Monday, November 15, 2010

The Path of the Student

First and foremost, the karate studio is a school. It's not a gym. It's not a playground. It's a place of learning. 

The Japanese word, dojo, means "Way place." The Korean dojang refers to a place traditionally set aside for study and meditation. The archaic meaning of the Chinese guan is "a private school." Martial arts are not just the execution of violence. They are the practice of it. The study. It is the path of the student, hungry for knowledge and reveling in mistakes.

Each of us begin our journey in the same place. The white belt is not a mark of shame or ignorance. It is a proud place along the path. It is the only rank that every martial arts student and master, throughout time, discipline, and culture, has shared. Even the greatest men and women who came before us began as you did. As I did. As white belts.

And as white belts, every technique is a challenge. Every basic is difficult. Every repetition feels uncoordinated. And you think that it's because you're new. But the reality is that in martial arts, you're always new at something. Because you're always learning.

And that's a good thing. That's exciting.  That's the unending Way of martial arts. Every step is a step forward. Every step is a step up the mountain. And yes, it's a constant challenge, but that's empowering. Because every success is earned. And every step is up.

It would take a hundred lifetimes to learn all there is to know about martial arts. Some men spend their whole lives learning just one of the arts. Others try to learn three or four. But there are literally hundreds of styles, from all over the world. You can't learn it all. You can't master it all. 

So don't worry about what you haven't learned. Don't worry about what you haven't mastered, or how long it's taking you to advance. You aren't quitting karate, so today, tomorrow, it's all the same. Just keep moving forward. Keep taking steps.

In all our years on this earth, we will only have time to learn the smallest sliver of what there is to know. So be at peace. Take each lesson as it comes, and let the knowledge slowly pervade your understanding. Be patient with your lessons. Be patient with yourself. Slow to learn, slow to forget. Mistakes are opportunities to learn. FAILING means Finding An Important Lesson, Inviting Needed Growth. 

Learn to love the struggle, because it's not going away. Only by embracing it will you advance.

You aren't racing towards a goal. You are walking a path. So take your time and enjoy the scenery. Remember, the journey is the destination.

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