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Humility: Embracing the Right Mind-set and Attitude Toward Training

Humility: Embracing the Right Mind-set and Attitude Toward Training

By Sensei Ryan Goettsche

It's amazing to me how much martial training has changed since I first started. It seems that "the gym mentality" has become more prevalent over the years and the newly termed "me" generation has become more dominant, which I believe can be attributed to the advances in technology. The attitude that "I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it and how I want to do it" is everywhere and, unfortunately, isn’t congruent with the correct way to approach martial arts training. If one chooses to train in a martial art, one must truly desire to learn the art. 

The first step to learning the art is to be humble to the fact that, being a beginner, one knows nothing. Knowing nothing means just that, one has no experience or even more so, no experiences. Just because one has read books upon books based on the art they desire to practice, does not mean that they know how to train. Training is about learning… so how can one learn anything if one doesn't listen to and respect the position of the instructor. If one doesn't humble themselves to the art and the instructor, then they don't really want to learn, they want something else. This something else is not truly known, so they become the fool and will prove this fact in due time.

Humility is the foremost quality of any student of the martial arts, and this humility is what opens the mind to new ways of thinking. This new way of thinking opens the soul to understanding, and this understanding is what opens the body to the unification of mind, body and spirit. The lessons of each and every class are important, and are presented to the student whether they are ready to see it or not. If the student is accepting to the lesson then they will progress, if they are not, then they will become more combative. In the long-term, this delays their progression, or even forces them to stop training because they believe themselves to be more knowledgeable than the instructor. They may become frustrated with the fact that what is being offered is not what they believe they desired to learn. 

The lessons in any "Do" based martial art are deeper and broader than anyone can imagine, so to read a book, and think that one understands it all, is ignorance at its peak. The act of stepping into, asking to train, and then beginning training in a dojo, is where true learning occurs. The act of throwing, being thrown, getting up off the mat time and time again is what matters and listening to what the instructor provides is paramount, even if at that moment, one doesn't agree to what is being shared.  

I can remember many times sitting in seiza for hours listening to my instructor and wondering what he was talking about and even disagreeing (in my own conscious mind, not vocally).  The humility expressed by not arguing/debating the subject is what allowed me to think about the lesson; even if it was something I didn't believe at the time, which is what allowed the subconscious to ponder the lesson over time. It's difficult to change, to accept the necessity to change, and to know that one needs to change. 

The ability to let go of self-comfort, look at oneself objectively, and polish the rough edges, is what martial training provides. The thought that walking into a dojo, believing that it is just a place to solely practice self-defense, or just have a physical workout, is inaccurate. A dojo which trains in "The Way" is about far more than physical prowess and must be approached with the respect and humility that it deserves, because it represents far more than what one sees on the surface.

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