I have been interested in Martial Arts since my earliest years.
For sure, there were these damn cool “Kung Fu Movies” in the ‘80s who influenced me… I was astonished by their fighting moves…
The older I grew, the more I felt that there must be a deeper part in that stuff.
So a Teenager I started getting interested in eastern philosophies and I almost instantly discovered the connections between the physical and the philosophical part.
At the age of 17 I was lucky to meet the person, whom I consider being my first real Martial Arts Master. He had an approach that appealed me and since became my philosophy:
Self-Awareness through Martial Arts!
The basic idea is very simple: Discover your weaknesses, strengths, abilities – physical as well as mental – through the practise of martial arts.
At first sight, this may sound a little like some kind of “New Age mumbo-jumbo”…
But we as human beings are very complex constructions. Everything is connected in a certain way. So going through a learning process that is actually testing your abilities, limits and weaknesses, can become very challenging on a mental/spiritual level.
The reason behind this is probably that being challenged may include « losing ».
A very popular quote in BJJ says, “There is no such thing like losing, you either win or you learn”.
Actually, there is in my humble point of view, a close relationship between losing, learning and winning; so it is more than just a quote.
It is very interesting to observe Babies and Kids who learn. As Daddy of a 14 months old Toddler, I see that little girl doing things repeatedly until she masters it; moving on the back, grabbing things, crawling, walking, running…
And guess what? These little humans are tough! Imagine the effort to learn all this! We do it naturally, but we went through the same stage.
And the most amazing thing? (Actually two amazing things) They never give up and they don’t get discouraged! Instinctively they go on! Something deep inside them tells them to go on, try again, once more,… until they are able to do it?
Now as adults, do we still have the same impellent, the same inner voice that tells us do go on and on?
You still have it? Great! Take advantage of it and go as far as possible in your development. You don’t feel it anymore? Let’s try to find out why!
Here we are, grown-up, lots of knowledge, self-confidence … and a grown-up Ego! Getting into Martial Arts does involve learning, starting from zero (in most cases) and eventually losing (on different levels: losing your self-concept because you thought you are amazing, losing in a Sparring session or Fight, a.s.o. ).
Now back to our quote (There is no such thing like losing, you either win or you learn);
- The physical part
As adults, we are used to walk, run, jump but are we still used to crawl or move fast whilst laying down on the floor? I choose this example because this is what struck me most in BJJ! – And still does as a coach –
It seems like the hardest part is to feel comfortable on the floor, move fluently, position, re-position because we lost that connection. (Esoteric people would say: you lost the connection to mother earth).
There is our starting point. You may ask: where is the link between this and losing? Actually it is quite obvious; laying on the floor will probably remove your “reference points” and change your sense of direction.
Growing up means being more and more upright, and less on the floor (at least for most of us). Not being on your feet, being able to spin, turn and balancing may become very challenging, as you will have to do that in a position that is very different from you daily habit.
So we have to learn – or re-learn – what we mastered as Toddlers, but forgot since then! Just take your time, observe these little ones …, and try to reproduce their movement pattern on the floor! You will realize how proficient they are!
You LOSE, as you are less capable than a 2-year-old Toddler is when it comes to moving on the ground. The best way to convert this into a learning situation and get a victory out of it is to simply work on it! Repeat, take it easy, have fun and progress!
It will become easier with every single repetition and finally it will feel naturally (again).
The same principle can be applied for techniques that you will learn. You may have a physical disability, restricted range of movement,… Don’t let yourself be trapped in a so-called disadvantage.
Analyse it, tell your coach or training partners about it. There will be, most probably, somebody who has an idea on how to improve your situation and find alternatives.
From my personal experience as practitioner and coach I can even assure you, that our Team Mates sometimes know your strength better than you. I am not kidding. Chances are that one of your partners, or your coach, will say: Hey, you are very strong in technique X! Why not use you strength in position Y and build up on it!
So you may think that you cannot do this or that because of a physical problem; but give it a try! It is more than worth it!
- The mental part
Back to our quote… and our grown-up Ego.
We are pretty much sure that we are able to handle almost anything. … almost…
What about “losing”? How do we handle it?
Well we either see it as a lesson, allowing us to analyse what we did, what we did good and what we did not so good… Sometimes we tend to blame other people, things, situations, conditions… This reaction comes from our Grown-Up Ego.
Let’s take the example of the Toddler once more: instead spending our energy to blame whatever, let’s invest your energy in an Analysis of what happened. Why did you fail? What happened? If you had a lack of something; admit it! By admitting it, you can accept it and work on it. The outcome? Right! You will learn something; something about yourself.
Thus, you can evolve and go further.
Accepting yourself, with your strengths and weaknesses allows you to become a humble human being.
But what happens to those who can’t “accept” the Loss? From my personal point of view there are only two options: they either become embittered and they quit the journey, or they will blame anything but themselves and remain in their actual level….and eventually get embittered though.
So what is the outcome finally? You win! You are actually winning every single time by improving your skills!
Keep going on!
– Yep, the guy who launched that quote was right!
The mental part of your evolution through Martial Arts has many aspects. We previously talked about Humility.
Here is a quick overview of some other benefits:
Even though we live in modern times, don’t forget that what you are learning in Martial Arts Training, initially was meant to fight (and in worst case kill your opponent). This puts a huge responsibility on your shoulders. Always keep in mind that you learn to fight, which can potentially harm or take one’s life! Be careful what you do. With this responsibility comes also an increased awareness of our acts.
Staying on the track requires discipline. As well in the consistency of your training, as in your general behaviour. Go to the class, follow the instructions, concentrate, have your gear ready and in good condition, cultivate your mind…
- Perseverance and confidence
There may be moments where you want to quit. At that point it is very important to ask yourself why! Look back on what you achieved, what you invested in your journey (and I’m not specially talking about money, but time, dedication…). Then compare both sides: is what makes me want to quit worth do to so? Or is it just a moment where I need a break? Or am I simply unsatisfied with my evolution?
If the reason is your evolution, go talk with elders and your coach. He will have an external point of view on you. And most probably he will see what you really achieved, while you are diminishing your skills. So persevere. And as important as perseverance is Goal Setting! Have clear goals, this will help you to position and orientate yourself. The closer you get to your goal and the more goals you are able to achieve, the more confident you bill become.
With perseverance, confidence and realizing that finally you are not so bad, will come positivity. You will trust yourself, believe in yourself. Spread that feeling around you, share it with your team mates and friends.
The positivity that you will bring into their lives will pay back.
Respect toward elders, coaches and others is as important as respect for yourself. We all work hard on the same journey, respect other people’s effort. There is no such Thing as a good or bad martial art… it finally all depends if it fits you. What works great for me can be worthless for you. Be respectful and respect-worthy.
Never forget that other people will know you as the “Martial Arts guy”! If you behave bad, the “Martial Arts guy” behaves bad… thus, an entire community will suffer of your acts!
One of the most important aspects that I learned through Jeet Kune Do, is to be Open-Minded. If you are looking for evolution, do not limit yourself to a given Dogma. You will most probably find connections between very different looking Martial Arts, aspects, principals and concepts that fit for you, just by looking further than your own nose.
Open-Mindedness will help you during your Journey! Discover and enjoy!
KEEP AT IT AND GO ON!