Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Student's Creed - "Attendance Plus Attitude"

One of the most important things I think I've learned in the martial arts has certainly carried over into the rest of my life - just showing up doesn't cut it. The martial arts looks, from the outside, like a mostly physical exercise, but without involving your mind you'll never get anywhere. Focus, perseverance, dedication and willpower are all mental attributes. It's not enough for your body to be there - your mind needs to be trained and conditioned, too. I call this "Attendance plus Attitude."

Attendance is important. If you show up once a week for class, you can learn, but it's probably going to be slow and frustrating for everyone. You can compensate by aggressively working at home on the content covered in class so it's not impossible to achieve success with limited attendance, but it's not a recipe for success for most of us. But the reverse isn't automatically true - coming often to class, by itself, won't get the job done, either. You must involve your mind. You've got to have the right attitude.

It's easy to get caught up in how busy we are at work, at school, at home, and let that distract us. It steals our focus, saps our willpower, and interferes with well-disciplined training. I know I get much more out of class when I'm concentrating on what I'm learning, I'm attentive to the details of my technique, and I'm alert to opportunities to improve. It takes effort to leave our problems at the door, but the rewards are huge! Not only is your training more productive, but you're giving yourself a break from that stress. Let's face it, you're not going to solve any of your day-to-day problems while you're working out at the dojo, no matter how much you think about them. It's a waste of time and energy to even try. So don't. Don't give in to the distraction, don't let your mind wander off to those things. Take a break, put some effort into conditioning your mind and body, THEN go back out to solve your problems feeling refreshed and strong. Let your hour or so in the dojo be your self-focused "me time" and you'll be rewarded with a clearer head that's actually better-equipped to deal with life's worries, and you'll be rewarded with a better workout. That's the right attitude!

Better still, this works outside of the dojo, too. Just physically being present is almost never enough, whether at work, at school or with your friends and loved-ones. You've got to bring a good mental attitude. Developing your focus in the dojo will make you a better thinker at work, and vice-versa. It's not easy to be the master of our own thoughts - to control our stress by focusing on those things we're best able to deal with at the time when we're in the right position to deal with them. Like anything else, it takes practice. But the results can impact every aspect of your life. Don't just show up, be there with your whole being, and come ready to succeed!

The Student's Creed is a series of blog articles I'm posting at the ChampionsWay martial arts community. Since most of my Virtual Vellum readers probably don't visit that site, I'm posting them here as well.

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