Training to become a better martial artist is not easy work. As our instructor always tells us, “If it was easy they’d sell it at Wal-Mart!” And as we all know, we cannot simply enter a store and buy flexibility, strength, or endurance. We can’t purchase martial arts and instantly become a master after check out.
There are many obstacles we need to overcome in order to grow as martial artists. In his blog, Teach Me, Sifu Kevin Harris addresses the first obstacle we face – becoming a student. Taking the initiative to begin our martial arts journey and making “the commitment to step outside of one’s comfort zone… to become a beginner in life again.” That is the first challenge.
After this hurtle is jumped, we often face another – negativity.
If we don’t learn how to work through negativity it can become an ongoing challenge that hinders our growth. Negativity comes disguised in many different ways. Maybe we see a classmate progress quickly through the ranks and think, “They’re so much better than me”; maybe we’re struggling with a new technique and begin thinking, “I’m no good at this”; or maybe in the middle of a challenging exercise we begin to think ”I can’t get through this”.
It is hard to see the bigger picture. Perhaps that fellow classmate has had years of previous martial arts training, while this is your first ever martial arts experience. We may not realize that that new technique is a common sticking point for most; it’s not easy! And we may not realize that every time “can’t” crosses our mind, we’re setting a limit on what we CAN do.
I have been training Kung Fu for years, and I’ll admit, this is never an easy obstacle to overcome. But that seems to be a common theme; the things worth doing are never easy. We have to be willing to work on our mental strength, and we have to constantly continue working at it.
So, how do we begin working through negativity?
First, we have to remember NOT to compare ourselves to others. We are all walking our own path. Each journey is an individual experience. We need to remind ourselves that the people with whom we train for support; they’re training for the same reasons we are, to become better martial artists and to become better people. THAT is the goal. The important thing is to be able to look back and see the steps we’ve made since yesterday. Remember the journey is our own. Keep up the hard work and remember it is ourselves we’re trying to conquer!
Second, we have to remember that it’s natural to struggle. Not every technique is going to come naturally; it’s quite the opposite actually. That’s why we practice, that’s why we drill techniques, that’s why we train. We must learn to have a Goldfish Mind, to “drill the movements, seek perfect technique, revel in the opportunity to train…” That is how we improve. That is how we gain skill. We mustn’t become discouraged but rather we need to take joy in the moment and remember that this is our time to train!
Finally, we need to eliminate the word ‘can’t’ from our vocabulary! At Fingerlakes Shaolin-Do we have what we call a ‘Can’t Jar’; every time someone speaks negatively, or uses the forbidden c-word, they are asked to go to the jar and pull out a strip of paper. On each strip is a challenging workout and while this is for the ‘offender’ to do, most times the whole class jumps in to do the exercise together. This isn’t a punishment, but a way for us to prove that we CAN, and we all gain strength from it. This helps us eliminate both negative words and negative thoughts. Because when we use negative words or think negative thoughts, we set our own limitations.
We have to learn to use only strong words.
You’ve probably heard the saying “whether you believe you can or can’t, you are right.” Well, it’s true. And it doesn’t just stop at belief. Debilitating words spread to others when we vocalize defeating words…
STRONG words are empowering, encouraging, and motivating, and they take two forms: speech and unspoken thoughts.
If you’re training alone, it’s obvious that negative, defeating thoughts make a workout more challenging—even if we manage to finish the dang thing. In group sessions, negative words are even more detrimental. If athletes start vocalizing their defeat, it brings other athletes down and easily puts doubt into their minds. Unless you have spent considerable time building mental strength, negativity will affect you, even without you realizing it.
As Powell says, “‘whether you believe you can or can’t, you are right.'” We need to push ourselves, and to believe in ourselves. It’s absolutely incredible what we are capable of doing. So the next time you start to feel discouraged… don’t! Remember, each journey is unique; remember every opportunity to train is an opportunity to achieve; and remember to use only strong words! We can do this. YOU can do this. Keep your head up and keep training!