Trade Excellence for Perseverence

Bill Mattocks

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I've seen it many times. New students become frustrated by the perception of the gulf between their own performance and that of more experienced students.

"That brown belt, she's excellent. I'll never be that good! I try and try but I just can't do it! I'm going to quit!"

But it's not excellence that sticks around. It's not excellence that makes it to higher black belt ranks. At least, it's not excellence alone.

I look around at the people who are left in my dojo from when I started. There are none. Aside from the instructors, they're all gone. Most of them were MUCH better than I was. I sucked, and I'm not being artificially humble.

There was only one thing I had. Willingness to keep trying. Willingness to suck. Patience with myself. And frankly, a lack of desire to compare myself to others. Sure, I tried to improve. Sure, I tried to emulate what the better students did. But the improvement was glacial in my case. I didn't get better quickly, it took ages.

When I started in my dojo, I could not even get through the warm up exercises without sitting against the wall, pouring sweat and panting like a dog.

"Do your best" was the advice I got. No judgment if I could not keep up, and no one else told me what 'my best' was or should be. The only person pushing me was me. Quitting was always an option; I wasn't even locked into a contract.

So my advice is to forget about excellence for now. Stop worrying about how terrible you are. Be terrible. But be there, training.

It's really the only secret to martial arts success.

Here's another secret. It applies to most of life, as well. We're not all Olympic athletes. We're not all geniuses in business. We're not all the best at whatever we do for a living or in school. It doesn't matter. Showing up and trying your best are most of what success looks like.
 

Wing Woo Gar

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I've seen it many times. New students become frustrated by the perception of the gulf between their own performance and that of more experienced students.

"That brown belt, she's excellent. I'll never be that good! I try and try but I just can't do it! I'm going to quit!"

But it's not excellence that sticks around. It's not excellence that makes it to higher black belt ranks. At least, it's not excellence alone.

I look around at the people who are left in my dojo from when I started. There are none. Aside from the instructors, they're all gone. Most of them were MUCH better than I was. I sucked, and I'm not being artificially humble.

There was only one thing I had. Willingness to keep trying. Willingness to suck. Patience with myself. And frankly, a lack of desire to compare myself to others. Sure, I tried to improve. Sure, I tried to emulate what the better students did. But the improvement was glacial in my case. I didn't get better quickly, it took ages.

When I started in my dojo, I could not even get through the warm up exercises without sitting against the wall, pouring sweat and panting like a dog.

"Do your best" was the advice I got. No judgment if I could not keep up, and no one else told me what 'my best' was or should be. The only person pushing me was me. Quitting was always an option; I wasn't even locked into a contract.

So my advice is to forget about excellence for now. Stop worrying about how terrible you are. Be terrible. But be there, training.

It's really the only secret to martial arts success.

Here's another secret. It applies to most of life, as well. We're not all Olympic athletes. We're not all geniuses in business. We're not all the best at whatever we do for a living or in school. It doesn't matter. Showing up and trying your best are most of what success looks like.
Man, I can really identify with this post.
 

Tony Dismukes

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Jake the Dog via drop bear usually said:
Dude, suckin at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.
I'm probably a prime example of the point you are making in your post. When I started training martial arts 42+ years ago, I was about in the bottom 1% of the general population in terms of any sort of athletic talent, fighting spirit, strength, flexibility, endurance, kinesthetic awareness, mental focus, general toughness, or any other metric by which you might predict success in the martial arts. I was also devoid of any realistic idea of how fighting works, how martial arts works, or how completely behind the curve I was in terms of my starting ability.

What I did have was a personal fascination with martial arts in all their various forms. So I started training once I had a chance and I kept on training. I had a few years here and there where I wasn't training consistently in a dojo with a real instructor, but even during those periods, I did what I could on my own, doing solo drills, reading, watching videos, and finding training partners to work out with in the park or gym.

42 years later, I won't pretend to be any kind of great martial arts master or champion fighter. But I'm in the gym 5 days a week, sparring with guys 30-40 years younger than I am. I've coached amateur and professional fighters and gotten positive feedback on my coaching. I've helped teach a number of students who have gone on to surpass me in skill and fighting ability, because they had both talent and the willingness to work hard. I've also met a number of fellow practitioners who, through talent and hard work, were able to kick my *** regularly ... until they dropped out of training for one reason or another while I kept on showing up. Sometimes one of these guys will show back up and I discover that my slow but steady tortoise progression has allowed me to surpass them.

At 59, even with accumulated injuries and a severe loss of fitness compared to 20-30 years ago, I'm still improving my skill, knowledge, and overall fighting ability. I know that I'm probably not that far from the point where my fading physical attributes will mean that my fighting ability goes down even as continue to train. But I expect my skill and knowledge will continue to improve. And one day my physical limitations may progress to the point where my skill will also deteriorate. But I expect that my ability to enjoy myself while training will continue as long as I am physically capable of stepping onto the mat.
 

Bujingodai

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I sucked the high wind for the 1st few years. Even my Sensei was not hidden about how he felt about me. I actually remember the dojo raising funds for a Japan trip. I was the only student not invited to attend. LOL. I guess I sucked pretty bad. Take that 20 years later. I have a student, very annoying. Always breaking his toe or sickly . Truely hard to watch, years later. Best on the mats. I wouldn't go toe to toe with him. Was a short fat kid now tall bald and an 8 pack with a gorgeous wife and kids HHAHAHHAA Karma.

I'm still short and fat
 
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