Listen To These Four Words

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Gene Dunn

Photo © Francine Schaepper /

There’s a really powerful saying that we’d like for you to consider today. It’s a strategy that martial artists have used for centuries, but it’s also more than that.

This reminder has been a resource for those of us who want to address the obstacles in our lives directly, even in moments when we’re fearful or uncertain.

It’s not complicated. But significantly, it’s also not a solution. At least not at first. It’s more like a light we get to shine into the darker corners.

(Which is, after all, what the martial arts is about.)

The formula is four simple words…

“What we resist, persists.”

It means that whatever we push back against – what we don’t like and refuse to accept – will always come back.

Here’s a story to put it in context. I was talking to a student about being nervous before class. But rather than trying to escape the nervousness, which I think is what most people want to do, my recommendation was to just be nervous. It’s OK.

I said, “If you feel anxious, don’t resist. Don’t push back against being nervous if that’s how you feel. Instead, accept it. Then do what you need to do anyway. The commitment will carry you through.”

See, commitment is the magic ingredient when it comes to implementing this kind of persistence.

For the student in this story, her commitment was to take the kata class, to do that kata training. So nervous or not, feel good or not, happy, sad, whatever, that’s her commitment.

The commitment shrinks our worry, because there’s only one way ahead. We see this regularly in good martial arts training – we narrow our options to the best ones available, then we pick one and engage completely.

We embrace and accept whatever’s going on, then keep to the commitment.

What happens next? Well, instead of seeking an escape from our problems or our worries, we meet them as they are. We don’t have to spend all our time avoiding areas in which we feel weak.

Instead of running away or giving up, we welcome resistance. And with practice and guidance and good training, we find that it is just another tool to strengthen our resolve.

It’s the best part of martial arts at work.

For more about our larger project of cooperative Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts training, visit the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Brooklyn BJJ) website here.

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One Comment

  1. S_Chow

    Thank you! Reminds me of the often famous quote: “If you don’t succeed at first try again.” VP Biden upon his 2008 acceptance speech spoke eloquently about what his mother advice to him as a 10 year old growing up in a rough neighborhood. I would highly recommend anyone to listen to his acceptance speech via youtube.

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