When we first start a martial arts class we are filled with unrealistic expectations. We believe that we will pick up physical skills faster than is humanly possible and many of us compare our progress with images we have seen in the mass media. The fact of the matter is we are all human. Each of us has a unique set of attributes that makes us who we are. Some of us are naturally athletic and others are more analytical. No matter what are strengths (or weaknesses) we will continue to grow in the martial arts and life as long as we persevere.
For every one reason there is to continue with a difficult undertaking, many of us can find 10 reasons to quit. Apathy and laziness are the mortal enemies of perseverance. It is just to easy to give up on a dream when we find the dream requires work and dedication. We see this entirely too often in martial arts and fitness training classes. So many people begin with the dream of achieving a black belt or getting fit only to find that the work is hard, repetitive, and often uncomfortable. It isn’t long before those individuals leave for the next endeavor. These are the same individuals that will pack into a fitness class in January and are making excuses from the couch by March while snacking on chips and watching an infomercial on the next diet craze.
Understanding that foundations are important in any undertaking is important. It is almost always impossible to get from point A to point D without passing through points B and C. There are truly no short cuts that allow us to magically transform in to Jackie Chan or the fitness model on the cover of the magazine. Each endeavor we undertake that is worth something requires work and dedication … it requires perseverance.
When given the opportunity, I try to explain to new martial arts students that they are beginning a journey that has no final destination. Belts and trophies are simply mile posts along the way. The joy of the art is in the undertaking, not in reaching the end. It is in learning that we are more than we thought and that we can be come what we desire as long as we don’t give up. Too often this advice falls on deaf ears, but every once in awhile the person who is listening hears what is being said and internalizes it.
Last week I watched my adult daughter counsel a parent on the importance of perseverance. Their child had found a particular activity difficult and was terribly upset that they weren’t able to achieve their goals immediately. The parents reaction was that since it was too hard she should pull her child out of the class. This is a paraphrase of the advice she gave, “I have never been a quitter. I was never allowed to quit as a child until I met my commitment. As a a result I became a black belt, a teacher, and found my first love was martial arts. I, also, found out that dance, modeling, and a number of other things were not for me. I learned because I did each thing I wanted to do and gave it a chance. If you allow your child to quit every time something is hard they will never achieve their goals and they may never find their spark.”
In this case, her counsel fell on someone who did not want to hear what she had to say, but I heard and was proud. She gets it … most people who go on to teach get it. Perseverance isn’t about the short trip to store in the car, it is about the long walk home through the storm. It is about hard times that shape us and mold us. It is the art and the definition of ourselves as we make our way through life. How many of us would like to say, “I have never been a quitter” and really mean it?