"The Three Rules Of Life: Bust your ass, pay attention and fall in love." Jerry Seinfeld
I recently saw an interview with Jerry Seinfeld and he talked briefly about his three rules of life, bust your ass, pay attention and fall in love. Thought that it would be useful to you to look at these as they relate to our martial arts training.
Bust Your Ass
This means work hard. Any martial artist with great skills has sacrificed time for ability. The martial arts are a vast array of skill sets that take literally hundreds and sometimes thousands of hours to develop. You can’t expect to be really good at the martial arts if you don’t put in the time. I have had people who join our school who pull out after 6-months of training because they think they are not progressing quickly enough. These same people only train once a week and expect that to be enough – it’s not. I am not advocating training every day either. I have also seen many people train like maniacs for 12-18 months and give up because they don’t feel like they are getting much out of it. The key is to find a balance. So what’s “hard” about that, you ask? To recoil a little, most people think when I say train “hard” it means with tremendous physical intensity. And there is a place for physical intensity in your martial arts practice. But physical intensity for a prolonged period is very hard to maintain. Unless you live a lifestyle that enables you to put your feet up for 90% of your day, you run the risk of exhaustion and injury in the future. When I say “train hard” or “work hard” what I really mean is train when it’s hard, work when it’s hard. It’s easy to jump in the car and head into training if you’re super motivated. It’s easy to do a class if you love the material that’s being taught and it’s easy to do a session if you are really good at what’s being covered. But how “hard” is it when you’re not motivated, don’t like the topic of the day and are not good at a particular aspect? It’s really hard, right? You like the idea of turning up to train but your internal dialogue is telling you it’s too hard. And you’re right. It is hard and this is the time to step up to the plate of life and take a swing. Do what is out of character for most of us. Most of us quit at the first sign of an obstacle. Most people stop when it’s a hard thing to do and most people avoid doing things out of laziness. If you want to be good at what you’re doing you must learn this valuable lesson. Train and work when it’s hard - you will thank me for it. Why? Because you will develop a character trait that is almost obsolete in today’s society – determination and a never give up attitude.
For me I think it’s important to pay attention to two vital things when you’re training. Pay attention to your body and paying attention to your mind. Paying attention to your body is important if you want longevity in the martial arts. I heard a story recently about a convention in the 1990s, which showcased all of the best martial arts masters in the United States. All of these martial artists were over 50 years of age and bar only a couple were either extremely over weight or crippled. Further investigation, by someone I know in attendance, revealed that their injuries were a result of years and years of hardcore training. Training with injuries rather than around them - high intensity in every workout instead of staggering their intensity levels and poor eating habits. All of these martial artists evolved in an era where listening to your body took a back seat to smashing though workouts year after year. Don’t make the same mistake. Paying attention to your mind is making sure that your ego does not become your dominant internal motivation. To define your ego is a very difficult thing to do. A psychologist or philosopher is way more qualified to define the ego than me. But from what I have read the ego is the part of us that compares, makes judgment, tries to be better than, tries to win, is fixated on having more, doing more and being more. Now in our martial arts training we are going to come across people who are bigger, stronger, more athletic, quicker learners and physical freaks. The trick is to not let these people deter you from being your best. You have to run your own race. The martial arts are not a competition. The martial arts are a vehicle to improve yourself and be better than you used to be.
Fall In Love
You have to fall in love with the martial arts if you are going to be good at it. We have all heard the cliché quote that it’s the journey that counts not the destination. And I always thought that it was bullshit but now at forty six years of age, with 32 years training under my belt, I have to agree. It is the journey that’s the most important aspect of what we do. If our destination is to better than everyone else, we only have a small window of opportunity to do that. I have met world champion fighters who have reached the top of the food chain for a brief time and then dwindled into the shadows of martial arts stardom. Many of these guys become jaded, disheartened and bitter once they lose their grip on the top pedestal. Only defining your martial arts journey by your achievements within it limits the enjoyment factor. If your physical ability becomes challenged through age and injury or your life commitments don’t allow you to train regularly, then you will lose the love for it if your only form of gratification comes from defeating everyone else. Fall in love with the process of getting better rather than being the best. Fall in love with the interesting things that you will learn as a martial artist. Fall in love with the great people that you meet and train with. Fall in love with knowing that you are slowly chipping away at a skill set that most people would love to do but don’t have the courage to start. Fall in love with any and every aspect of the martial arts that keeps you coming back for more. Because if you stick with it, it will mold you into a better person. That’s what it’s done for me. I would not be the person I am today were it not for the martial arts.