I have been training martial arts since 1987. It is not a long time, but one of the things I am most proud of is that I have never quit. The only time I have taken off was due to injury. One thing I can honestly say is that at least 99% of the time that I didn’t feel like training, and I made myself get in the car and go to the dojo, I was very happy that I did it. If I was in a bad mood or dealing with some issue, training cleared my head. I couldn’t think about my ex-girlfriend, money, or whatever the current issue was when someone was trying to choke me or hit me. It actually relieves stress to have someone try to submit me, because I can’t think of anything else other than that! It gives me a break from my problems.
Our modern life is based on comfort and convenience. To illustrate this point, my teacher, friend, and training partner of mine, Sifu Robert Brown, tells that there is a company that put peanut butter and jelly in the same jar!
Living a life that is always comfortable and convenient creates slavery to the needs of the body, and it creates a high maintenance lifestyle. A high maintenance lifestyle is one that takes a lot of resources to have, and it makes you miserable. This is where warrior training comes in- to break your slavery to the senses and the fickle mind.
Learning Jiu-Jitsu is neither comfortable nor convenient. In fact, it provides a contrast to modern life. Sitting on the couch flipping channels does not test your spirit. Many people’s job’s are not a test. Many Americans go through their days on autopilot half awake. They are the walking dead!
This is where martial arts training can make life balanced. It can wake you up to the present moment. It can push you to your limits, then beyond, then to find the next limit. Why do you think some people do extreme activities like bungee jumping? Modern life does not test your spirit, and feeling dead inside is wasting your life.
I am not saying that everyone should go cliff diving or fight mma. My point is to not just watch other people achieve. Make the investment in yourself, and get the returns. One of the last things you want to feel towards the end of your life is regret. I have heard it said many times that near the end of life, people don’t regret the chances they took, they regret not taking chances.
It may sound cheesy, and I apologize, but there is a quote from the movie Braveheart that expresses this idea perfectly: “Everyone dies, but who really lives?”
The Power of Persistence
The deeper truth about quitting Jiu-Jitsu, or any martial art, is that you are really quitting yourself. What is the value in training for 6 months? You may have kept your weight down during that time, got a few stripes on your white belt, met a few interesting people, and you might be able to remember something if ever attacked, but how much more could you have gotten if you stayed with the training for years? What are the deeper accomplishments and self discovery that you missed?
There is a Polynesian saying, “Standing on a whale, fishing for minnows.” What an amazing thought! How many hours per day do we spend watching t.v. or doing virtually useless things compared to something that will make us extraordinary?
It is more helpful look at boredom and frustration in a different way- that is a sign of future success. Babe Ruth, the home run king for many years, used to annoy his teammates after striking out. He would come back to the dugout after striking out with a smile on his face. His teammates would ask, “Why are you smiling?! You just struck out.” He would reply, “I am now that much closer to my next home run.”
Keith Hafner, personal development speaker and Owner of what was at one time the most financially successful martial arts school in the United States, said that the path to success is boring. It may seem glorious to be at the top, but how many hours of repetitive action does it take to get to the top?
I was talking with my friend and fellow martial arts school owner, Sensei Montise Peterson (who is also a Rigan Machado black belt), about Keith Hafner’s idea. Montise, in addition to being a great martial artist, is also a great musician. He said that people think it’s all fun to be a musician, but it takes years to become good. And once you are good, you need to work. You spend hours rehearsing, recording in the studio, and writing. Only a small part of your job involves being on stage in front of screaming fans.
I heard a story from a monk that beautifully illustrates this point about persistence. In the early 1950’s there was a woman who was going to swim from California to Catalina Island- a 26 mile distance, and it was to be televised.
There was a lot of pressure on her, because at that time many believed a woman could not accomplish this feat. The day of the swim, it was very foggy. She swam in the sight of a boat with some of her supporters and coach. She swam for miles, and began to lose heart. All she could see was fog. She kept pushing herself, and finally told the boat to pick her up.
They drove the boat to Catalina Island, and it turns out that she had swam 25.5 miles! She was half a mile from her target. Later that summer she retried the same test, and made it.
I heard about a man that bought raw land to mine it for diamonds. He tried for some time, and finally gave up. He sold the land for a loss. The person he sold it to began mining where the last owner left off. He discovered diamonds 3 feet from where the previous owner left off! The new owner became a multimillionaire.
You never know how close you are to your next discovery in Jiu-Jitsu.