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April 2024

Are You a Failure at Martial Arts?

Ken-Nancy-St-Pete-2024-smallI received an email from one of my online members who said he hasn't been practicing much lately because of a busy work schedule. He felt like a failure as a martial artist.

The truth is, you should never feel like a failure at martial arts. Sometimes, life, work, family, and other important activities can get in the way of a regular practice schedule. It happens to all of us occasionally. It's okay.

I don't know why you got into martial arts, but I got into it for three reasons:

Reason 1 -- I wanted to learn how to fight more effectively, like Bruce Lee and Kwai Chang Caine.

Reason 2 -- I kung-fu is cool.

Reason 3 -- To impress women. Of course, this is why some of us guys do anything.

I might be in my 70s now, but I still like to impress Nancy. That's why every now and then, I whip out my broadsword. 

As Joe Biden would say, here's the deal. Don't get suckered by the tough keyboard warriors online who pretend you're not worthy if you aren't ready to enter an MMA ring. That isn't real life self-defense. I'm not ready to do an MMA match, but I'm also not ready to play an NBA game or play for the Chicago Cubs. I'm not a professional athlete. That is not real life for most of us.

Here's something else to think about: we all get busy. We all have responsibilities. And sometimes, we get tired.

Give yourself a break. Be good to yourself. 

Last week, I took a week off. Nancy and I flew to St. Petersburg, Florida on Sunday and flew back the next Sunday. For a week, I didn't practice, I didn't scribble ideas or plans, I didn't teach and I didn't study. I tried not to think of martial arts. It was wonderful to spend a week slacking off with the woman I love. The photo above was taken at John's Pass in St. Pete.

And guess what? I took a week off and nobody died.

To me, martial arts is fun. I love making progress, even taking a baby step forward. After 50 years, I still make progress in my understanding and my movement. That's exciting.

So here's my advice if you feel like a failure for not taking the time to practice as much as you want.

To be honest, you are a failure if you DON'T spend time with your family, your partner, your kids, instead of working out. On your death bed, you will not be saying, "Damn, I wish I could run through Laojia Yilu one more time." No, you'll be thinking, "I wish I had another day with my family."

Now, how do we strike a balance and work our way back to a more regular practice schedule?

If you have just five minutes a day to focus, practice a silk-reeling exercise, or one of the Xingyi fist postures, or the Bagua Basic Palms form; just five minutes a day and you can make progress.

If you have ten minutes, that may be all you have today, but you can make progress.

If you're a member of my website, log onto the site and practice to one of the videos that breaks down a movement in one of the forms. Whichever form you are working on, it doesn't matter. Take 10 minutes and try to gain a new insight into one movement.

If you do this each day, it might spark the excitement again and before long, you'll start finding the time.

Remember, you are not in a competition. Take the pressure off yourself. Very few of us are going to be Bruce Lee, or Chen Xiaowang, or even Jean-Claude Wham Bam Van Damme.

So train when you can, but don't think of yourself as a failure if you don't.

Life is busy. Go with the flow. Thinking of yourself as a failure isn't fun. Don't forget to have fun.

--by Ken Gullette 


Internal Arts Teacher and DAOI Podcast Host William Bentley is Guest on the 74th Internal Fighting Arts Podcast

Bill-BentleyI met Bill Bentley when he hosted me on the DAOI Talks podcast. He is involved with the Daoist Arts Organization International (hence the name DAOI Talks). Bill is a good man who teaches Xingyi through daoistgatecenter.org, and privately he teaches Xingyi, Bagua, Wudang style sword, and self-defense. He began his martial arts training at the age of 10 in a Shaolin-based family style of kung-fu (the same school I started in way back in 1973), and since then, Bill has studied Wing Chun, Jeet Kune Do concepts (including Filipino martial arts), and the Kendo and Aikido. Later, after a serious injury, Bill practiced qigong and developed an interest in the Wudang arts. He now studies with Master Zhou Xuan Yun, training with him in the arts of Xingyi Quan and Taiyi Xuan Men Jian sword practice, as well as Taiji and Bagua. He has also studied the Wudang Taiji 108 with Rosie Segil and Qigong with Anita Eredics. He also lives in my hometown, Lexington, Kentucky. The podcast runs an hour and four minutes. You can listen through the player below or you can download the podcast. Enjoy!