Humility

Something Kaneda said to me last week kinda sticks out at me. Like a barb, really. It’s caught on my shirt, under my skin even, and it’s not going away. He said that sometimes what you look like in your mind is not what you’re doing with your body. You can be convinced you’re perfect, but anyone looking at you can tell you that your form is poor in this, that and the other way. Like Maslow’s ideal self vs the actual self- the incongruity between what you aspire to and what you are can be quite frustrating. Well, I have a pretty big announcement to make.

I’m not all I talk myself up to be.

Throughout the past, oh I don’t know, four or five years of my life (or perhaps even longer, maybe since I was 11 or 12-years-old), I have perpetuated the narrative that I am a natural and talented martial artist. I have convinced myself I have a certain knack for seeing "the right move at the right time".  This may be true, this may not be. But what definitely isn’t true is the story I tell which describes me as invincible. Untouchable, unbeatable, indominable. A pillar of calm and strength on the battlefield, swift as the wind and fluid as water. No. This is my mind’s self. This is not my actual self.

I discovered yesterday that I’m actually getting unfit. It’s so hard to believe, but I can’t jog for more than a minute. I don’t have lightning speed like I believe I used to. I already know I’m not particularly strong, but without my speed and stamina, I’m just… listless. Energy equals mass times velocity squared. Without mass, I was relying on velocity. Without velocity, I’m just dead weight. This realisation spurred me, in frustration, to train. When I got home from Anigames, I went outside into the dark and cold, warmed up, and started shadow boxing. My jabs and punches are still quick, but perhaps they lack the power that comes from application. My legs on the other hand, are slow. I can see where they should be moving, and how fast, but they don’t. My mind tells them to kick, but they drag themselves through the air a split second behind what I intend. They take too long to wind up, and still don’t have enough power and balance in them to hit hard and still recover. In short, I’ve fallen out of practice. I came to the conclusion (as I have many times) that I need a regular sparring partner to help reveal to me my weaknesses and strengths, but one who was on equal terms with (or perhaps slightly better than) me. I asked Bethwyn to spar with me, and asked her permission for me to apply myself and absolutely dominate her, just to see if I could. She agreed, so long as I had the control to pull my punches. I asked her to really intend to hit me as hard as she could, and when I took her hits, they were half-hearted. My judgement upset her further until she started trying to really hurt me. I spurred her anger- a terrible crime in itself- and when I found some of her attacks I could not anticipate, I began to counter. It was easy- she had almost no experience, so I don’t know why I wanted to fight someone less skilled than I was. What gratification could I possibly gain from defeating those who were weaker than me? But I did it anyway. I kicked at her openings, made jabs, punches and elbows stopping just short of hitting her. She began to anticipate herself, to improve. She dodged a jab to the face which I had intended to hit. So I varied it, turning the next action into a jab punch. After she dodged the jab, she came in to counter but my punch hit her (with my second finger rather than my third knuckle- poor technique) in the lip and she started bleeding. I felt awful, so furious at myself for my lack of control. Ironically, the angrier I got the less control I had. She was all right (proud, actually, for being able to take it) after she got over the shock of being punched in the face for a first time. I however was not so forgiving.

Long story short, I got very upset for a while. The anger faded, and with my energy gone all that was left was depression. I sought to understood what happened and why- how I could let myself hit my girlfriend in the face and why I was feeling so frustrated. I came to the realisation that I was frustrated at my inadequacy- at the incongruence between my ideal and actual selves. I desperately wanted to prove myself wrong, seeking challenge and ways of fuelling my ego, and when I could not, it drove me crazy. I was fighting for such wrong reasons. Once I realised this, I also realised the real reason why I study the martial arts. Not to defend myself or others, not to defeat my opponents, not to strengthen my body, discipline my mind or grow my spirit. These things are secondary. What’s really important is learning. To learn about myself, life, my relationships, the people around me, my enemies, all things. Martial training, at whatever level, is about learning, growing, developing, improving as a human being in all ways. And I must never lose sight of this again. Competition, if friendly, can teach us more about ourselves and each other. Competition, if vicious, can make us lose sight of why we’re competing. I strive now to be humble- to accept the humiliation of my error and to stop this folly of perpetuating unreal stories about myself. I am who I am, at this point in time, but I will not let that stop me from growing. I will continue my training to improving on the weaknesses I have newly discovered, and even if I am forever no good at fighting, I will be comfortable in the knowledge I have dedicated myself to learning.

Sorry for the long entry. Just something I needed to write.

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