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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

Song Style Xingyiquan and the Chen Taijiquan Practical Method -- the Internal Fighting Arts Podcast Interview with Raphael Smith

In the 73rd edition of my Internal Fighting Arts podcast, I interview Raphael Smith. He is a disciple of Song Style Xingyquan Master Li Yujie and he teaches Xingyiquan and Chen Taijiquan Practical Method, among other combat-related arts, in Sacramento, California.

Check out the interview or download it here.

A Zen Parable on the Existence of Evil Demons

From the Zen book, A Handful of Nothing (available on Amazon)

In GardenA new year was approaching. In the village, the Spring Festival was underway. Monks visiting the village encountered people who were excited about goals they were setting to achieve in the new year that involved good luck, health, and prosperity.

A shopkeeper asked the young monk, "Are you looking forward to the new year? Stay in the village for the afternoon. There will be fireworks at dusk to ward off evil spirits."

"Evil spirits," the monk repeated, considering the words.

When he returned to the monastery, he found the old master in the garden, where the air was filled with the scent of blooming flowers, heralding the arrival of spring.

"Master," the young monk said, "in the village, fireworks are being set off this evening to ward off evil spirits."

Wisely, the master replied, "And you are wondering if evil spirits are a reality?"

The monk smiled. "It seems you can see into my mind."

The master laughed, then turned and looked down. "See these flowers," he said, his hand gesturing. "To some, they are symbols of beauty and life. To others, who may have suffered from thorns or allergies, they might symbolize pain and discomfort."

The monk looked at the flowers, admiring the colors of yellow, red and purple. He breathed deeply to enjoy the calming aroma of roses, and the lavendar scent of hyacinth.

"When people believe in demons," the master continued in a calm, measured voice, "their belief is like their reaction to these flowers; shaped by their experiences, their fears, and their hopes. The mind is a powerful creator of realities. It can turn fear into a demon and misunderstanding into a malevolent spirit. But remember, these are creations of the mind, nurtured by ignorance and fear. Sometimes, beliefs are encouraged by those who have a personal interest in your belief in demons."

His eyes scanned the garden for a moment, then he said, "In a garden, if you plant flowers, flowers grow. In people, if you plant ignorance and fear, ignorance and fear grow."

A butterfly was flitting from flower to flower as the young monk followed with his eyes, watching as the butterfly seemed unconcerned with thorns it occasionally encountered. 

The old master turned to the young monk and said, "The true battle is not with spirits and demons outside of us but with the delusions within. Overcome these, and no spirit or demon can harm you."

The young monk bowed to his master and walked slowly through the garden, enjoying the glorious colors and fresh smells of spring. He reflected on the practice of seeing the world as it is, with a view unobstructed by the delusions and fears others want to plant within us.  

--by Ken Gullette