Episode 9: When Things Get Progressively Tougher And More Challenging
Why Martial Arts Training Gets Tougher Over Time, What It Means And How It Is Nothing Bad
In this episode of the Martial Art of Self, we explore the unique and contradictory theme of things getting progressively more challenging in our martial arts training instead of easier.
This theme reaches across other parts of practice also. It is not only limited to the practice of martial arts.
I share my experience with this point of things getting progressively more challenging, and what I have learned from it. Nowadays I approach this experience from a different perspective where I value this feedback from my reality, and what I have come to understand it means.
Music by Fidelis Spies
[00:00] Welcome to the Martial Art of Self podcast, a podcast about bringing the essence of martial arts back to self.
[00:12] Hi everyone, this is Aldin and in today’s episode we are talking about when things get progressively tougher, and more challenging during for example our martial arts training, or something else we are doing, instead of them getting easier necessarily over time.
[00:33] I have faced this very point since I began training, and decided to train for every single day when I made the decision at the beginning of 2018.
[00:48] When I reflect back on the past year and more that I have been doing this daily training, and really pushing myself to do train daily, and have the martial arts practice, in this case, be a part of my daily life and living.
[01:08] As I have been walking my practice of martial arts this way I can say how my experience in and during the training has gotten progressively harder. You would think the opposite – that it would get easier. That it’s the hardest in the beginning, and that it gets easier and easier the longer you train, the more you train, the more time and effort you invest into it, and that after some time the whole training just becomes a breeze.
[01:44] But, it has, in fact, at least for myself, in my case not been that, or like that. The experience of myself during my martial arts practice has become progressively harder and more challenging. I don’t want to use the work hard or difficult here since most of us have a tainted definition of that word. Each of us has connected different, and lots of different negative emotional reactions, and information to that word. Maybe the word ‘more challenging’ is more appropriate here.
[02:23] My martial arts training and practice have become more challenging. Not easier in fact. Not smoother necessarily. Why is that? I mean, I have asked myself the question, and I have struggled a lot with that question of why that is? Why isn’t it becoming easier, but harder actually, and more challenging? Why is my experience of myself during doing the same exercises that I have been doing, in the beginning, getting progressively harder, and more challenging, than easier?
[02:53] For my experience, and from my self-investigation and reflection is that — the reason is that when we make each new practice session or training session one where our starting point is to do the exercises and movements we do, to do them properly and ‘better’ than before, then, if our starting point is like that, then every time we are approaching the exercise, and the movements – we are, in fact, finding and entering new layers of that same exercise which we haven’t been in or faced in that context before. We may have mastered the previous level of that exercise, or the previous movement, or level of movement if you will, but now since we passed that level before, we are kind of, if you want to call it ‘ready’ for the next level of that exercise, and because we are ready we enter it with our next training practice. It is new again. And with many new things, the theme or constant is that they are challenging in the beginning. We are challenged on new levels of ourselves during that same exercise. Even if it’s the same exercise.
[04:20] To ground this into a practical example is if I take for example my Taiji standing exercises or poses, which you can find in many Internal Martial Arts Systems. One major part of such standing exercise is to release, let go of tension in the body, and sink. You would think that it will be tough the first few times or weeks of doing it daily, and later on after months or even more than a year or more of doing so; of doing the exercises and poses that it would be easy. From my experience, the opposite is true though. It is so much tougher and harder to do than before, at least in my case. Because each time I am doing the standing pose, that I am getting into that standing position, that movement – I am pushing myself to perfect the release and relax and letting go application even further, even more than before. I am focusing on releasing more. Focusing on relaxing more. Focusing on sinking more. Focusing on letting go more. With that, I discover new tensions, or levels of the slightest tension that is in my body that I have and always have been there, but of which I wasn’t aware before. With that new discovery of new tensions for example, of new points emerging – also what happens is that a lot of new mental, emotional and physical challenges occur, and reactions occur. New thoughts, new emotional reactions of distress, or anger, or doubt, or stress, or irritability, or impatience, or desire to want to tense up and lock up in the body for example, and to give up and so forth come up. Each time new layers of those points emerge. And with that each time it becomes a new moment of facing that point anew in myself, while at the same time holding yourself, for example, in that particular physical form or movement of the practice you are doing, like the martial arts practice.
[06:50] So, things progressively get kind of tougher to do because we enter new layers or levels of that same point. We are pushing ourselves more and more, deeper and deeper – but just like the same movements, or exercises, or things we have done for so long become tougher and more challenging – the fact is that so do we, in our being, become tougher and more resilient and ready, if you will, to take on these new levels we face now in our practice, or whatever it is we are doing. It doesn’t have to be martial arts only. This is certainly not limited to martial arts only.
[07:37] I have experienced the same pattern of things becomes tougher and more difficult also in the application of writing about my experiences, in writing to understand my mind, to understand my being, to understand my body more. The whole process of doing so becomes progressively tougher and more challenging because I am entering new, suppressed, or unconscious – or background information or patterns or things about myself that are there and have been there always, but that I have suppressed and pushed back throughout my life. But, because I also equally get tougher as I continue to work on and through myself, I am becoming thus ready to take on the more challenging and tougher designs or parts or points about myself that are in the background, or were in the background because I may not have been ‘tough’ or ‘ready’ enough before, if you want to call it that. But, now since I walked certain things through which I have toughened and strengthened myself and gotten to know myself more, and gotten to know who I am, and I have more of a grasp and stand when it comes to my self-definition of who I am, and what I want to be and live as – I am thus more ready to take on the tougher parts and points about myself.
[09:10] Thus, what I have learned is to not feel discouraged or go into a state within yourself of wanting to give up, and allowing the thought, or thoughts, or reactions to take over and possess you that something is wrong just because things aren’t necessarily getting easier, but on the contrary tougher. I have for many months, if not years, looked at this whole point as it is bad, but what I have realized is that:
[09:48] It is not a bad thing. If anything, from my experience, and in this context it actually shows that I am on the track of self-discovery and self-creation process. It seems like creating ourselves is challenging and tough work. Tougher, I would say, than any external physical exercise out there. I mean, it’s definitely an interesting theme. But also it’s appropriate or welcome feedback from our reality, that it kind of says: Hey, I am still here. I am still walking and I am still creating myself in, for example, martial arts, the skills, and powers, etc. in martial arts or in my understanding of myself, my mind and my body and I am getting along and progressing, and I am having an actual impact – a visible, tangible impact in my process of self-change, of changing myself to become better, to live more up to my potential that I see, or sense is possible, and doable for myself in this life — or whatever it is you are wishing and wanting and moving yourself to create yourself into in your life and reality.
[11:16] I have come to now embrace this quote-unquote ‘difficulty’, this toughness and it being challenging. It being progressively so, instead of it getting necessarily easier – instead of fighting it, instead of judging it as bad, and resisting it, and trying to run away from it, if you will, but embrace it, and to walk with it as an understanding that I use as a reminder to ground myself in my reality, and in myself, and in my initial starting point, if you will, and to keep on walking, and use that reminder to keep on walking, and to not let myself be discouraged when here and there it so happens that – I mean with all the information that moves and things that happen as we walk our daily life – we sometimes, unfortunately, end up a bit lost or astray from our path, or our starting point, or our motivation we initially walked, and had, and that was clear to us in the beginning, and then we start having creeping thoughts come up, we start doubting ourselves, and out starting point, and what we are actually doing, such as the martial arts practice, or the commitment to train daily, and do for example the Taiji standing exercise, and so on. But then we just — I mean for myself, what I have found that works, is that when we are in such a position where we are knocked off our path, if you will here and there – what we just need to do, is to knock ourselves back onto it through for example a reminder of what we have already walked and realized and understood about a particular experience we have faced already and walked already.
[13:15] And, I mean to train daily, and to practice daily, and to not skip a single day – I mean, to live and push ourselves daily, to actively live the best of us in a day, and not skip a day where we accept and allow within ourselves, and in our minds and thoughts and emotional- /feeling reactions to take the better of us, and to make us do certain things, or act and live certain ways in our thoughts, words, behavior and for example martial arts practice that we know isn’t going to be the best for us, such as skipping or just doing it half-heartedly. I mean to do that daily, to be active, and behind, and stand for what we commit ourselves to do – our self-change, our creation-point – I mean that is really tough work, and it requires unimaginable, and unparalleled levels of toughness, of actual toughness, to be, and stand behind it, and actually physically do it. I mean, it might actually be the toughest of any practice out there.
[14:37] But, as I have said many times before, it is a fruitful thing. For, it is creation of self, and we are actually creating ourselves, creating our goals, becoming and fulfilling the potential that we see, or sense is there for us, and available, and all we need to do, to put it simply, and to put is simplified is to follow the practice, follow the actions. To do the actions that are necessary – that we see are necessary, and know deep within, self-honestly, if we are honest with ourselves we know it – the actions that we need to do on a daily basis to make those things that we would like to have and create in ourselves, as ourselves, and our world, and reality manifest, and become a reality and a actuality.
[15:36] Thank you very much. I will see you in the next episode.
[15:41] Thank you for listening to the Martial Art of Self podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, then please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes. You can also follow this podcast on Twitter and Instagram. For more information about the Martial Art of Self, please visit martialartofself.com