Episode 18: Martial Arts As a Process To Self-Understanding
In this episode of the Martial Art of Self, we are looking at martial arts as a path to self-understanding.
Here I share a story of how I used to see martial arts in my life. I was obsessed with perfection and wanting to excel for the wrong reasons. The training turned more into stress than an aid for me, my self-experience, and my life in general.
Further, I touch on how the simulations we create in our minds about our skills can have adverse effects when we meet physical reality with such imaginary simulations.
Music by Fidelis Spies
[00:00:00] Welcome to the Martial Art of Self podcast, a podcast about bringing the essence of martial arts back to self.
[00:00:10] Hi everyone, I’m Aldin.
[00:00:12] Welcome to another episode of the Martial Art of Self podcast. This is a show in which we explore how we can bring and apply the principles, philosophies, and strengths of martial arts into our daily life.
[00:00:24] We focus on transforming our martial arts journey into more than just an external discipline. Self-understanding, self-awareness, self-change and self-creation are the themes we aim at.
[00:00:35] We go beyond the martial application and straight into the heart of ourselves: how can we bring martial arts back to self?
[00:00:44] Hi everybody. In today’s episode, we are going to be discussing martial arts as a process to self, and not the ultimate goal in itself. Where I’ve been looking at the point that, to me, martial arts used to be a lot about fighting.
[00:01:10] It used to be about, you know, becoming really, really good in sparring, and I would get upset, and then really, you know, be frustrated, and angry and– and often go, you know, towards extreme self-judgment, and self diminishment if I would notice that I would be really bad at, let’s say, sparring sessions.
[00:01:34] Where, you know, I used to, for example, through the training, through the drills – you know, the punching, the kicking, the Thai pads, the heavy bag work, the punching bag work, and the general technique workouts and drills with your training partner – I would always, you know, receive, for example, positive feedback in terms of my technique, strength, power, speed, agility, swiftness, et cetera.
[00:02:02] And, I would start to create and develop this feeling of confidence within myself, which is nothing bad about in itself, but I allowed it to get, you know, to– to my head within the sense that it started to create a certain false sense of security or, or, or a specific image about myself that I had.
[00:02:25] Where I saw myself, you know because I’ve been receiving so much positive feedback from my training peers and my Sifu. And, you know, through the drills, I’ve developed this confidence within myself that my technique is good, that my power, speed, agility, swiftness, et cetera, has been really well – I immediately drew the conclusion from there within my mind that I am going to also, you know, have the upper hand and be really good when it comes to actual sparring situations.
[00:03:02] And then what do you know, the sparring situation comes, and, you know, everything that I have created as a simulation within my mind immediately didn’t work.
[00:03:15] And I was, you know, getting out of breath. My techniques as I imagined and picture them that I would, you know, put them together within my head, did not work in actual, physical, real-time reality. And I was not in a calm state.
[00:03:31] I was more, you know– there was more– definitely more, [a] more adrenaline rushed [experience] within myself as opposed to a calm that I would have entered during, you know, the individual– the solo or partner drill exercises that were not real-time sparring.
[00:03:50] And then because I had a specific image of myself that I’m– where I told myself within my mind that I’m going to be good at sparring, I’m going to deliver techniques, you know, perfectly, and I’m going to own the other guy or the sparring partner.
[00:04:11] And because that did not come, you know, as a result [and] that was not aligned to the actual physical reality when it came to the actual moment of fighting, the actual moment of sparring – I would go immediately within this darkness, this depth, this deepness, this self-diminishment within myself.
[00:04:33] I would cycle through extreme judgment of, you know, that I am not good enough, I suck, why didn’t it work? And basically just over and over through my thoughts, through my backchats bash myself, make myself smaller and smaller within my head within myself.
[00:04:52] And really throw out the entire confidence I had build from one moment to the next, if you will.
[00:04:59] And instead of using, you know, that physical feedback from reality of seeing that what I thought I’m good at and what I thought I can deliver into actual physical fighting situations of, let’s say, sparring– instead of using the feedback when reality gave me the feedback that my techniques, my image, my thought that I believed about myself did not align to the actuality of physical reality and see what can I learn from it to know how can I, you know, instead practice calm within a sparring session when the adrenaline kicks in, instead of only having and entering a calm when I do solo or a partner drills that do not involve actual, you know, dynamic fighting or sparring situations.
[00:05:50] I instead took the physical reality feedback way too personally, and instead of using it as a way to go to the root of– to the route of using it to enhance myself and learn more about myself and where the weaknesses or reasons or, you know, are for me not being able to be that calm – let’s use calm as an example – during the sparring session, but only during the solo or a partner drill exercises.
[00:06:25] I instead went the opposite route and way, which was to use the physical reality feedback, that shattered my image I had, to further shatter myself. To further judge myself, look down upon myself.
[00:06:40] And what happened often is that I would so diminish myself through my mind. Because, you know, I wasn’t good inspiring, for example, in this session because the image I created within my mind, the belief I created about who I am and how I’m going to be during a sparring session as opposed to how I am and how I was and how confident and good I felt and positive feedback I received during the partner and solo drills from my Sifu, from my partners, et cetera – I would totally wreck myself.
[00:07:11] And what often would happen [is] I would end up really not wanting to train anymore. It’s like I would start to separate myself from wanting to even go to classes anymore and train because I have used, you know, the feedback I would receive from physical reality of something not working, which I thought and created an idea within my mind, a simulation that it would work, did not work in actual reality.
[00:07:39] And so– but then I also started to look at the point that “Am I making my martial arts too much about sparring and winning?”. You know, going into this construct of winning and losing, and eventually shifting to the point of realization that, you know, I must make martial arts, and define it not only as, you know, it being about fighting, it being about sparring, and, and winning within that sparring or winning within the partner drills, and about it being about receiving constantly and continuously positive feedback.
[00:08:16] I mean, that cannot work. We cannot always receive positive feedback, if you will, from our physical reality. Because that would mean that we are utterly perfect in all sense and that there is nothing to work on, nothing to improve. Which, as you know, as a martial artist, but also other areas of life – is simply not possible.
[00:08:36] Because we receive “negative” feedback from reality of something not working and it needs to be taken, you know, as a point to learn from, to see why did it not work? What can I see and work through within myself to make it work in physical reality to become practical, to not only be an idea within my mind I created about it, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera?
[00:09:01] And, so eventually coming to the conclusion for myself that, you know, martial arts and the way I train – I cannot continue to make it always about fighting and sparring and winning in every aspect, and receiving, you know, positive feelings so that I can feel good about myself.
[00:09:19] And if I don’t receive the positive feeling, and it’s a negative feeling, you know, it would have like [an] massive impact on my self-confidence, and I would just feel, you know, no longer confident.
[00:09:30] And I would even go as far as, you know, wanting to give up on my passion of training martial arts because I received, you know, one or two or several negative feedbacks from physical reality, for example, through sparring, and something not working, which I pictured in my mind, would work.
[00:09:49] And this also shows, you know, the thing that when we start, you know, thinking about something in our minds and picturing it and telling ourselves through our thoughts and imaginations and the simulation we go through in our mind – that where something works, because we are obviously in control of that simulation in the sense that we can direct the simulation in our minds in our favor, to always be in our favor.
[00:10:16] And then what can happen is that it very easily can go down the route where we make that simulation, which we simulate it to be always in our favor, in our minds. Like, we simulate a fighting, and you know, we always simulate it to be in our favor.
[00:10:33] Where in the simulation we make it so that we win, that our technique works perfectly, or that we have a perfect comeback, and that we’re never out of breath, and the fight is over quickly, and we are confident, et cetera.
[00:10:48] And how easily it is to really screw with ourselves in that sense that we take that simulation, which we made in our favor in our mind, like here in this instance of martial arts, and we do not take into account physical reality, and how things really are, you know.
[00:11:05] [Like] the other person’s skill level; that the other person, you know, also might be very, very good. If not in all aspects, in some, maybe with speed, with technique, with stamina, with power generation, et cetera, and that they might, you know, have a, let’s say a– they might deliver a punch or hit that hits us and, you know, that has been timing-wise and power-wise and speed-wise or technique-wise really well, that really sits very well, that, you know, we might end up being knocked out or, really not performing up to our best anymore from that point forward in our sparring sessions, for example.
[00:11:48] And we do not take into account physical reality when we do that simulation in our minds where we make it in our favor. And then it very easily can happen that we become overconfident. Because we believe in something that we simulated in our minds that we made obviously in our favor 99% of the time.
[00:12:09] And then when it comes to the actual physical reality of a moment where we have to do that thing, for example, the sparring and our imagination, how, [and] what, what we thought and were confident in the simulation of our mind – is not so in physical reality, and physical reality teaches us the lesson that, you know, our simulation was fake, our simulation was not– fake within the sense that it was not aligned with considering and taking into account physical actual reality context of a sparring session: That there are two people, and that– two or more people, and that we cannot simulate something in our mind and make it in our favor because then we are completely separating ourselves from the fact that the other person that we, for example, spar with also has a specific skill level, and that they might be better in some aspects than we are.
[00:13:09] They might be more fit in that moment than we are, and you know, we are going to maybe be owned by them if you want to use that word owned or, or beaten, you know, and we might not perform so well in the sparring session as we made ourselves believe and created that fake or false, and dangerous confidence within our minds through being attached to the simulation we created in our minds, that was obviously done in our favor for us to win.
[00:13:38] So, but getting back to the point of realizing that I cannot thus make my martial arts and continue to live my martial arts journey and making it constantly about fighting, sparring, winning, and receiving positive feedback.
[00:13:50] And eventually coming to the conclusion that martial arts is not only about fighting and winning, nor is it about only building physical, external strength, power, agility, speed.
[00:14:05] It is not about becoming the next Bruce Lee or even, you know, going as far as saying you are going to outdo Bruce Lee and become better or any other martial artist, but more that martial art is a process; a, a thing about– a tool, a path, a journey about oneself and oneself within the sense that it’s about self-creation.
[00:14:31] It is about understanding self and understanding the relationship of self towards everything in our world, towards ourselves, towards our minds, towards who we are within our emotions and feelings and thoughts. And, you know, everybody else, our interactions, our behaviors in this world and how we treat others, how we treat ourselves, and so on and so forth.
[00:14:55] You know, understanding the ways we function basically, the ways our minds function, the way our bodies function, and, you know, the ways we basically function, et cetera.
[00:15:06] And that thus it is about understanding self and the relationship of self towards one’s mind, towards one’s physical body, and ultimately being a tool above all.
[00:15:21] It is not an Omega or Alpha thing, you know. It is not the holy grail that should now become the number one thing in our life because it is very easy when we make something the one thing in our life.
[00:15:36] We become very tunnel-visioned, and we exclude in that making– in that process of making it the only thing or the most important thing in our life – we exclude the whole other range of things, you know, that could benefit our life.
[00:15:54] But because we are only focused and on this belief that only, for example, martial arts is the one thing that can help us, that can help us understand ourselves, that can relieve our stress, that can act as an outlet for our anger, for our frustrations, for our stress from work, et cetera.
[00:16:15] It is very easy to then exclude everything else that might come our way through our life naturally that might even have the potential of being of greater support and assistance in dealing with something in our lives, and transcending something, in understanding something, et cetera.
[00:16:32] But we shun it out, or we don’t even recognize it because these things might be coming in very, very subtly, as many things in life can be.
[00:16:39] And we might not notice it, and they might pass because we are so tunnel vision and fixed on this idea, this definition that only martial arts is the way forward, is the only thing that is going to help us in life, that is, you know, that is– has the potential to make our lives better.
[00:17:00] And thus also seeing that martial arts for me, has more and more become about a process for understanding also my limitations, my current limitations that I myself have accepted and allowed, and essentially programmed through that acceptance and allowance into myself, into my mind, and thus also ultimately into my body, and, you know, make it manifest in my reality.
[00:17:32] And that to use thus my martial arts has become very important – to use it as really with a focal point on transcending these limitations through actually applying physically the corrections or the change methods, or realizations or understandings I gained through my process of during, know, martial arts training, or reflecting after it, or before it about it, about movements, philosophies, principles, et cetera.
[00:18:06] And thus, as mentioned before, to not make it only about martial arts. You know, for me, that is very important in my own journey. And to have the martial arts tool, if you will coexist with other tools in our– in our toolbox in life if you will, that we use, you know, other methods like let’s say meditation or yoga or journaling and writing, self-forgiveness, speaking with others, counseling, jogging, running, playing some various sports, reading, et cetera.
[00:18:43] And, you know, basically coexist with the other practical tools that we can find in this world that is going to help and assist us to deal with certain, and transcend certain specific aspects of our mind, and you know, of who we are, and challenges in our life, the challenges we face in our minds through thoughts, emotions, feelings, et cetera.
[00:19:05] And again, that the emphasis here being on living, and, and the application of the techniques, the application of the knowledge and the application, the actual doing of the methods that we learn, through our martial arts training and see how can we, you know, whatever it is we learned from martial arts – how can we also use that in other areas, aspects of our life.
[00:19:30] So it’s not only constrained and limited to when we go into our martial arts class or into that state of training, [that] we only enter then a specific “state of being” where we are, for example, you know, disciplined, courageous, driven, motivated, et cetera.
[00:19:48] But see, how can we also use that “natural” motivation that we have or may have, and develop during martial arts training – and see how can we also use it, for example, in, you know, if we’re in school, in, in, in our studying process, at work, with our personal hobbies and projects, et cetera, our relationships, our world – you know who we are and how we deal with, for example, when we go do the simple things in life like shopping or taking a walk or doing an errand, et cetera.
[00:20:26]And thus for me to– I’m seeing martial arts as a path, as a path with tools and that deep down, if you will, it is not even about martial arts, about doing martial arts or not doing martial arts.
[00:20:44] It doesn’t mean that if we do martial arts, we are better than other people. It is simply another tool we use that works for us because we align with us– we align with it specifically.
[00:20:56] It helps us, it has the potential to help us, but it might not be for everybody. And that is okay. And it doesn’t mean we are less or more than the other people who don’t do it or do do it, you know. It’s simply that it works for us – for the ones that it works for – and it’s a tool. That’s it.
[00:21:14] It’s a way of expression, a way of learning and understanding ourselves and working with ourselves. And that it is a process for me, you know, first and foremost.
[00:21:28] It has nothing to do with another person or martial artist. This has nothing to do with, you know, comparison and comparing myself, or competing and playing, you know, mind games of trying to win and, you know, constantly, and receive positive feedback and so on and so forth, or about feeling superior towards somebody else just because I’m doing martial arts, and so on and so forth.
[00:21:57] Because all these things and doing these things allow no room for, for self-understanding, for transcendence, and for change within oneself because you’re then preoccupied constantly with the competition and fighting to win within your own mind that you completely, you know, become void of the potential, and the opportunities, the windows of opportunity to, you know, reflect during your training, after it, or before it, and see how can you use what you learn and practice for to, you know, enhance your self-understanding, your understanding of yourself and, you know, also to see how can that training also enhance other parts of your life positively and the people around you.
[00:22:51] Because, otherwise, martial arts becomes very easily a point of ego. It becomes very easily only an external doing, you know. Where thus, martial arts is a, is a process of self, you know, a process to self to understand and create self.
[00:23:11] Or, it is one of many tools, you know, it’s not the only available and viable and effective tool, and it might not even work for some, you know. Those who don’t necessarily might align with martial arts and have an interest in it, then that’s okay.
[00:23:27] So, yeah. So to conclude, you know, this renders, at least in my process, how I’ve come to see it and understand it and create within me and for my journey is that it renders– essentially it comes down to that martial arts is but a tool in this process. In this greater process of self-creation and self-understanding and self-actualization, and, you know, nothing more, nothing else, nothing less.
[00:24:00] It is not a “God” because it’s very easy to make something that we are good at, you know, a God, and try to impose it also on others to do it because it works so well for us.
[00:24:12] But the fact is it might not work so well for others, just as their thing might not align with us. And that’s okay. And, that martial arts thus more likely serves like a finger pointing the way to the process of self-understanding and self-creation.
[00:24:36] All right.
[00:24:36] I will be going up to here for today’s episode and recording. If you have any feedback, feel free to write me an email, a short email or voice message, either through the Anchor app through my Martial Art of Self podcast there, or a voice message or a short text on via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or within the comment section of this episode’s Instagram post.
[00:25:12] All right.
[00:25:13] Take care. Thank you very much.
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