As a white belt, I was often frustrated with all of the things I couldn’t do well. My balance was terrible, I couldn’t remember the moves, and I was constantly annoyed by the physical limitations of my 45 year old body. However, no one at my school expected me to have great kicks, or to remember everything easily, or to have great balance. In fact, they would have been surprised if I had. But I put huge pressure on myself and would easily become despondent. Martial arts brought me face to face with my nemesis, patience, and I didn’t like it.
As a black belt, instructor and school owner, I now find myself helping students with similar challenges with patience. Everyone’s challenge is different, but here are four of the common ones.
1. Unrealistic expectations: Martial arts training is neither easy nor is not meant to be. In many ways, white belt is the hardest level of training in martial arts. You have never done it before so why would you be good at it? It would be like expecting to be good at playing the piano within a few weeks or months. We know it takes years of patient practice to become good at playing a musical instrument, so why would martial arts training be any different? Managing our expectations to ensure they are realistic is a key part of developing patience.
2. Physical limitations: A fortunate few are blessed with athletic prowess. For most of us though, we have physical limitations which affect our ability as martial artists. I have two herniated discs in my neck and I am not very flexible. I am also middle-aged. All of these limit my martial arts training in some way. It is easy to become frustrated with physical limitations and either push your body too hard (risking injury) or give up. The patient option is to accept your physical limitations, minimise their impact, and work to your strengths. For example, I don’t do falling techniques as they hurt my neck. I also accept that I can’t kick very high, but I do gently work to improve my flexibility. By being patient with our bodies, we can gain many benefits from martial arts training without hurting ourselves or becoming despondent.
3. Challenges with memory: Many people struggle with their memories. This can be particularly challenging in a martial art like ours (Kuk Sool Won™), where there is a lot of material to learn and remember. It can feel very daunting in the early stages of learning a martial art, particularly as you are also trying to remember new ways of moving and using your body. Developing your memory is like any other skill. You need to work at it. At first, your memory won’t be great, but over time it will improve. If you get stressed and frustrated though, it will make your memory worse. By being patient with your memory, you will enjoy the process of learning a great deal more and by being more relaxed, your memory is likely to improve. Even if it doesn’t, you will still benefit from your training.
4. Competitive nature: I am a competitive person by nature. I want to be good at what I do and I am always looking to push myself to be better. It is common for our students to be competitive with themselves. This provides a high degree of motivation to train and to improve, which can be a good thing. However, it can also lead to frustration and injury. As well, it is easy to miss the joy of training and learning. Patience involves being in the moment and enjoying the process of training for its own sake, rather than as a process to enable the achievement of a goal.
Patience is something that must be practiced and developed. It comes naturally to very few of us. By becoming more patient, we learn to accept our limitations and show ourselves more kindness. This is an important part of martial arts training, which will have flow on benefits to many other aspects of your life.
In my next blog I will talk about the second of the three Ps, practice, and how this is relevant to martial arts training.
JKN Jane Hurst
First degree black belt and school owner
Kuk Sool Won™ of Onewhero
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Caroline is a 5th degree black belt and Jane is a 2nd degree black belt in the traditional Korean martial art of Kuk Sool Won™ . They run 2 Kuk Sool Won™ martial arts schools in New Zealand.