First Know Yourself by Mireille Clark

The Fourth Precept of Sensei Gichin Funakoshi is

"First know yourself before attempting to know others."

This may sound like a simple plan, but it is deceptive. Many of us believe that we know "who" we are, but in honesty, we wear so many masks, take on so many different roles, and convince ourselves that we are who we are not.

My husband once told me "No one wants to be the bad guy. Everyone wants to wear the white hat." This is so true, and can be seen in the dojo over and over again. We can catch ourselves thinking "If only my partner could have punch properly, I could have blocked that better" or "It's not possible to do this move the way that I'm being asked to do it, my arm doesn't bend that way", or "My instructor is asking too much of me, I'm not capable of doing this"

In each situation we are finding excuses for why we aren't succeeding. We are finding explanations, and arguments in our defense rather than solutions. Being a Martial Artist is taking on responsibility for our own training. We learn to look into ourselves, get to know how to see opportunity, and potential in every moment and action. Are we really as patient as we think we are? Do we look for an easy way out of a challenge, or do we face it head on and conquer it? Are we open to instruction or do we feel that we "know this already"? Can we accept that we might need to try something else, and restructure our perceptions so that we can meet the request of our instructor as best as we can within our limitations?

Our partners are there to do their best, and since they are human, perfection will not be attained. We can learn from these awkward moments, and see them as a potential to cope with the unexpected, and to adapt. Self defense is always a changing situation, and learning about how we personally react to the unexpected, or to inner frustration helps us to find tools to cope in a more stressful moment. Suddenly, we learn about ourselves, and how we can handle these moments better.

Our bodies do not always comply with what our minds want them to do. In fact, when we are tired, or sore, it can be quite a struggle to convince our bodies that this is when we are strengthening, and building muscle/strength/better health. There is a part of us that says "O.K. that's enough.. I can't do any more..." but studies have shown that this is not true. Our muscles normally can do far more than what our head allows them to do. "Researchers from the University of Zurich have now studied in detail what sportsmen and women know from experience: The head plays a key role in tiring endurance performances. They have discovered a mechanism in the brain that triggers a reduction in muscle performance during tiring activities and ensures that one's own physiological limits are not exceeded. " Read more at this site According to this study it is a person's motivation, and will power that will allow them to continue doing more. We have to learn to believe that we are capable of more, and to know ourselves so well that we can see the difference between not far enough, and too far.

Our Instructors are there to challenge us. They see our potential, and ask us to reach for higher than that. Why? because we learn just how far we can go when we stretch beyond what we think we can do. We can never learn that lesson by staying in the safe, comfort zone. Capable, not capable is not the point... WILLING is what is important. Are we willing to step out of where we think it is safe? Do we trust ourselves? Do we know ourselves well enough to believe that there is no such thing as failure when you do your best? Do we allow fear, insecurity, laziness, pride, etc to stop us from growing? Most of us would not want to honestly admit that this might be what is happening. We'd rather blame our environment, and the people around us. This defense mechanism works, but it will never allow you to know yourself.

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Kenpo Karate said…
Great post. It's hard to realized our true selves and also to step outside ourselves to see people as they are. Often we are so concerned with ourselves that we don't notice everyone else.

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