I’ve learned many life lessons through my martial arts experience.
These lessons are not exclusive to the martial arts. This just happens to be where I learned them.
There were times where I lost sight of these and was not on my best behaviour. But over the past year or two, I have made a concerted effort to get back on track. Here are the principles I think have served me best. I hope they help you through whatever you’re experiencing.
Some of these are philosophical or mental practices while the rest are physical lessons. Some of them cross-over between the two.
All can be applied to life.
Humility is an important facet of traditional martial arts. This includes the elimination of the ego. That doesn’t mean thinking less of your skills or abilities. It’s the realization that mastery is an illusion. I should always be aiming to improve.
Further, this means that rank is irrelevant. It’s possible for me to learn from a white belt or a black belt. There is something to learn from everyone. And if I don’t learn anything from them about how to grow my technical abilities, I can probably gain some new insights about how I coach others.
2. Under Committing
Sometimes in class, I’ll see people throwing a punch or a kick while they’re trying to retreat. I have to keep wary of this when I train too.
In an effort to avoid getting hurt, we can sometimes put less than 100% into our technique. In essence, this is like multi-tasking. If we try to do two things at once, neither will be as effective/productive as if we had just focused on the one thing.
But, that’s easier said than done. It’s just something I think we should be aware of.
3. Going with the flow
Often life can throw us stuff we don’t expect. This can happen when boxing. You may receive a punch that you didn’t anticipate.
Like in fighting, the best defense is avoiding the possibility of injury altogether. But, if you are forced into the situation, the next best thing would be “rolling with the punches” or maybe re-directing your opponents energy and turning into a counter-attack or using it against them.
In life, the same applies. We may try to think of everything ahead of time to avoid mistakes, but inevitably something will come up that we didn’t plan for. If that’s the case, it’s best to just go with it.
Roll with the punch – Accept that what I didn’t want is here. If I can control it, great. If it’s out of my control, I shouldn’t worry about it.
Initiate a counter – look at the situation that’s fallen in your lap. Analyze it. Make a plan. Implement it. Turn that unexpected situation into a strength. Be prepared for when it happens again.
4. The Power of the Mind
I was brought up on the idea that I could do anything if I put my mind to it. Over the last few years, I can see that I’ve lost sight of this golden rule.
I think that sometimes there is confusion. We often say I CAN’T instead of I WON’T, I DON’T WANT TO or I DON’T KNOW HOW.
What’s the difference? I think that when we say I CAN’T, we are basically washing our hands of responsibility. Often it’s said in haste without properly thinking the situation through.
The bottom line is that our minds are great gifts that can empower us or destroy us.
5. Economy of Motion
As I gain more experience in the martial arts, I realize that some of my motion is wasted. When we’re younger and more energetic, we tend to do a lot of jumping and flailing around which is wasted.
Like some great Greek mathematician (I think) said: The shortest path between two points is a straight line.
Similarly, we should drop things that are unnecessary or frivolous – or at least keep them to a minimum. As I grow older, I find I’d rather spend my time, energy and money on the things that really matter.
6. Go Slow to Go Fast
I’ve found that this is the toughest lesson. And the hardest to implement. In a lot of modern society, we are taught that the ability to multi-task is paramount. In attempting to do so, we neglect the focus needed to get better at any one thing or at least one group of related tasks. It’s easier said that done, though. All I try to do is strike a balance.
7. Fear Is For the Untrained
We fear the unknown. And for good reason. The unknown may be harmful.
However, if we don’t practice climbing, we might fear heights. If we don’t practice swimming, we might fear drowning. If we don’t practice weight training, we might fear injury from that activity. Therefore, the way to overcome fear is to train or practice.
8. Forced Rehabilitation
I’ve only noticed this recently. There is a lot that can be learned from working with a partner or in a situation where we do not have full control. For example, if someone was not trying to punch me, how would I learn to deal with a punch? If I didn’t have something thrown at me, how would I learn to catch?
These are some thoughts I’ve had about the way I train to fight my movement disorder. If you found these helpful, please leave a comment below.