5 - On Patience


Patience seems like a simple word. But what does it really mean? When we talk about the martial arts, patience means to wait without expecting anything. Not to wait "enough", or to wait a "while".

To have patience in martial arts training means that:

  • You don't push yourself too hard physically
  • You don't push yourself too hard mentally
  • You don't take the attitude that you're "good enough"
  • You do focus on the small issues
  • You do relax - tension is a primary enemy of the martial artist
  • You do understand you're training - not performing for others

These issues can be extremely difficult to deal with for those of us raised in modern American society. For one thing, we're so used to everything being done right away, or available right now, that we no longer have a good feel for those issues that are not quick and easy.

Here are some examples of what we mean by the above; elements of society which form our expectations such that patience is no longer natural to us:

  • Fast Food
  • Overnight delivery of goods
  • Computers & calculators
  • Air travel
  • Internet and telephone services

These things are not certainly bad in and of themselves. However, all of them conspire in eroding an individual's ability to simply wait. When one then tries to go after a goal that will require some time to achieve, it does not come easily to most of us to participate in the process of training in a natural and comfortable manner.

In addition to changes made in individuals that work against martial arts training, society has also changed in such a way as to affect how a martial arts school "filters" students.

In the past, prospective students were not simply brought into a school for immediate training. First, they were subjected to long periods of physical service to the school - cleaning, repairing, cooking, gardening and more. We're talking about several years of this kind of service required before a student would begin to learn actual martial arts techniques.

Once a prospective student had performed these tasks for some time, the martial arts training would begin very slowly. This would not concern the student, for they had already been forced to bring patience to the very surface of their thoughts and actions by the long interval in service to the school. As a direct result, the student concentrated intensely upon the few techniques initially presented, both to prove themselves worthy of the training, and as a result of years of learning to focus upon the moment. In this way the instruction was certain to be both more effective for, and much less likely to be abandoned by, the beginning martial artist.

Things could hardly have changed less since those times. Today, students walk into a martial arts school, hand over a fee, and immediately begin training. The result is that many students abandon training early on. They have not had the time nor the experience needed to bring patience to their training.

The result is that today's students have "fast" expectations, despite the fact that most schools will immediately inform prospective students that this type of training involves a long term committment.

The net effect of all this is that one of the most challenging aspects of martial arts training today is the bringing of this seldom-used mental ability to the surface so that students have a true opportunity to learn and excel.

Some key elements of bringing patience to your training are...

  • Perception: Be aware of your skill level
  • Humility: Accept your abilities - avoid frustration
  • Dedication: Train consistantly and seriously
  • Balance: Don't "overdose" on training

Always remember that patience is one of the most important aspects of your training. There is absolutely no substitute for patience. Finally, as a motivating factor, realize that the best martial artists invariably are extraordinarily patient people. If you want to be a martial artist, patience is something you must strive for as much as any other skill.

Learning patience is very simple — but it is also very difficult. This theme is repeated again and again throughout all martial arts training. Understand the simple / difficult concept as it relates to patience from the beginning and work to improve your mental state constantly. All of the rest of your martial arts training will benefit directly and significantly from your efforts. Further, most experiences in your life will benefit directly from a strong element of patience in your personality.

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