I am enjoying the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. She makes the case for grit as the determining factor in success in several areas. I believe her book applies to karate and life at the dojo as well. In the second chapter the author addresses one of my misconceptions in a chapter called “distracted by talent.” Have you ever been lured into thinking someone had “talent” and that was the only reason they were good? And I am sure, like me, you went on to say, I do not have the talent, therefore, I will never be that good.
As we progressed in karate we learned that talent is not a defining differentiator between who becomes a black belt, or even a yellow belt (the next step up in rank from white belt in our dojo) for that matter. It is something more.
- None of us joined karate only to have the dojo stand back and say, “Where have you been? You have talent.”
- I initially looked to talent as the easiest explanation for someone’s good performance.
- Now that I am practiced I know that it is not just the effort or practice that produces a black belt candidate.
- We have shared a few times that success was not talent on my part, rather, it was that intangible desire to see myself completing the course I began when my son asked me to join him in karate.
- When I was a white belt, I looked at people who were black belts (now, like me and Sensei Mae) and thought that they are good. They have talent. I hope I have enough talent to get to their level.
- I may have some talent, but after reading this book I likely have only grit and some practice time.
Our sensei says that obtaining a yellow belt in our dojo is much harder than obtaining a black belt. What he means is that coming to the second
class is often an act of courage. Working on a new process, such as karate, later in life was initially hard for me as the movements were so foreign to my daily movements. I likely made it to black belt as a result of grit or determination to succeed as my goal was firmly set on that accomplishment. I even participated in several sparring rounds to get better as part of the test is fighting.
This drive to succeed applies to everything we do.
- In Grit, chapter three is titled “effort counts twice.” The author demonstrates that talent does not equal improvement. She indicates that the end result is not extraordinary but is the accumulation of actions performed consistently and correctly.
- So, in karate, when we become a black belt, it is a result of the small accumulated actions we practice and perform daily or weekly.
- In our dojo, we have a rigorous test for black belt. It is only available after you pass through several belts and have the accumulation of effort that it takes to pass those belts as well.
- We count execution on the test, not effort. However, it is the effort prior to the test, the years of training, that count on the black belt test and all others.
The talented do not always learn the lessons like I have. I had to ask a lot of questions and be shown techniques several times. Other, who were “naturals,” did not get the same repetition or understanding and did not have the same depth of knowledge. In her book, Duckworth announces a theory to explain the process. I liked the theory: “Talent x effort = skill. Skill x effort = achievement.”
Coming to the dojo a second time requires grit. It is when you do not show back up that your skills stop improving and we stop producing anything with the skills we have learned up to that point. It is the consistency of the effort that counts. I was the only one of four second degree candidates who saw the program straight through. My consistency of effort made the learning of the material simpler. The other three had stopped the training at various times after becoming a black belt and as a result worked harder to re-learn the skills that my consistent effort already knew. It was about the only thing in my favor on the day of the test.
You can follow Sensei Mae @letstalkkarate on Twitter.