At first blush, this seems like an obvious thing to say. Unfortunately, I have seen others and even gone through periods personally where the joy and wonder of martial arts training seemed to have disappeared. Remember when you first joined and you were amazed every time you saw your instructor teach a new technique? Remember the excitement you felt when you first started to get a technique down? You would never have believed at that time that you could ever find training anything but fun and exciting but after years of dedicating hours and hours and hours of your life to mastering this stuff you may be surprised to find that you begin to take yourself too seriously regarding it.
You see it in the guy getting annoyed at the new student who can’t yet hold pads well. You see it in the girl who is so focused on achieving the next rank that she learns the necessary techniques without enjoying the process of adding to her repertoire. You see it in the practitioner who becomes frustrated with themselves for not learning a technique as quickly as they think they should. You see it in the person who is doing the same drills they have been doing for years and are now forgetting that they are honing the blade of their skills and not just “training”. This discontent comes out in strange ways and it almost always has something to do with some goal or end result that has replaced the concept of enjoying the journey.
I believe goals are not just important but are vital to achieving a high level of success in anything. Goals are how we measure our development and how we know in what direction to “set our sail”. You must be careful though that the vision of an achieved goal doesn’t overshadow the process of getting there. Achieving a goal is like the picture you take at the top of the mountain you just climbed. The picture is really cool but the real accomplishment is in each individual little step you took to get there. The picture simply commemorates the struggle you went through to reach the summit. The struggle is the very thing that makes the picture such a treasure to stare at later in remembrance.
Try to remember that you started training because it is fun and engaging. Never go through the motions. Always be focused on the present moment during training and know that you will reach whatever goal you are after when you are ready. Don’t beat yourself up for not doing something as well as you thought you should have. Learn to laugh at yourself, make the necessary corrections and move on. There is simply no reason to be frustrated for not being perfect because perfection is a goal you will never achieve.
I read something once that stated that “mastery is an asymptote”. Forgive the use of such an arcane word but the concept as it applies to mastery of any given endeavor struck me and I want to share it. An asymptote is a straight line approached by a given curve that gets infinitely closer and closer to touching but is never touched by the curve. Metaphorically, mastery is that line and your skills are the curve. No matter how long and hard you train, you can never quite touch mastery. You can get closer and closer but never can you say, “There! I’m officially perfect at this.”
With this metaphor in mind, you can look at things in one of two ways. One is that since you can never reach mastery there is really no point in trying at all. The other is that since you can never reach mastery you will always have something to strive for. The first idea leaves you feeling empty while the second fires you up with the endless possibilities.
If somebody asks you why train in martial arts, what do you tell them? I would guess that at the core, any person who trains over a long period of time does so because it is fun. Staying in shape, collecting medals from competition and achieving higher ranks are all nothing more than benefits and results of training. Remember to enjoy yourself and always be amazed at the fact that you still have, and always will have, much more to learn.
The purpose of this blog
This blog is intended as a place to discuss ideas relevant to both both martial arts and life in general. Our school doesn't exist with the sole purpose of making great fighters but also of helping its members develop themselves into great people. The entries are about sharing ideas. I will not spend much time editing grammatical errors so please try not to let it drive you crazy when you come across them!