Every time I hear the word motivation, I am taken back to my days of being a teenager when I stepped foot into my first martial arts school. It was a small school in an even smaller town in western Pennsylvania. The class had no more than 10 people, most of which were light years ahead of me in ranks.
I'll never forget the feeling I had when I first entered the room to line up with the rest of the students. Because of having the lowest rank, I was told to stand at the beginning of the line. It didn't matter if my height had me towering over most of the students, I still felt smaller than anyone else in the room. My confidence was severely lacking, and my experience was non-existent. Plus, the constant thoughts running through my head were making me dizzier than I ever had been in my life. Then, the class started.
We began our warm up, which to me at the time was worse than running a marathon. Although, I had never run one before, I imagined that this was what it would feel like, PAIN. Then we got around to practicing kicks and punches. When they brought out the striking pads and asked the higher level students to demonstrate proper technique, I recall the person holding the bag nearly toppling over onto 3 or 4 students next to him. All of us beginners chuckled, and we knew that we did not want to be behind the bag. Then, it was our turn. One by one we practiced our kicks and did our best to show proper form and deliver a powerful blow each time.
After a few turns, I noticed an energy building up inside of me. And the person holding the bag noticed they had to hold on tighter and tighter each time I came around. Then once again, it was my turn. I stepped up to the bag; put myself in position; took a deep breath; and delivered one more kick. The next thing I new, the same person holding the bag lost their balance again and fell into a group of people just like the earlier demonstration. I was completely stunned and thrilled at the same time because I couldn't believe that I possibly kicked this person which as much power as one of the higher level students.
My teacher saw this and immediately walked over. I assumed right away that I was in trouble for doing something I wasn't supposed to. Instead, to my surprise, he began explaining to the other beginners that I had done something RIGHT! Really? In my first class? He then asked me to be an example for the other beginners to observe. He adjusted my posture, corrected my form, and guided me with my breathing. Then he shouted powerfully, "Go!" I immediately kicked the bag as hard as I possibly could, and this time, my kick not only knocked the person off balance, it penetrated the bag and I unknowingly hurt the person's arm, but thankfully the injury was not serious. At that moment in time, I had tapped into a part of my mind and connected it with my body in the most exhilarating way possible. The only word I can use to describe that feeling is POWER.
What exactly does this have to do with motivation?
Most people believe that before you can do the things you want, you need to first have the motivation. Like getting up and going to the gym, this takes a certain amount of motivation, doesn't it? Or, reading the book that has been sitting on your coffee table for more than a month, which you keep telling yourself you will get to. Still needs motivation, right? Or perhaps even making the first move to starting a relationship by asking somebody out on a date. Motivation, right?
WRONG! ALL wrong!
Motivation is not required to take action. ACTION is required to develop MOTIVATION!
Remember the story I just told you about myself? If I hadn't discovered the feeling of inner power and strength after delivering a few hard kicks to a striking pad, do you think I would have returned to the class? If I hadn't followed the instructions of the teacher, do you think I would have had the energy to kick that hard, let alone complete the whole class? The answer is obviously no. Without developing my own motivation by taking a massive amount of effective action, I would not have become the national martial arts champion that I am today. And to this day, I am still able to create and tap into this ability by knowing it only takes one action to get me moving.
Without taking action and committing yourself fully to that action, you will never develop the ability to generate your own motivation. You will only be an adequate follower. Not an outstanding leader.
So, let me ask you. Are you satisfied with being adequate? Or do you want to be OUTSTANDING?
Do you want to discover and experience the highest potential of your inner power? Do you want to develop an impenetrable level of confidence and master your ability to create your own motivation? Then you HAVE to TAKE ACTION! Once you do this, your first spark of motivation will be created. Then, by repeating your action again, and again, and again, you will have a blazing fire within you that will keep you motivated from the inside out for any moment when you need it.
The bottom line is that if you have your heart and soul set on accomplishing a specific goal in your life and reaching the next level of success, you need to take action! You need to step up and kick the bag! Now get moving and start mastering your motivation!
Over the past almost 20 years, I have been part of the martial arts community training and teaching people from across the world. I have judged and competed in numerous tournaments where I returned home victoriously carrying the titles of U.S. Men's National Champion, U.S. Men's Internal Grand Champion, Black Belt Champion, as well as U.S.A. All-Taijiquan Grand Champion. I was even a competing team member on the U.S. Wushu Union National Team. I have taught martial arts and its philosophy at universities across the east coast, and several years ago I opened my own Acupuncture clinic, My Metro Medicine, offering Chinese Medical Therapy, Rehab, and Chinese Martial Arts instruction in order to help heal people and pass on an art form that has changed my life and which holds a strong position in modern medicine. Reflecting back, I am amazed at my accomplishments and proud to have honored my teacher and our martial arts ancestors.
My deepest learning, though, is one that will take a much longer period than a mere 20 years and is one which reminds me to not focus on the superficial level of my accomplishments I have just listed. Nor is it connected with the speed of my punches, the power of my kicks, or the number of black belt degrees I have been awarded over the years. This learning involves a study that reaches the depths of the individual which one could argue as being the soul of martial arts. A soul that only comes alive through the awakening of the martial artist. It is the study of "Wu De", or Martial Morality.
Martial Morality, or Martial Ethics, is a genuine lesson in altruism that commands a perfect blend of Daoist and Confucianist standards. The art of Martial Morality consists of two complimentary areas of practice; Morality of Deed and Morality of Mind. An understanding of the Morality of Deed is defined by one's ability to demonstrate the acts of Humility, Respect, Righteousness, Trust, and Loyalty while one's understanding of the Morality of Mind is defined by one's ability to embody and exhibit the Will, Endurance, Perseverance, Patience, and Courage necessary no matter the hardship. The virtue and honor found in a living illustration of this practice and way of being are truly a rare find.
Sadly, over the years and even now, I have witnessed countless disrespectful students, abusive teachers, and ignorant martial artists who have embellished in their own grandeur and who are only concerned with the reputation they have built and become attached to. Let it be known that reputation is nothing more than a tale of one person, within which exists the potential of transformation into an anecdote of distorted outcomes; a tale that could easily lack the essence of Martial Morality and be deemed as worthy and deserving of respect by the naive and untrained.
In martial arts, we have a saying, "Wu Lin Yi Jia"; translated literally as the "martial forest is one family". When you were a newborn baby, you were brought into the world and raised by a mother and/or father. In the martial arts world, your teacher is your father or mother who nurtures you, starting as a "newborn" martial artist, just as your own parent would, and your classmates are your older or younger brothers and sisters. This important and supportive group of people are considered to be your immediate Gong Fu (Kung Fu) Family. Even the teachers and students of other schools are considered to be a part of your (distant) Gong Fu Family. Everyone in your "martial forest" deserves to be treated with the same respect and honor of what could be called the tenets of Martial Morality.
Reputation is nothing more than a tale of one person, within which exists the potential of transformation into an anecdote of distorted outcomes.
So, if martial arts mastery has little to do with physical practice and more to do with mental and spiritual practice, then why perform the movements or exercises of martial arts at all? This is because by testing the limits of your body, you learn to control the limits of your mind. In turn, the limits of your spirit are revealed creating a three dimensional harmony of all that we are capable of as human beings.
In martial arts, one must perform the physical training to ensure the health and vitality of one's body. Also not to be forgotten is the practice and experimentation of breathing techniques as well as the training of one's ability to manifest and move the body's energy (Qi). Since the early developmental years of martial arts and Qigong, it was known that the first stage of training involved the regulation of the body followed by the breath, the emotional mind (Xin), the Qi, and ending with the spirit. If one does not complete each of these stages successfully, the skill of the person is considered "empty". Furthermore, if the practices of Martial Morality are not exhibited by the person even after mastering these five levels of regulation, this would also be considered "empty".
So, because of my accomplishments, am I a Master of Martial Arts?
I humbly announce that I am not.
In the end, this is not a question that any martial artist can answer on their own. It is determined by their own actions as well as their inactions. In my own respect, even though I have achieved much success in martial arts, I am always reminded by my martial arts family that I have only just peered through the surface into the uncharted depths of an art I hope to preserve. To close, I will leave you with one final martial arts teaching. "Shi Fu Ling Jin Men, Xiu Xing Zai Ge Ren". Translated into English, this means "the teacher opens the door, it is up to the student to walk through it."
So, the door to mastery has been opened. Now, will you cross the threshold?
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inspirational ideas on healthy living through eastern medicine, optimism, and possibility through empowerment.