I’ve been reading a book called The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson (see links below for more info). It’s a personal development book based around the concept that our success in anything, in our careers, relationships, fitness, skill acquisition, in life, is based on the little things we do or don’t do every day. The idea is that making big gains usually involves working toward a goal incrementally over a long period of time. The good thing about this is that these increments are small and easy to do on an ongoing basis. The bad thing is that they are also easy NOT to do.
When you make the time to do the small incremental task on a day, you don’t immediately see some massive change. Change is happening, but it’s so small that it’s unnoticeable. On the other side, if you don’t do the task, you don’t immediately see any negative side effect, making it easy NOT to do. You can easily justify in your mind that not doing it one day is not such a big deal. But according to the author, there is no such thing as coasting along with no change. You’re always either moving toward greatness or away from it, however small those movements may be. I recently experienced an example how powerful these small incremental movements can be if you keep them going.
The other night I was having a conversation over wings with a few of our students. We were discussing the different martial arts instructors they have been exposed to at the dojo during guest instructor seminars. The topic of one’s personal intensity came up in the context of how intense overall the various instructors were. It got me to thinking about my own intensity and how I use it in training, teaching and life in general.
Intensity may not be the perfect word to describe what I talking about here. When I say intensity, I mean that fire you draw on when you are dealing with heightened circumstances. If you train in the martial arts, you may have already experienced it at some point, whether that was during a belt test, sparring or some form of intense training circle. This mental state is basically the controlled use of adrenaline. While in this state, your surroundings are more clear. Your attitude is more serious, more focused. You’re not thinking about all the steps before taking an action, you just act on the instincts you’ve developed for yourself. (more…)
Oftentimes when students first start training in a martial art, they feel unsure of themselves and lack confidence in the application of their techniques, even when they start developing some skill in them. This can manifest as startled expressions, diminutive postures and questioning looks toward instructors or more senior students. This is entirely understandable, but it has a negative impact on the application of techniques and can also hurt their general awareness of their surroundings.
I was recently working with a student like this who is getting ready to go for their yellow belt. The student has gained enough skill to do most of their techniques without having to consciously remember them, but is timid in their application in the way I described above. I gave this student one of the most important lessons in terms of attitude when first starting out: “Fake it till you make it.” (more…)
Smaller statured men and women often encounter many challenges in the martial arts related to their smaller strength, weight, height and reach. More often than not, they frustratedly struggle against their limitations, which frequently leads to their giving up early on in their career. Or if they stick with it, they sometimes settle for less with themselves, accepting that there are some things they will simply never be able to do well in the martial arts. This is what happens when you focus on your weaknesses and the liabilities they present. Over the past 20 years of training as a smaller statured woman, I’ve learned that the best way to compensate for so-called liabilities is to focus on developing my personal strengths and the unique opportunities they present. (more…)