The Doctrine of the Martial Mind.
In my last writing about what training actually does, I spoke mainly about what our training does in relation to the world around us.
The other day whilst out doing some road work, I felt drained, sore and rather exhausted before I started. When I hit the 2 mile mark I was seriously thinking of quitting. Then I asked myself this question: “How will I feel if I quit now? How will I feel if I keep going and complete what I set out to do? Which of these two emotional states do I want to experience later?” I came to the conclusion that putting up with the suffering for 2 more miles was far less important than giving into myself and living with a failure, no matter how I might justify quitting.
This to me is a trait that training gives us and it’s called “integrity”. No one would have known that I would have quit. No one would have known that I failed myself. These successes and failures I experience in training are deeply personal and unknown to my fellow human beings if I don’t want them to know. But what other people think and know is totally irrelevant. It’s facing myself and the goals that I have set, that becomes more paramount than anything else.
I do not train for contest any more. I am 50 years of age and see no need for such activities. I am engaged in a far greater contest and that is against myself. The triumph of the will is far more challenging and rewarding than anything else.
Some people like to spiritualize combat training and martial arts training. I have a much different view of what spirituality is because of my Christian faith, however I sincerely believe that training does have a great effect on ones character.
This character is forged by relentless and assiduous training. In today’s world I see so many people start projects with great enthusiasm and determination. But as time passes by, the enthusiasm dwindles because of difficulties, obstacles and some times sheer boredom. A combat fighter simple does not have this mind set. A combat fighter is so used to pain and suffering, that when things get tough their personal integrity kicks in and has them accomplishing what others would never accomplish.
Why is this? The reason is quite simple. The combat fighter develops a completely different self image that allows them a greater sense of personal power over themselves. By their very nature, a combat fighter contributes to a strong and healthy self image which allows them to complete what others would never complete.
Today’s world is full of negative feedback. We don’t perform at work, we are criticized by people, we get short of money and can’t pay our bills and thus harassment, we don’t accomplish what our parents and peers expect of us.
Someone objects to the way we drive etc. There is always someone putting us down in one way or another, for the things we do. If we take too much notice of this we start carrying a lot of baggage and end up submitting to this negative way of viewing ourselves. Soon the self image is chipped away to the point that we don’t perform to the things we would like to do because we have an enemy within constantly seeking to derail us.
Combat training is an excellent means of putting off these negative influences and building a stronger and healthier self image. By its very nature, right from the beginning, combat training contributes to and develops self worth. For example, we constantly set and achieve goals. By turning up at the gym or dojo, that’s one goal achieved. By warming up that’ is another goal achieved. By performing 20 pushups, that’s another goal achieved. We constantly set and achieve goals (even minor ones have a major impact). Everything that we are involved with in training causes us to reach deep down within our souls and pull out a strength and integrity that enables us to perform to what some may consider for themselves, the impossible.
By merely setting and achieving minor goals we are building an integrity level that is a foundational value to work towards great heights of achievement. In other words by constantly living with minor successes we build a psychological frame work that is strong and healthy that allows us to take on any task we set, in a frame of mind that is used to setting and achieving tasks. It doesn’t matter if one has just started training. By merely starting training, one has chosen a new mind-set to live by and that mind set will grow and develop.
The end result of that mind set is living with a great deal of satisfaction. Maybe we haven’t won a contest fight, maybe we haven’t beaten some guy in sparring, maybe we haven’t out lifted the next guy. None of this really matters long term, because deep within your soul we have achieved something far greater, something of intrinsic value. And that something is dynamic personal integrity. By applying that integrity on any given task we come out the other side, knowing we endured what needed to be endured, faced adversity head on and won. We can go to sleep at night knowing we are achievers and sleep soundly knowing we did all we can do and enjoy the mental satisfaction of accomplishment.
I drive myself extremely hard for my age. There are days when I just can’t do any more. There are days when I simply cannot physically do what my mind wants to do. Instead of beating myself up for failing, I look at it in a totally different light. I can stop training and bask in the knowledge that I did all that I could possibly do and there was no loss of integrity in my mental performance. In other words, I pushed myself to the absolute limit and that is what is required on any given day. Anything less than this is mental failure and that is something I cannot live with and neither should you as a combat fighter.
Combat training requires an enormous effort. This effort does not come from the body. It does not come from another person like a coach or teacher. It comes directly from your own personal sense of integrity. You set a goal and then you have to ask yourself whether you have the integrity to finish it.
The people I like the most in this world are quiet achievers. Braggers and big mouths are everywhere. They are busy blowing their own trumpets and making noises to get attention. This comes from a poor self-image. There is a need to get attention to cover up the poor view of ones self that is lying underneath. This beast needs to be constantly fed. My view is that the combat fighter is not concerned about what the outside world thinks, because the only thing that matters is how they perform within themselves and this is the only concern.
To boost the self is to make judgment of others. “I am great and thus by default you are not”. There is an old saying, “Egotism is a weird disease, it makes everybody sick except the one who’s got it”. The combat fighter is not involved in such petty mental views, because how other people are, has no impact on their performance. Their goal is the development of the self, by the self, in the achievement of goals for the self and this does not require the judgment, analyzing and put down of another human being. The combat fighter realizes that we all have different priorities and that ones judgementalism of another, with a put down attitude, does not in one iota,
contribute to the development of ones life goals. Thus judgementalism becomes a useless emotion and activity. All is does is contribute to the already high levels of strife in this world.
Yes it’s true that I feel we need to look at other people’s strengths and weaknesses in our training to add or avoid with the view of better development of ourselves, but we do not do this in a cruel, judging, egotistical way. We do it in the most productive way of viewing and not putting down.
Again this all goes back to our levels of integrity. Does the putting down of others enhance our own performance? Of course not, so why do people do it? Does putting others down make you run faster, punch faster, make you more agile? Absolutely not!
Judging and condemning others is one of the most destructive traits in the human nature. It’s a demon that lives in all of us and it’s a demon that needs to be eliminated to free the soul toward the goal of having residing in us, only the things that are most beneficial to the development of our goals. It takes up space where more worthwhile attributes need a home.
The combat fighter is only interested in things that are beneficial to himself. Negatives traits that one may only foster in the mind, also need to be eliminated. Harbouring such negative attitudes only seeks to destroy the self. One is far better off visualizing goals that need to be attained, rather than wasting time with thoughts of negativism toward others. Why would a negative thought toward another be more important than ones own personal goals? If people truly understood the power of visualization, they wouldn’t waste a second on negative thinking and especially negative thinking towards other human beings. Perhaps someone is not as far down the road as you; perhaps their journey is on a different life’s path. Who appointed you judge and jury? I don’t believe a true combat fighter would waste time on such petty and childish behaviour because they understand the reality of what is a productive emotion and what is useless emotion.
Combat fighters are truly goal orientated and because they are, they soon learn what enhances the development of their goals and what does not and thus they eliminate things that have no effect on the development of their goals. This starts with the analysis of ones own thought patterns. By hard training we see what is effective and what is not. Our minds are so pre-occupied with focusing on the tasks at hand that we have no time for negative thinking and when we are not training we are thinking about our training and thus there still is no room for negative thinking.
Again this goes back to the integrity of clearly understanding what is beneficial and what is not. This integrity is clearly developed and enhanced by hard training.
Another trait that is developed by training is forgiveness and the spirit of co-operation. Image if you didn’t forgive your sparring partner? Imagine if you didn’t co-operate with your coach or teacher? You would get nowhere. By learning to forgive and co-operate in the development and attainment of your goals, you become a better person inside. This is yet another attribute that hard training fosters and often subliminally. Forgiveness is an important trait for any human being because implementing it removes the disharmony with in the soul.
A deep personal sense of patience is developed by training also. Often when people refer to patience as a positive trait, the concept is directed toward our fellow human beings. However just as importantly this patience forged by riding the waves of frustration and pain soon becomes paramount that it is also directed toward the self. I am an impatient person by nature. I want all that I want and I don’t want to wait. If there is a short cut in anything I do, you can be sure I will be the first to find it.
In some ways this is a positive thing because it allows me to use my creative talents to find more effective ways of doing things. However there are certainly times when this is a destructive attribute of my personality. This is where my training helps my soul. I have to labour hard. I have to come to terms with pain and suffering and I have to sit back and wait for this old body of mine to recover so I can start the whole development programme again. I often see questions and comments from people that the only answer is patience and waiting. I deliberately don’t comment on such
things because I feel that, that person needs to learn on their own that deep within their own psyche that the only solution to the concern at hand is waiting with confidence. This is an important area of our training. We must come to terms with the fact that our bodies can only do so much and that time is the only thing that is needed to get us through. We need to learn that by confidently waiting after hard training, all that we seek will come to realization because we have paid the exact price that is required.
I also believe that our hard training develops virtuosity. Let me define this. Morality is keeping a law because one is afraid of the consequences to breaking that law. Virtuosity is having a frame of mind where one would not even think to break that law in the first place. Virtuosity is superior to morality. How is this affected and developed by our training?
You see, in our training we labour hard for the things that we seek. This fosters many traits such as patience, goal orientation, focus, forgiveness, co-operation, respect for our fellow humans and it is my belief that the natural on-flow of these traits leads to virtuosity. Our minds and bodies are so constantly involved in hard work, labouring, suffering, patience etc that subliminally and also consciously, we reach a pinnacle where our world view is that we have respect for our fellow man and thus would not do anything to cause anything that would allow pain or suffering to others
There are so many positive traits that our training has on ourselves, I could write volumes analyzing each one and the impact on our world. But know this; that combat training by its very nature builds the mind, fosters the spirit and causes us to be better human beings whether we seek that as a goal or not. Train long enough and hard enough and you will be a changed person in ways you never realized. Isn’t that exciting?