Lifeskills: Martial Arts, Patience, Willpower

Black belts

Here’s the latest in my 2015 Lifeskills series. In a series of blogs, I’ll examine which skills are cultivated by martial arts OTHER THAN kicking and punching. Skills like resilience, patience, and performing under pressure, which can help anyone in other areas of their life.

The Marshmellow Test is a Stanford study which showed that the ability to resist temptation, even at a young age, had far-reaching effects on everything from grades to salary.

To put it simply, patience matters.

So what does martial arts have to do with being patient?

Patience, grasshopper. Click the “more” tag to find out!

Practicing kata in class.

Practicing kata in class.

Many former students come back to us and say, “I was able to get through ABC, because of my martial arts training.”

Martial arts training provides the space, time, and coaching for students to develop strong willpower & patience.

Where do we use patience?

  • Waiting (and training) to master a complex martial arts move;
  • Waiting to be ready for a belt test;
  • Waiting to speak until someone else has finished;
  • Waiting in traffic;
  • Waiting to make a purchase until after doing some research.

Yup, patience is everywhere, martial arts or mundane.

Developing Willpower

I get it! Exercise can be uncomfortable, even for those of us who are in shape. Physically tough exercises require an equally tough mind. You have to push yourself, mentally and physically. This is the start of developing willpower through martial arts training.

With our kids, we focus on movement and less on conditioning. But as our students progress through the ranks, boy oh boy. We gradually progress students to being able to perform 100 push-ups and sit-ups on their upper level brown and black belt exams!

Sensei checks a student's posture in class.

Sensei checks a student’s posture in class.

Getting better at martial arts requires the mental willpower to keep going, even after receiving critique from your instructors. Students must self-talk to say, “Okay, this is what Sensei said. I’m going to figure out how to make it work.”

Willpower & Patience

Wait.

Make that:

Willpower IS patience.

Simply put, patience is the ability to wait. Willpower gets you through the waiting.

Willpower is put to the test in our belt ranking and testing policies. We wait for true improvement before students are allowed to test.

True improvement takes time, even for gifted students.

How do you improve?

By showing up to class & trying your hardest (willpower), and waiting for the experts (us) to evaluate your progress. Oh, and a lot of practice (willpower and patience to keep practicing until you get it right).

Pretty simple, eh?

But a lot of people fall down when it comes to willpower and patience.

Culturally, we are surrounded by ways to instantly gratify our needs and wants. (Most of these are rationalized as conveniences). From instant downloads/streaming, instant messaging, instant coffee, two-day shipping, drive through fast food and coffee, microwave meals, and self-checkout at the store. It all sends the message:

“You want it? You got it!”

Learning to let go of the need for instant gratification is a process. It starts with recognizing how deeply your need for instant gratification runs, and ends with letting go of this need and trusting the process.

Willpower and patience, the ability to let go and enjoy the process: these are muscles like any other. The more you use them, the easier it becomes.

About Sensei/YDN Caitlin

Sensei Yudanjanim Caitlin is a 2nd degree black belt, senior instructor, administrative assistant, and student of Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Arnis at Northwest School of Martial Arts.
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