At a certain stage in our martial arts journey, we realise that we have undertaken something different from most sporting pursuits, or more than just training the body. The more evolved martial arts dojos have leaders that realise that the training requires a mental and spiritual component as well.
As a teacher, it is humbling to see the powerful transformations in students – both children and adults – as they embrace all the elements of martial arts training. One of the key lessons that students learn is that nothing of value is achieved without effort.
Make An Effort
“Making an effort” starts with the small things, such as attending training when you are tired or would rather sleep in, pushing through the minor injuries, or not listening to the little inner traitor voice that says “I can’t”. You must know deep down that you can achieve amazing things just by consistently turning up and giving your best.
Four Stages of Competence (Noel Burch / Abraham Maslow)
In psychology, there is a learning model called the four stages of competence:
(If interested, there is summary information on the competence learning model on Wikipedia)
As a martial artist looking back on your journey so far, can you see yourself moving through all of these stages? To be honest, I am still working to achieve “unconscious competence” in many areas, maybe even “conscious competence”.
But I respectfully suggest that the model does not embrace the stage of excellence, and even beyond that to mastery. In order to understand that, we can always turn to our martial arts ancestors – the Samurai (from Hagakure – Way of the Samurai – my comments in bold italics):
In one’s life, there are levels in the pursuit of study. In the lowest level, a person studies but nothing comes of it, and they feel that both themselves and others are unskilful. At this point, they are worthless ~ unconscious incompetence
In the middle level, they are still useless, but are aware of their own insufficiencies and can also see the insufficiencies of others ~ conscious incompetence
In a higher level, they have pride concerning their own ability, rejoices in praise from others, and laments the lack of ability in his fellows. This person has worth ~ conscious competence
In the highest level, a person has the look of knowing nothing ~ unconscious competence / excellence
These are the levels in general:
But there is one transcending level, and this is the most excellent of all. This person is aware of the endlessness of entering deeply into a certain Way and never thinks of themselves as having finished ~ excellence to mastery
They truly know their own insufficiencies and never in their whole life thinks that they have succeeded ~ embracing the journey and the lifelong effort to continuously improve
They have no thoughts of pride, but with self-abasement knows the Way to the end. It is said that Master Yagyu once remarked, “I do not know the way to defeat others, but the way to defeat myself” ~ effort and self-correction
Throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skilful than yesterday, more skilful than today. This is never-ending ~ the lifelong martial arts journey
So, put in the effort. If you do this, it will lead to excellence. Let’s work on this together. See you in the dojo to help “build a better you”.