There are quite a few things that make training in the martial arts daunting and even scary.
There are plenty of challenges. Physical and mental. Violence and aggression are things often tied to martial arts, not without some truth, but often without real knowledge of what true martial arts is. In any physical activity there is a chance of injury. After all at its core Martial Arts are about fighting. A good school will develop technique and conditioning to the point where self-confidence and self-control is developed. Most other problems can always be overcome with training and Spirit.
The real challenges though are generally anchored by one thing, when it comes to martial arts the biggest obstacle is a mental one. Ego. Not the type of ego that struts around vainly with it’s nose in the air and chest thrust out, but the ego that sits at the back of our mind and steers us away from doing or saying things that may make us fail miserably in our minds and feel lesser than other people.
In some ways this is a responsible ego. It prevents us from going to work wearing underpants on the outside of our trousers and stops us from being little mice in the corner and taken advantage of by anyone who preys on the weak or placid. The problem with responsible ego is that sometimes it prevents us from taking risks and chances. It allows us to stay quiet or follow the crowd because it is protecting itself from feeling silly and inferior. It plays it safe. Often too safe.
At times I’ve bumped into students or class mates in the street who haven’t trained for a while and the conversation naturally turns to when they are coming back to training. More often than not the answer is something like “I plan on coming back but just want to get a bit fitter first.” Or ”Yeah I’m coming back but need to lose some weight.” Very similar to tidying up your house before the cleaner comes. Sure, you may feel terrible after having time off and you might not be able to do everything in the class, but you are training and it doesn’t matter how bad you look or feel because you are one step better off than you were before you recommenced training. No one is expecting anything from you it is your own expectations and ego that are driving these thoughts.
The same goes for beginners first entering a martial arts school. Understandably it’s a daunting prospect. Am I fit enough? Will I get bashed? What if I look silly? If you have had experience in another martial art there is an even bigger chance of ego popping up as your expectations are even higher. How will I stand up to their students? Will I be good enough?
The higher the expectations the worse the fall.
Again, nobody at a good Martial arts school will have expectations of how you perform or how good you are. The only expectations an instructor would have of you is to have an honest respect for the school and its systems and to act accordingly.
There is a sign at the front of our dojo that reads “Welcome to our Dojo. Please remove all shoes and egos before coming on the mats.” The key word here is “All”.
True martial arts is abandoning all ego because so many personal barriers come up when that ego becomes unchecked. With barriers there are less opportunities to learn all the lessons presented, not only in the dojo but in life too.
We will reach a certain obstacle in our training or even not start at all simply for fear of failing. In truth by “not doing” your mind has already beaten your spirit. You’ve already failed yourself.
Take that step. Abandon the ego.
“Our fears don’t stop death, they stop life”. Rickson Gracie