Why practice martial arts?

Looking back, there are so many benefits from practicing martial arts – too many to count. Strong health, clear mind, calmness, assertiveness, empathy and service, emotional self-control, delayed gratification, and camaraderie just for starters. But the only way to know the benefits is to experience them yourself. While there are a few questions to ask before starting, the most important things to ask come from why you should start learning and practicing a martial art in the first place. I’ll do my best here to share why you should practice martial arts.

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Life is a game. Having fun yet?

Starting and bench. Varsity and JV. Recruits and walk-ons. Professional and recreational.

There are reasons these distinctions exist. Yes, some of those reasons are more valid or inconsequential than others; that’s fine, it’s life, and not what I’m talking about here. I want to explore with you some of the biggest ways that winners and floaters think & act differently.

These differences are simple. They’re apparent in fields beyond athletics, too. Marketing. Engineering. Economics. Finance. Life is a game and in every creative & technical industry you can pick out the A-players, the B-players, and how they play differently.

“Big deal. We can’t all be the best. So what if there are differences? There always will be.” Absolutely. I’m not asserting you should sacrificing everything to be the best. But you can definitely be better. You can always be better than who you were yesterday. You can and should be growing everyday. And why wouldn’t you want to?

The coolest part is it doesn’t matter what that little improvement is. It just has to be something. “I did another rep at the gym.” Progress! “I ran an extra lap on the track.” Killin’ it! “I learned how to change my car’s oil today. I made a mess but I got it eventually.” Hey, knowledge is power and you are now more powerful. Stepping up your game starts with knowing what separates the good from the better and how to make those improvements. The Uncommons think, talk, and act differently from the Commons. Let’s see if you’re an A-player who’s stuck in a B-game.

There are no rules in life, only consequences.

B-players worry about probabilities. A-players concern themselves with the possibilities.

A majority of people are relatively complacent. There’s a dozen things they know they should do, yet they don’t. They’re seasoned pros at rationalizing and excusing their way into taking care of business later (whenever “later” is). Given the opportunity to do something, all they need is one excuse not to do it.

Winners, on the other hand, are after something more, anything more, than where they’re currently at and what they currently have. They wake up, eager to pursue their mission, excited for all the opportunities to help and serve anyone they can. These people mean action, they achieve what they set out to do, adapting to any setbacks until their goals are met. When a winner wants something, the first question that matters is, “Is it possible?” Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? And there are many, many ways to hit a target. Now you just have to decide if you will chase the target.

B-players just daydream. A-players chase those dreams.

All great men and all great achievements started with a dream. What’s a dream? It’s a start, it’s a goal. You are at Point A and your dream is Point B. A great man’s greatness is cultivated daily in approaching his Point B. No one ever got what they wanted by giving up. No one at the bottom of a mountain falls upon the summit. Dreaming is the starting line, but if you never move past it, you’re wasting time and energy you’ll never get back. Do! Act! Start a plan! Talk to someone about it!

Hilariously, our society glorifies the idea of following dreams and vilifies the act of pursuing dreams. Have you seen this happen before? Inspirational quotes imbuing a fire to “follow your dreams!” Yet when you actually set out to build your business or spread the word about your personal project is when all the critics and trolls come out. Super weird, huh? It’s the A-players that embrace their convictions unapologetically and stand against the doubters  until they hit their target. Success is getting knocked around and staying in it. Success is endurance.

B-players complain. A-players encourage.

Simple as that.

You’ll always hear successful people saying encouraging, helpful things to everyone they meet. Whether it’s generically inspiring or specific advice, winners are constantly cheering others onward & upward. No matter the struggle, when they reach their goal, a winner says “that was easy.” When a winner gets stuck in a rut, they’ll ask “what’s the next step” and put their human cleverness to work.

Complaining as an end wastes valuable oxygen. If you know how to handle complaints, however, you may be on to some substantial problem-solving. With the right questions & suggestions, you’re actually very likely to turn whining into winning. Here’s what I ask a complainer:

  • So what are you gonna do about it?
  • Have you thought about [this]? Have you tried [this]?
  • That sounds rough. Got any idea how to fix it?

If they got nothing for you, then we’re done here. The fun part is working this process towards a solution that they think was their idea. You just helped them along. Inception. Bonus points for using this on yourself if you catch yourself complaining.

B-players habitually go with the flow. A-players question & consider everything that comes their way.

An ever-agreeable friend is good to have around – no drama, no instigation, no resistance. Except when you need a decision or action. You’ll often hear from these people “I don’t know, what do you wanna do?” or “I’m fine either way.”  A common nickname for these people is “floater” or “doormat.” Nothing wrong with that, they just don’t command attention or respect.

Winners are aware of their surroundings and are ever-critical of their associations and what they expose to their minds. Successful people understand the Power of Association and live according to the Law of Attraction. Notice how millionaires associate mainly with other millionaires? That’s on purpose. No, seriously, just cut it out:

Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy. – Robert Tew

Cultivating your A-game is having the goal in mind and taking action that gets you closer to that goal. Agreeability helps situations flow smoothly; challenging & questioning leads to action & decision. It’s very much a game and an art, and mastery comes with experience, feedback from others, and reflection. Remember to have fun, too.

B-players get bored and quit. A-players get bored and work through it anyway.

Plot twist! A-players don’t always perfectly keep up their  A-game status. Sometimes they feel lazy, get distracted, or take on more than they can realistically accomplish, just like anybody else. James Clear shares a coach’s observation on what separates the good from the best.

…things that you might expect. Genetics. Luck. Talent… At some point, it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training everyday…

Hard work beats talent when talent don’t work hard. Maybe some start with more of an edge than others, but it’s those that sharpen their edges day to day that come out ahead again and again. This is where habits will really make you shine. Once you have a daily routine or a ritual to start a process, your body will just do the thing, saving you valuable willpower to spend on handling life’s daily surprises.

B-players do enough to survive. A-players do more to thrive.

A-players are always after more, trying to learn and be better than who they were yesterday. A-players go the extra mile and do more than what’s necessary not for whatever goal they set out to achieve, but for themselves. They exercise their spirit of excellence and quality in everything they care about because it’s who they are. They endure their daily hero’s journey not for what they’re going to get, but for who they’re going to become. It is not so much the journey traveled, but how they are being as a traveler is what makes their journeys rewarding and fulfilling. B-players do what’s necessary to avoid the pain of the struggle as much as possible. “It’s hard,” they complain. Yep. Anything good and worthwhile will take effort beyond the basics. What did you come here to do? Just survive? Or thrive?

B-players are unaccountable. A-players follow through consistently.

You’d think it’d be a basic tenet of working with others to do what you say you’re going to do. However some people seem to find one way or another to fail to follow through, whether life legitimately happened to them or they let an excuse get to them. A-players know the path to success and growth lies in taking action, no matter what. Whether they feel like it or not, they show up to practice every single day. They do the thing and gain the power whether their ducks lined up that day or not.

No matter what’s up – Get up. Dress up. Show up.

B-players show off. A-players set a good example.

Although not always obvious, you can usually tell when someone is out doing his best for himself, to get better and to serve others, compared to someone trying to make a statement, attempting to buy approval with his gestures. B-players act selfishly – look at me! I’m so great! Buy my stuff! You may say that sounds like how a child acts. And you’d be right. Children don’t know any better and are expressing themselves in their undamaged, natural wisdom, however it is often of little service to others. This comes across much differently when exhibited by grown men and women alike, and it’s often different in not a positive way. A-players are out to serve others and grow themselves so they can give their best to the world. Their words and actions may be just as grand as those showing off, however they come from love, service, humility, and strength. B-players act and express themselves coming from desperation, from wanting, from selfishness, and that is never attractive or useful. A-players are out to give; B-players are out to receive.

B-players stay complacent. A-players learn, question, and improve everyday.

One of the most distinguished leaders of the mentorship organization WorldWide Dreambuilders Dave Severn gave an enlightening talk titled “Dead Fish Float” about this very topic. You once swam your little heart out to EARN your place amongst us human beings. That in itself is a demonstration of struggling and striving, competing for success, and achieving your goal no matter what. That’s why habitual laziness is so disgusting and depressing to witness and hear about. It is in our very nature to compete, struggle, grow, and achieve. So when we see others living in opposition to this sentiment, it strikes us quite viscerally. Some have let their warrior’s spirit dwindle and extinguish. The A-players work on it everyday. Some days are better than others, but progress is progress and even a little win is still a win. Salmon swim upstream day after day after day after day to lay and fertilize their eggs so that their offspring will live on after they have passed; dead fish float downstream, wherever the river takes them. How do you know you’re going in the right direction? It’s uphill the whole way.

Don’t ask me why I do. Ask yourself why you don’t.

Inspired by: Nate Green’s Scrawny 2 Brawny checklist

Critical Thinking Question: In what ways are you a B-player? In what ways are you an A-player? What one thing can you change right now to take your B-game to A-status?

Action Step: Print this page. With a pencil, underline all the attributes that apply to you.  Tape it up somewhere you will see it everyday. Read it once every morning. Change which things are underlined as you improve your thinking, behavior, and character day to day (work on one thing at a time). Keep up the good work until only the A-player stats are underlined. Admire your impressive evolution. Inspire and coach others to step up their game.