Stop Complaining and Start Training
Why did you join the martial arts? Was it initially for fitness? Did you want to be able to defend yourself, or did you just think that it was a fun activity where you could meet other people? Whatever your initial reasons for stepping into the martial arts world, I’ll be that sitting around and talking negatively about other martial artists was not one of them. If you have been in a school for any time, you will probably find that this activity is very popular. In fact, it often takes up more time than the actual skill training does. There was a time when I was as guilty of this meaningless banter as anyone. I was training at the Inosanto Academy in Marina del Rey, CA back in 1986. There were some Saturday morning classes which ended somewhere around noon. After classes were over, the instructor (not Sifu Inosanto) and a small group of the “senior” students would walk to the local Del Taco (another marvelous idea) to have lunch and talk. I should actually say to sit for over an hour and gossip. The topic was always the same. “Did you hear what this guy said about so and so?” “Everyone thinks that instructor is good, but he actually can’t fight a lick. Have you ever noticed how he doesn’t spar?” “I don’t know why that guy got promoted. I think it is political.” What a colossal waste of time. We would sit there pumping each other up by putting everyone else down. For me, this ritual went on for nearly a year. Luckily, one day I had a change of heart.
I spend a lot of time reading self-improvement and philosophy books, and the idea of speaking negatively is often addressed. You can easily fond one hundred authors on successful living who have devoted countless pages to the ravages of negative thinking. Everything starts with your mind. The way you stretch to the way you fight to the way you live your life each day is a result of your thinking processes. The way you think should be analyzed often and steps should be taken to improve your methods of thought. It is the same as your martial arts skill. Work on it, check your results, find your weak areas, and spend time strengthening those aspects that are holding you back. As I was improving my was of thinking about life and its obstacles, I came to realize that what all of the authors were saying was true. My perception of events was the key determining factor in the quality of my life! If my car was broken into, (and it was often) I could either rant and rave and spread the misery to others, or I could just take care of what needed to be replaced and be happy that they didn’t take the whole car. There was a stimulus in front of me, and I got to choose how to respond to it. This is where the work “responsibility” comes from; you have the ability to respond to whatever conflicts should arise. Understanding this put the responsibility for my happiness and enjoyment of life squarely on my own shoulders. Others will do what they will, but I will choose how to respond to those actions.
The same responsibility carries over to pursuing your goals. You choose whether you want to work toward your goal each day. If your dream is to own your own martial arts school, but you don’t have enough money, use your head to figure out some ways of earning extra money. Save for as long as you need to and you will one day have enough to open that school. You make the choices that determine whether or not you will reach your goals. It is not just fate. Every time you take action toward your goals, fate steps in behind you and gives you a little extra push. “If it is to be, it is up to me!”
So one fine Saturday morning I went off to the Inosanto Academy to take the classes, and ended up at that bastion of health and nutrition, Del Taco. We sat down and before we even got our food, the negativity began. This time, though, I didn’t join in. I was more of an observer than a participant as the conversation moved form bashing one person to the next. Here was one instructor talking trash about another Inosanto Academy instructor. It became very apparent that the main motivation for these discussions was fear. Fear that the other guy was better, or fear that the other instructor might get more recognition. They were talking about a guy who had trained hard for years and was a good fighter, but they would find little things about him to pick on. Amazing. I thought about this all week, and was determined to change my destiny.
After classes had ended the next week, the crew packed up and started the short walk to the cholesterol palace. When I said that I was going to stay and train some more on the heavy bag, they were all surprised. As a matter of fact, they actually tried t convince me to skip the extra training and come down to talk with them! I am so glad that I refused their persuasions and practiced. What a difference. I spent over an hour practicing basic moves while they were practicing verbal battery. With that one distinction my skills started to improve faster than ever. It motivated me to practice more at home, and my rate of progress had increased to new levels. I believe that making the choice that day to stay in a positive environment and train rather than miring myself in the quicksand of negativity was one of the turning points in what was to become my career as a martial artist. I am thankful that I made the right choice in the face of peer pressure.
I often have people ask me questions that are purely political in nature. I get asked about this JKD guy or that Jiu-jitsu instructor, or asked to give my opinion on some teacher of the Filipino martial arts. I can often hear that what they want is some dirt on the person. There is often a surprised look on their face when I say “I think that he is very good.” We all know that there are people in the martial arts who aren’t well meaning or who’s skills are not what they claim, but often people want to deride someone simply because he or she is not part of “the group.” I think it is because people often build their self-esteem by associating themselves with a group of people who have a good reputation. The person starts to think that his group is the best group, and therefore he must be one of the best. If someone in another group shows promise, the easiest way to retain the feeling of being the best is to knock the other group down, even if it is solely through negative talk. This way the first group retains the feeling of superiority. As silly as this sounds, it happens every day.
I have a saying within my group, Jeet Kune Do Unlimited. “While they are complaining, we are training!” Naturally, I get a lot of negativity thrown my was because I have worked hard and have had the good fortune to be able to have my views heard. When it is time for me to sit down and write this column or an article, my goal is to provide the reader with something that will help him or her to become a better person and martial artist. When I state my viewpoint about being a complete martial artist, or learning from different instructors, or not being struck to tradition, other will invariably take that as an attack on their method and lash out against me. It doesn’t matter. I just want what is best for my students and for martial artists everywhere who want to be the best they can be. It is now 6:25 AM as I finish this piece. In the next hour I am sure that a lot of complaining will be done in the martial arts field. As for me, I’ll be at the gym practicing realistically in all of the ranges. I hope you do the same.
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