In many endeavours in life, the successful person continually works hard, relentlessly pursues what they are after, while having a daily emphasis on results. However, for the lifelong martial artist, the opposite often applies.
There is a Chinese saying: “wei wu-wei”, which means “do without doing”. It means that in some areas of life, such as martial arts, doing more things does not always equal better long-term results.
Please do not read this as you should do nothing. You must be disciplined and show up to training, as this puts you in the best position to be able to achieve your goals. Iron sharpens iron, and constantly showing up to training sharpens you.
However, as we sometimes move up the belts, our thirst for knowledge means we want to try more and more, sometimes beyond our level. There is a real difference between knowing a technique and mastering a technique. Sometimes, you do not know whether you have mastered a technique until many years down the track.
White Belt Mindset
I am always observing things in class, whether I am teaching or training. One thing I have observed about myself is that, even after 17 years of almost daily training, I am not always a good white belt. The first thing you learn in class is fighting stance. However, I do not always come back to the perfect fighting stance after each technique. I do not always have the perfect fighting stance while sparring. The fighting stance is the first thing I learned when starting in martial arts and, while I know it, I still have not mastered it when under pressure.
A little while ago, my Sensei said, “By the way, I have been meaning to tell you for a few years now that you need to improve your left hook and left side kick”. These are techniques that have won tournaments for me and I am still not doing it up to Sensei’s standards. I do not look on these comments with any negativity…just the opposite. Sensei could not tell me earlier, as I was probably not ready to hear / understand it. I take Sensei’s comments as a massive positive, as it means I can get better. And get better, I will.
To be fair to my beloved martial arts community, we can all get better at mastering our techniques and ourselves. Again, it comes back to the comment that there is massive divide between knowing a technique and mastering a technique. Do not always chase more and more knowledge, but master the things that you already know. I firmly believe that unless you can do the technique 100 times out of 100 in a sparring / fighting / real self-defence situation, you have not mastered the technique. Can you say this about your martial arts moves?
In our martial arts community, we often say that achieving Black Belt means you have just come off your L plates. The real training and learning starts at Black Belt. Having been a Black Belt for a number of years, I 1,000% believe this to be true. You are very quickly found out at Black Belt if you do not know your kyu syllabus. In fact, you cannot even do most of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Dan techniques without a really good understanding and application of the kyu techniques. So, if you have not achieved Black Belt yet, do not fret. Do not give in to temptation and try to learn more and more, but rather put all of your focus on perfecting the techniques that are part of your syllabus. This is the absolute best thing you can do to become a really great martial artist.
In many religions and “mindfulness philosophies”, we are taught to let go of things they we have no control over. We have no control over how many martial arts techniques there are to be learned, as it is still evolving. However, we do have control over the application we put into the techniques that we do know. By putting the best effort into improving your techniques, this is the best way to grow as a martial artist and person.
Now while the above makes sense (well, at least to me ha ha), I know that it is hard to do. If Sensei or one of my fellow students show me something, I want to know how it is done as well. That is perfectly understandable. However, I do not let it take me away from my main focus of still trying to master what I am meant to know. This is the best way for further progression. Otherwise, if I try to be impatient and learn everything now, I believe I will have poorer long-term results. As the old Samurai saying goes, “jack of all trades, master of none”.
Back to Mastery
So, what to do now? From now until your next grading, do not try to learn more and more. Instead, have an unbreakable focus that you will really master the techniques that you do need to know. It may be repetitive, but repetition is required to develop skill. Skill is required to be the great martial artist we know you can be. And myself and all of the Black Belt team are here to support you in quest for greatness.
See you in the dojo – Daz
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