'May I ask you for advice regarding the martial arts? I’ve been practicing Aikido off and on for ten years now. Factors like: I’m not strong enough, or everyone else is just humouring me on the mat, or martial arts are just for men, have made me stop training and try other hobbies. Also, I had a hard time making coherent sense of remembering the techniques. Only now, through mind mapping have I been able to organise them thru “entry points”. Admittedly, my mind “stops” a lot. I get blank during jiyu waza and I get highly anxious. Despite all these years of practice, I see videos of myself, and I look awkward. Even beginners move nicer than me on the mat.
I very much like to improve, but I don’t know which issue to address first:
The anxiety on the inside of my mind during Jiyu Waza?
Or the external look of the techniques, the posture and stance?
Any advice you have on this would be greatly appreciated.'
"Thanks for your question.
I have lots to say on this but will do my best via email and maybe through a video later. The video I feel will reach more people - and to tell the truth, the majority of people feel the way you do at some stage. I felt for the first ten years (at least) that I was the only one who doubted my ability and that all my training partners didn't struggle as much as I did. Years later it seems my feelings were the norm.
Now to my response.
The mental struggle in martial arts is not limited to Aikido. Where there is human endeavour, there is frustration. And there will always be comparisons with others. Obviously there is always someone better with you. But I feel you know this and logic sometimes drowns in the emotions of the moment. True?
So, know these truths that will help you feel relaxed in your efforts.
- Strength IS a factor. Technique can overcome strength but the technique must be far greater. The good part of this is that without a strong and formidable opponent, we would not be challenged. This gives us opportunity to grow. It also makes us appreciate real skill when we develop it as it has real meaning. Beating children is a false victory.
- How others see us is none of our business. How we see ourselves is the only thing that matters. I know that the natural human condition is that of asking "How do I look in the eyes of others?" but at the end of the day the praise of an audience doesn't keep us warm at night. Knowing you stood up for yourself, knowing you defeating your own negativity far outweighs the applause of the crowd.
- Controlling your mind. When will we ever be in complete control? The martial arts gives us a vehicle to see our own weaknesses and because of this we can get frustrated. The problem is that progress is not a linear movement. Our advances in ability are sprinkled with retreats, pauses and wrong turns. That's life. If we accept this, we notice things quicker, deal with them quicker and leave them in the past - where they belong - quicker.
- Looking awkward is only how we feel others see us. The only thing that matters in any area of martial arts, is the result. And the result is not as important as progress. And progress is not as important as the question, "What did I learn about myself today?"
- Anxiety. Anxiousness is inbuilt in us to alert us to danger. So, worthwhile. But if we carry this into an area of performance, it debilitates us. Anxiety keeps us on our toes and flushes our system with adrenalin for action. That's all. Use it prior to training then know that you control it. Not the other way around.
I am going to reproduce this for a blog post (with your permission) as MANY others will think I have written the article specifically for them.
So, know that you are not alone. You are human."
Now, to those of you who are instructors. Know that many of your students feel this way but say nothing. And I don't mean only in martial arts but in their life as well. Your job is to confront these weaknesses in your own life first, then to help others realise the same benefits.
Besides, you can't teach others to do something that you never have.