Often people ask me "why do you study martial arts?" and my response is always the same; I say in a strong voice "to break you"! and then I laugh and I explain what it is for. I study martial arts because it brings me peace. A lot of people are surprised when I say that so I have to explain that when I step on the mat to train, or to teach, I don't think about the bills I have to pay or the amount of work I have to do, or even the weather! I only think of Karate and I am focused on being better than I was yesterday. The greatest moment of joy I feel is when I am teaching my students and we learn something together. Maybe they see something that makes me think on what my instructor has told me, or they ask me a question that sets us on a path to explore a new understanding of karate. That is true joy and peace; all issues, problems, difficulties, are left behind and we train karate. and there is nothing else- only karate.
Of course it also teaches other things- primarily self defense but that is no longer the sole reason why I teach and train. When I started 20 years ago my focus was different and my purpose for learning was different. At this point in my life I want to be better than I was yesterday- my karate opponent is my self and my struggle is against him. I know what I can do today and I know what I want to do in a year and the struggle is getting there.
So when someone asks, "why do you study martial arts?" tell them the truth!