The Chinese have an old saying that goes, “If it’s not practical, it’s no good!” It is applied to all aspects of life not just martial arts (i.e., 武術; wǔshù). There are a lot of cultural reasons for this; ones that any student would benefit to learn. I can tell you, from my own experiences, that impractical relations with a number of things (within and without the context of fighting) changed my mind about how I trained and what I trained throughout my life – as well as what I applied those principles toward. They, even, drove me to keep practicing when things got difficult, and keep applying those principles when everything within and without me wanted to stop.
Meditating on this, I came to the idea of this blog. While there are a lot of places I could go (from my opening dialogue), I wanted to encourage you to get started and keep going – no matter what your goals are in life.
One of the hardest things to do in life is to face something and start the process of overcoming it. For many, that process appears too “hard” or “difficult” or “complicated” or “time consuming” (all words I’ve heard people use for reasons not to learn kung fu), but in reality any process is just that: A series of steps taken along a path toward a goal. So, the first thing I will tell you is this: Don’t make your goals larger than the step you have to take to travel towards them; in other words, focus on what you can do now to reach your goals and not the distance between where you are and where you want to be. Along these lines the Chinese have another saying: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
But the journey doesn’t stop there. Does it? It is made up of many steps that cover a distance; some longer than others. And, when we decide to take that first step, we have to find the ability to keep going – even get up when we fall. (And, we all fall from time to time!) Let’s cover these separately:
There’s a western idea that training requires the student to set aside a large amount of time each day to “work out”. But, that’s not practical. Is it? I don’t know about you, but I don’t have hours to dedicate every day to just “work out”. I have two jobs; I teach others as well as train, myself; I have a lovely wife and children and grandchildren (Yep – I’m getting old); I have a home to care for; emergencies to respond to; and, like you, the list goes on and on.
So, in order to get started, we have to know that what we learn we can use. It has to be practical. The more practical it is the greater the opportunity to use it; and, the greater the opportunity to use it the more we will practice it while we do everything else on our to-do lists. This is why the Chinese martial artists find ways to use their training while doing their jobs, working around the house, shopping, etc. The principles of their self-defense go far beyond fighting; they speak to the defense of self found in the acts of living. (This later point is something of a subject for a whole other blog. Perhaps I’ll work on that next.) Here are a few examples:
- Lifting and manipulating things at work, or while shopping, or working in the yard, or around the house, etc.;
- Dealing with distractions and restrictions on ourselves while attempting to do just about anything in our lives; and,
- Educating those we’re responsible for – through example not just words – how they can handle their own responsibilities while developing and maintaining their wellness.
This list goes on and on, but this does lead us to the second thing I wanted to discuss: How to get up when we fall off the horse; in other words . . . .
To build on that old Chinese saying, we can say that a thousand step journey doesn’t end with 999 steps. If we stop at 999 steps we will still not reach our destination. So, in order to reach any goal, we have to find a way to keep going.
One of the tools martial artists use to prevent lapses in training and/or get back to training after a lapse of time is the if/then exercise. Here are some examples:
If I’m on a business trip and can’t eat a healthy meal at home, I’ll order a salad with my meal on the road;
- If I cannot get to the kwoon (i.e., school) to train, I will go online and study Sifu Yost’s videos (we make available to students);
- If I have something that causes me stress at work or home, I will find a way to incorporate my training to engineer out that stress;
- If I say an unkind word to a loved one, I will quickly apologize and follow up with a loving word; and,
- If I notice something getting in the way of my goals, I will meditate on why they exist and any means to eliminate or mitigate them.
Everyone experiences lapses. What we cannot afford to do, however, is allow those to become excuses for future neglect (i.e., use as an excuse not to try). As long as we live, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones to manage our lives. If we do not, there will always be predators waiting to resource us, and leave us empty (or worse).
Empower yourself to life!™
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