy” and “dedicated.” But in my experience, when people ask me how often I go to martial arts, I am often confronted with surprise and words like “obsessed” and “fanatic.” Sometimes there’s even a slight negative tone or subtext to the comment.

While I do think “obsessed” is accurate in my case, I wonder why that word isn’t generally associated with the gym-going person or the runner. In what way is working out at kung fu class different than lifting weights? (Besides being a million times more fun, that is…)

We’ve all experienced this sort of double-standard with geeky hobbies vs. “normal” hobbies, but for some reason the fact that kung fu is a physical activity makes it seem strange to me. Have any of you experienced something like this before? Or maybe it’s all in my head?

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Jenn Reese


  • My wide can't understand my need to put on white pajamas and roll around on the floor with other guys.

    I mean, WHAT THE HELL'S WRONG WITH THAT?!? I ask you …

  • Yeah, I think "obsessed" has a negative connotation in our culture in general–as if being passionate about something was bad. I don't think it's bad. That said, I AM obsessed with martial arts training ;-).

  • I do think people who go to the gym seven days a week are obsessed, and I don't think it's healthy.

    Martial arts is different. It's like a ballet class – you can't just take one a week. You won't get better that way. It's a discipline that takes dedication and commitment, like ANY art. That's why it's called Martial Arts, lol! It's not "just" exercise – it's training. That is completely different. It demands time, unlike going to the gym.

    Gym rats are a different breed than your average gym-goer, too. I see people at the gym who are avoiding home. I see people at the studio who are learning. To me, that's the difference. Not necessarily the level of commitment – but the level of brain work involved.

    Okay, maybe I've over-thought this – but as an ex-ballet dancer who used to get only Sundays off (and not even then when we were in rehearsal), I totally get the martial arts mentality.

    And I pity those who don't.

  • Can't find it, but there's an old Onion headline, something like "Sports geek looks down on Star Wars geek." Honestly though I've heard as many geeks sneer at "mundane" interests, as I have heard them sneer at us. If you're doing something other people never think of doing (you going to write tonight AGAIN?!?!) someone will happily let you know you're wasting your life, need more balance, moderation etc. In short, if you attempt to excel at anything, somebody somewhere will find themselves threatened and happily project their insecurity on you.

  • FR: Old Weird Ken

    Two things immediately come to mind that may color someones view of whether a hobby is 'normal' or 'geeky'.

    There is the fear factor of martial arts. People see that your studying a martial arts means you want to hurt people. Complete wrong opposite reason for me; I study martial arts so I can reduce the chance of them hurting me. So rather than admit this tinge of apprehension, they mock your hobby. I get 'Oh, I better not piss you off then' all the time.

    Second, as a woman, you are not supposed to defend yourself. You are not supposed to be able to assert yourself. You are supposed to go to the gym, to 'workout' so you look better. Speaking of the general view of the public here; not my point of view at all. I think everyone, women & men, should study martial arts. You are doing something different. So to put you in your place, they mock you. Think of children, teenagers, & adults and how they mock something that is different. They mock what is the acceptable, safe for society, behavior. They are pressuring individuals to conform. Also, thinking about this it also applies to men.

  • This is what I think:

    People call martial arts lovers "obsessed" because martial arts are not a part of the Western Culture. If you lived in Japan or China, they would never tell you that you are obsessed. Instead, they would think of you the way we think of runners and people who go to the gym. Going to the gym is "socially acceptable", while training martial arts is "weird" and "obsessive". It's the same thing with alcohol and drugs. It is "socially acceptable" to drink, but it is not "socially acceptable" to use drugs. Both are harmful. Running, going to the gym and training kung fu are healthy. The only difference is the method. The only obstacle is in people's heads. ;)

    • I think you're exactly right about what people in the US consider socially acceptable versus "weird." And good point about martial arts being acceptable in other cultures — so true!

By Jenn Reese
Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

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