Saturday, October 19, 2013

Stop Stressing...enjoy!

Good Morning

What I am referring to in the title of this post is our tendency as individuals, and as a society, to be goal-driven to the point that we can become so focused and driven in our activities, that we forget to enjoy the process of "getting there"- or we forget why we even started a particular activity in the first place.

Karate Belts

Obviously my first point of reference would be in karate training, but is certainly not limited to one particular martial art, sport or activity. Anyone who endeavours to learn a martial art, may do so for a number of reasons - to get in shape, learn self-defence, or even to appreciate the art. The potential for set-backs starts when one compares themself to others and begins focusing on one's shortcomings rather than feeling positive about learning new things and experiencing positive, measurable results (even small ones). In karate training-as in many martial arts- it's the pursuit of that next belt or black belt level that can cloud one's perspective- especially when someone who started at the same time as you seems to be progressing faster. ie getting a belt before you. When a student obsesses about belt testing, he or she may try to rush through material quickly to try to meet requirements and as a result lose focus on proper execution of technique -which is a more important  point of practising in the first place. It's self-defeating in the long run.

Gauging Progress

There are so many factors that can govern so-called progress including attendance in class, natural athletic ability, learning disabilities, short-term memory, pre-existing injuries, and of course attitude. With children it's the same as adults. There are kids that take to karate or other sports like a fish to water- while others struggle to assimilate. As an instructor, although it's rewarding and enjoyable to teach a "phenom", we can't be so focused on them that we forsake the rest of the class. The sharp kids make us look good as instructors, but we need to take responsibility for each member's progress. As an instructor I want to hear how a child may have improved in areas such as being more confident among his or her peers, or an improvement in concentrating in school, or a general improvement in over-all health and physical coordination. This is why I don't practice and teach a competition oriented style of karate - a child does not need to win a medal in a tournament to grow, and by avoiding these situations as much as possible, we avoid the confusion for  those young people who never make the podium.
I want to be clear here- I am not criticizing competition and those who enjoy it. I simply prefer to be more inclusive in my focus.

Intrinsic Value

So whether one is learning to play a musical instrument, practice yoga or tai-chi, to dance or learn a martial art -it's my belief that we need to stop and appreciate the activity for what it is- something that can bring joy to our lives and add value to our leisure time. Our activities should be a mental vacation from those daily stress triggers that we deal with like work, finances and family responsibilities. From time to time, remind yourself why you started the activity in the first place,and try to come back to that initial excitement of just doing something for yourself that you enjoy. Something that makes your life better.

Have a fantastic weekend!