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A Lack of Motivation to Practice Martial Arts and a Change of Perspective

One of my online members asked a question in an email last night. He asked how I would respond to a student (himself) who found it difficult to motivate himself to practice.

I smiled when I read it, because I can't count the number of people who swore they would be my best student but dropped out quickly when they realized how difficult it is to learn martial arts. 

I replied, "I would tell him that even 10 or 15 minutes a day can help you move forward. But what teachers THINK is that it's a lot easier to think about being a martial artist than it is to actually do the work to develop skill."

He thanked me for my fast reply, but I realized he had bought his first DVDs from me in 2016. So I replied back and asked him how I could help him.

What he told me next caused a real shift in perspective.

He told me he was so far along in kidney failure that he found it difficult to practice. He also let me know that he has diabetic neuropathy in his feet, making him unable to feel the floor.

Isn't it interesting how we don't know what people are going through unless they tell us? Here he is, fighting kidney failure and other problems, and he still has a desire to practice martial arts. That is truly inspiring.

I know the feeling. Losing a lung, coughing up blood off and on for years, developing exercise-related asthma -- I know first-hand how much motivation it takes to practice despite the punches we take from life -- to practice even when we're gasping for air -- to practice even when we don't feel like it.

So this guy is my kind of person. And I gave him a message that I would give anyone. That message is:

Take care of yourself.

In the final moments of your life, if you are fortunate enough to realize it is your final moment, you will not be wishing you could practice Laojia Yilu again, or hit the punching bag, or do some sparring.

You will be wishing you had one more moment to spend with your loved ones.

I love many things in my life. I love to write. I love good rock 'n roll. I love martial arts.

But there are things more important than any of that: my wife, my children, my grandchildren.

Practice hard if you can. Find 10 minutes a day if that's what will get you moving and practicing. Then maybe add another five minutes here and there until you are practicing 30 minutes a day. Then add more time if you can. If you have issues that can cause you to lose your mental balance, spend five minutes a day -- or more if you can -- practicing qigong. Calm your mind and body.

But don't beat yourself up about it. Martial arts should be fun. There's a serious intent behind learning to defend yourself, but I believe you should have a good time doing it, and not make it so painful an experience that you avoid it.

Practice hard if you can. Remain centered at all times. Enjoy every moment you can. And be good to yourself.

--by Ken Gullette


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Joe from Pittsburgh

Not bad. Not bad...

Linda Nairobi

Wonderful advice! Shared amongst my tai chi community here in Kenya

Jay L Gischer

They way I would describe it (I don't disagree at all) is that you have to figure out how to enjoy what you're working on right now. That can take a bit, so be patient with yourself.

There are so many tales of old masters making a new student stand post for the first year, and that person turning into one of the best students. One could read that as a tale of how determined that student was to succeed, or one could read it as that student discovered how much he enjoyed the stillness.

Ken Gullette

Jay, what you are saying is true, but there are complexities beyond desire and persistence when you are facing issues such as kidney failure and neuropathy. If you have faced these health crises, or other serious ones such as a-fib, coughing up blood and blood clots in the lung, as I have, it's easy to understand how the body's self-protection makes motivation for exercise harder to come by. Sometimes, as I believe it has been for me, pushing yourself can pay off. And sometimes, you have to listen to what your body is telling you and not push so hard.

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