I think there is a time when everyone who takes martial arts feels discouraged. I think there is a time in everyone’s LIFE when they feel discouraged over one thing or another. If you haven’t felt that way yet, don’t worry you will. Probably many times over.
Let’s say you consistently show up for your martial arts classes (or fill in the blank here – your job, your relationship, tennis lesson, whatever), you try hard and still you just can’t seem to get it right. Or, maybe, you are sparring and feeling a bit beat up by those who are higher in rank, faster, younger or who just naturally seem to “get it”. Maybe you sense that your teacher (mother, father, employer etc) is not pleased with your progress. Perhaps, and for some this is worse, you haven’t been asked to test for the next level yet others, who are your juniors, are being promoted (in rank or to the job you wanted..you get the picture).
Whatever your own personal reasons are for feeling discouraged, what do you do when the going gets tough? Do you give up? Shed a few tears? Stomp your feet and ask yourself who needs the stress and aggravation of it all anyway? Well, may be tempting at times to do one or even all those things.
Before you get ready to up and quit your martial arts practice (or job, relationship, tennis lessons etc.) you might want to pause and reflect a bit. At least I find that it has always helped me in handling those periods of being discouraged. You know those times when you can’t seem to get anything “right”.
I think about something I heard my teacher once say. He was speaking with us at the end of a class and mentioned that a student had recently demonstrated something they had been doing for awhile (some simple breathing exercises – nothing complex) that I gathered did not too closely resemble what had been taught.
My teacher then asked what I thought was ultimately a pretty profound question and one that has stuck with me ever since. He asked “Where was the sincerity in this student’s practice?” Then he asked us, “How sincere are you in your practice?”
For me that was one of those “stop and look in the mirror moments.” One that I knew I needed to file away for future reference. Slide it out of my back pocket at the appropriate time and have a good long look.
When I start to feel down about my martial arts training I ask myself that question. How sincere am I being in my practice? How many hours have I been practicing per week lately? When I was practicing was it good, focused practice or was my mind all over the place? How good has my focus been while in my kung fu class? Was I really a hundred percent there when something was being said or demonstrated to me that I couldn’t seem to grasp?
Often, the answer comes back fairly clear that I could be doing more for myself. Why should I expect to “get it” if I am not giving it all of the time and effort I know it requires? Being honest with yourself isn’t always fun but I’m thinking it is necessary if you are serious about what you have invested all that time and effort in. Let’s face it, it is easier to limp off into the corner to lick your wounds all while mumbling to yourself that no one understands you or the challenges that you face.
But you know what I’m slowly finding out? EVERYONE has their challenges. Some you can see, some are well hidden… but everyone’s got them. The difference being is whether or not you let those act as excuses or if you are going to do your damnest to overcome them.
During those moments of self examination, I remind myself of all the reasons I practice in the first place -the primary one being to improve my health. When I keep that at the forefront of my mind it becomes much easier to pick myself back up and keep things in perspective. After all, I’m not there to be the next female Bruce Lee. I’m there to try to do the best I can while getting the most out of the practice.
A little honesty and self reflection can go a long way to helping you hang in there. So when you are feeling discouraged or are thinking about quitting… try stopping a moment and slide out that mirror.
Originally published November 23, 2008