Feeding a positive Mindset through Martial Arts Training

 in London - Sherbourne Martial Arts Academy: SMAA

As we all know, life is full of choices that we must make.  Some of these choices are simple (do I want pepperoni on my pizza, or not), while other choices are more complex and can impact the remainder of our lives (do I attend graduate school, or not).  A developed pattern of simple choices can also lead to a natural tendency in life to favor one path, versus another - the positive, or the negative … the easy or the difficult.


As a simple illustration of this principle in making choices, you’ve probably heard the short saying about the Two Wolves.  Whether you have or not, reflecting on the parable may steer you toward a better day:


“Two wolves exist in all of us.  One is full of evil and anger, and the other is full of love and hope.  Life offers them many opportunities to reign from time to time. Often, one of them becomes dominant.  Do you know which one that is?... It is the one you feed.”


Failure, loss, death and taxes are all concerns that each of us must have the grit to contend with.  It is natural to ask why something negative has occurred, grieve loss, and harbour some fear that it may happen again.  Similarly, our fear of failure often gets in the way of our desire to exceed (and succeed), whether that fear is rooted in prior experiences, or fear of future failure in front of an audience of our peers.  In looking back on my past years of competition, I see now that much of my fear was rooted in a desire not to fail (or look silly) in front of others.


However, it is more important to network, problem solve and rebuild yourself in ways that help you overcome your fear of failure, and loss.  Fear, in and of itself, rarely causes us physical pain or anguish; rather it is what lies beyond the fear that generally gives us pause (and mental grief and indecisiveness in life).  This is where the Martial Arts (Karate, Jiu Jitsu, Self Defense, MMA) can benefit us in facing fears - all martial arts follow this similar pattern of training and philosophy of being.  When you fail at an action while practicing, you are surrounded by others who are struggling and attempting to do the same action - you are never standing alone with your fear. Failure is part of the training, but more importantly, contending with failure is a skill that is developed if the student has the heart and will to continue training.  This is at the essence of developing an indomitable mind. It does not mean that you will never have moments of weakness, due to circumstances and setbacks. But it does mean that you have become more seaworthy during rough waters. Like a navy sailor, you learn to “stand fast” and stay the course, even during the roughest of storms. You learn to develop a grit and resilience that you probably would not have developed without the diligent practice of authentic martial arts training under a legitimate and experienced head instructor.    


When things get tough, think of your training and the tests you endured and overcome in the dojo or on the mat.  Few circumstances in life are as challenging as returning to the gym day after day, while dealing with fatigue, injuries, work/school stress, etc.  This challenge becomes even more difficult when you come to a fork in the road, or a roadblock in your training progression that seems insurmountable.  You will experience this many times during your martial arts training, and this obstacle is often referenced by many jiu jitsu practitioners - usually this perceived impasse lies somewhere between white and blue belt, and again at various junctures between blue and black belt.  


As an example, I experienced this many times during my Karate training, and in particular, with my competition - even as an advanced black-belt, fear continued to consume me in many ways. That fear consumed me during a phase of my life, and it took a strong and dominant black-belt competitor, and gradually reduced him to a fearful child before I was able to overcome it and surmount that fear.  What I learned is that “fear” can be like a cancer that grows and consumes. The more you dwell on fear and failure, the more you will propagate that failure in your training, your competition, and your life in general. In contrast, the more that I focused on positivity and the more I learned to reconnect with my love of training, the more positive changes I began to see in my life - not only from a competition standpoint, but also in my job, my higher educational pursuits, and most importantly, with my family and loved ones.  I learned to excise the cancer of fear and become healthy once again, by reinvigorating my focus on positive training habits (and of course, surrounding myself with like-minded, positive people).


The martial arts gym is the place to leave all of your fears at the door and foster your own personal growth with the help of like-minded people coming together for the same purpose.  We are all in this thing together, and you are never alone in the gym or dojo. We all have fears, most of which can be overcome, but overcoming fear generally means a focus on tomorrow (not a focus on yesterday).  Many times we focus on prior failures, which can keep us from right-siding the ship in calmer waters. Similarly, too much focus on prior successes will rob you of the hunger and desire that it takes to develop and grow.  The daily routine of training at the gym is nurturing and it fosters hope and compassion toward others on a regular and consistent basis (parallel to your commitment to attend all or most of the classes).


So this brings us back to our lesson about the two wolves that lie within each of us.  The effects of martial arts training are rewarding on many personal and social levels. Positive attitudes are constructive in nature, contagious and uplifting for those around you, and ultimately empowering.  Similarly, negative attitudes can be equally consuming. I was once consumed by the darker wolf - the wolf of fear and failure - before I learned to see the light again. Thus, The two wolves can represent any binary point of indecision in our lives, or any contrasting path of development we choose to pursue.  So, the question is one of personal choice - which “wolf” do you want to develop?

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