Are You Really Trying?


“I’m really trying…”

This can have more than one meaning – and therefore what’s in your head is really important.  Are you ‘trying’ to attempt to do something with failure already written into it?  Are you seeing it as difficult and frustrating?  Are you ‘trying’ because you think it’s difficult or hard’?

These are all responses that we commonly get from students and the problem can lie with our upbringing, as a child we are constantly told that we must ‘try’ and are told off for ‘not trying’, my school report often said ‘must try harder’, meaning that I needed to put in more effort and often, as long as we put that extra effort in, we were rewarded whatever the result.

And so it goes on, in sport and in Martial Arts, the harder we ‘try’ the more we are rewarded for effort.  So much so, that in some Martial Arts the students end up moving like a car with the handbrake stuck on, agonised expressions on their faces and desperate ‘spirit shouts’ sounding like they are about to vomit or screaming like a Banshee with a wooden stake up its backside!

In this sense ‘trying’ has taken on a negative meaning, we need to accomplish the skill with the least amount of effort.  We need to think of ‘trying’ more in the legal sense, experiment with the information given to us and test it’s worthiness to accomplish the task.

This is not just semantics, it’s a very important point.  Martial Arts skill should look easy, once that basic skill level is gained we should be doing and not ‘trying to do’, I have to spend a lot of time teaching students that they are not here to please the instructor, spectators, or any other person but to make themselves effective in the task in hand, I am assuming that they will put in the required effort and need no additional signals from them.  There is nothing that is ‘hard’ – we only have to take the learning in bite size chunks to suit them.  If it becomes too hard it’s better to step of the gas a little than to try hard and fail, it will only get worse!  If I feel that more time and effort is required from them, I will ask for it, they are not to punish themselves unnecessarily.

As they become more skilful, the object is to ‘let go’ to make it effortless, to allow the Martial Art to work through them, I was told that ultimately ‘Tai Chi does you’ and not that ‘you do Tai Chi’.  This is indicative in the names of Martial Arts and styles, like Aikido (the way of harmony) Judo (the way of softness) Tai Chi ( the Supreme Ultimate), Wado (the way of Peace and harmony), Goju (hard/soft) and so on…

This of course does not mean that they are easy – and Kung Fu means time and effort to achieve that skill, but we have to take the intelligent approach, to work at a pace that we can cope with, to achieve skill with the least amount of effort and to take that ‘journey of a thousand miles’ one step at a time and with a positive learning approach.

That way we won’t become ‘trying’ to ourselves and everyone around us.

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