When most people first come to a martial arts school, they do so with very reasonable and simple goals in mind. Most want to get or stay fit, learn how to defend themselves, or to improve themselves or their child in terms of attentiveness and respect. These are really great goals and ones that martial arts study can definitely help one to bring into their life. However, there are some common pitfalls that knock people off-track when studying martial arts. I’d like to take a moment and explore a few of them, in hopes that it will help people when they get frustrated with their training.
Before I dive into that, I do want to take a moment out of respect to say that I’m not typing this in order to air anyone’s dirty laundry. Quite the contrary, the problems I hope to explore here are common and I could easily list three or four instances where this has happened to others or myself. I want to convey support and compassion.
One very common pothole is misdirected anger or annoyance. It is common to have failure in martial arts. It’s tough to be good at it – not every technique will work and you will not always take first place. Our egos tell us that we’re going to address the challenge like Bruce Lee in one of his movies, but reality comes along and reminds us how much of that is a fantasy. That’s OK, our ego is supposed to give us the assumption of success so that we try something difficult. We have to balance that with an understanding that we are one among many and these other people have strength as well. When reality comes along and checks our ego, we often look outward instead of inward for the solution. When the lower rank won the match or when the technique didn’t work as we had hoped, we look at another student or the instructor or some external thing to place blame. That is a misunderstanding. The challenge in martial arts is to refine yourself and your ability. That refinement happens through weathering challenges. When confronted with failure, don’t turn outward. We must learn to own the situation, become responsible, and move forward with the training. If we do not, then we will give up and truly fail.
Another common problem is letting interpersonal issues take precedence over training. When someone is going through this refinement that I’ve discussed, it can often be a messy thing. People usually come in to a martial arts school with a good sense of balance and fairness in their expression. As time passes, some people get too open with expressing annoyance with others in very public ways. While there are times when people will wrong you anywhere in life, it is important to keep things in perspective. Is training in the martial arts less important than the minor slight you may have received while someone was tired/hungry/feeling vulnerable? If someone is making this mistake often, then it needs to be addressed in a balanced way – of course. Still, it is important to remember that each person’s success is interdependent on the success of the others in the school. We all sink or swim together.
Lastly, it is important to realize that compartmentalization is generally counter to human nature. If you go home and are a miserable person, then you are going to eventually bring that misery into everything else you do. The skills we learn on the mat can be applied in life – consistency in effort, camaraderie with friends, and complete attention to the moment. Somewhere in your mind and heart, you have to find joy and not merely happiness. Happiness is fleeting, just as is anger or fear. Joy, however, is the understanding that life is beautiful and that we are lucky to have that life. While it is often a challenge, we have to bring that joy into the things we do in a consistent way. If a person understands this, then they have gratitude for being alive. That gratitude give a person patience, compassion, diligence, and a sense of humor. Never lose touch with that joy!
These are a few of the pitfalls that everyone in martial arts (and, honestly, in life) goes through. I hope each person can recognize these challenges with themselves, forgive them as well as the tension that is often involved in understanding them, and move through them knowing that you will succeed with enough time and effort. If you are one of my students and you’re having a tough time in your studies in music or martial arts, don’t be afraid to tell me (just not in the middle of classes! Email, call, or set up time to talk, please). Stay attentive to what is happening and don’t lose sight of the big picture. Keep moving forward!Share this: