Sometimes people ask me how I’ve gone over 30 years in the martial arts. There are so many benefits of martial arts, from brain health to weight management, from better moods to less stress, but still people quit all the time.
Is there some special attribute that you need to possess? Is it a skill, something that can be developed or learned?
It turns out that there’s really only one thing.
You might say you need to be physically conditioned or genetically tough…but there are plenty of people I could cite who are neither of those things and have managed to stick it out.
You might say you need to have “mental toughness” or heart…but every practitioner experiences times when they’re frustrated, uncertain or in need of support, so that’s not a constant.
And this is the crux of the problem: these things are all variable. So if I could say one thing to sum up all that we do in the martial arts, what’s the one thing that everybody needs to know, the thing that will save you, my answer is “to live by principle”.
It’s not a problem of physical strength or even mental fitness…it’s a total orientation that allows you to find solutions, even when you barely have any resources left.
Relying on principles gives direction, focus and stability to a ceaselessly changing practice. Principles can help when:
- You feel like exercise is difficult and it’s easier to go online
- You believe that resting will bring you more satisfaction that activity
- You sense that you’re not making the progress you want or expect from yourself
- You think training is complicated and others are obstacles
- You need strength to push forward during setbacks
In our school of Jiu-Jitsu, there are overriding physical principles for the training, even beyond just “efficiency and leverage”. First, there’s “seek the control that leads to submission”, and second, “look to gain the inside control”.
That’s not all. The school also rests on three dominant mental principles – joy, humility and gratitude. They serve as the foundational beliefs that help to guide our behavior with ourselves and each other, no matter what else is happening. These three lead us back to a proactive, positive mindset where we can regain our equilibrium.
Best of all, they interact and serve us as students, teachers and practitioners. The physical and mental principles run parallel to each other to create a source of stability and orientation, like a roadmap to get home when you’re lost.
For instance, in Jiu-Jitsu when everything starts to fall apart, if you just focus on maintaining the inside position, you’ll be fine. There will be room to maneuver, to figure your way out.
Then in the rest of your life, if you have joy humility and gratitude, when everything starts to fall apart, you can also figure your way out.
When we operate with principles in mind, we become warriors instead of worriers. We transition from an anxiety state into a sense of purpose.
So if there’s one thing that I could say to everyone, it’s to search for the principle, master the principle. The principle is our way of knowing which way is up, which gives us a chance to right the boat before it takes on too much water. Techniques and answers, strength and solutions all blossom out of that.