Are You Doing Hard Things?

Are you pushing yourself hard enough? Have you been practicing the 12 days of karate? One of the benefits of attending our dojo and most dojos I know about is we teach discipline and respect. Now that you have worked on the challenge and are back at the dojo, do you have a hard thing rule? In the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, she describes her hard thing rule (page 241):

  1. Everyone in the family has to do one hard thing, described as requiring daily deliberate practice. Karate would be an example.
  2. You can quit after you finished what you started; in other words, when your sensei yells at you or makes you do pushups is not the time. Ms. Duckworth is looking for natural ending points, like the end of a season and not in the middle of a test.
  3. You get to pick your hard thing.
Blk Belt_01077

A family working on the hard things

We worked with our kids; we ensured that all of them had at least one after school activity in high school each semester. It could have been track, band, or debate or any other after school club. We followed a rule similar to the one outlined in Grit In our case, the activity (hard thing) became karate because our kids chose karate. When they were younger, yes, we signed them up for certain sporting activities and allowed then to quit after the season was over if that is what they wanted. They always had to finish the season or the commitment. As an adult, we find that we still pay attention to this hard thing rule. Is this something you can add to your goals?

Discipline and high expectations is what we expect for every class. It begins when we arrive at class early and bow when entering the dojo. It continues with bowing to the sensei at the beginning of class and standing in line, no wiggling allowed, by age and belt. We notice when techniques are improperly executed and repeat drills to ensure they are learned properly. Our sensei demands a response from his teaching, and when we give that response we feel part of this select community.

It is easy to just let a class lapse into having fun without a path to follow. Of course, no instructor would want that for their students and no student, after experiencing that environment, would go willingly back to that environment. Think back to your favorite teacher. Mine was my high school physics teacher, and no, I did not study physics in college. He was demanding and expected us to push ourselves. Looking back, he expected more of us than almost any other teacher in the school. The work was not impossible.

To progress and grow we need to resist that easy path, the one without discipline and high expectations. Yes, it is more work. If we take the path of most resistance, we will push ourselves out of mediocrity. When we push ourselves out of mediocrity, we find ourselves in the area where we are challenging ourselves to be the best we can be. We want to achieve excellence. When we speak about the black belt test at our dojo, we often speak about endurance. We train for the test because we know that it will be a long test. The elements of the test are known and should be part of our regular practice. It takes a while to build up endurance. It turns out that endurance, or perseverance, is about 90% of the martial arts. Will power (determination or grit) is required to accomplish what is considered impossible by a white belt or other students in karate.

When we are on the path of most resistance, we want to compare ourselves to the people around us.  This is an application of the hard thing rule in action. You may be tempted to say “Compared with the rest of my belt peers, I’m doing great.” Of course you can always say, “(name of your hero) has the same 24 hours that you do.”  The only comparison we should do is with ourselves and not with others. Take a look at what would happen if, for example, if you compared yourself and your skills to your hero, how well would you compare?  No matter who they are, they have the same 24 hours that you do.  The change that is required is with the person we see in the mirror, me included. I need to step up and slowly practice that new kata and work out my mistakes.

The person who has “made it” to black belt put in the time and the hard work. They showed respect for the dojo and their sensei. When our sensei goes to teach class, he does not compare himself with other senseis or dojos. He is looking at what the best experience should be and is constantly and consistently improving those things for us. Do you have high expectations of yourself and what you are doing in your karate practice? Does your teacher have high expectations for you and the rest of the class? Are you doing work in your practice that challenges you? The foundation of this teaching is the high expectations and relentless focus on the best teaching for martial arts he can find or invent. Go and sign up for your own hard thing rule.

See you in the dojo soon!

Quiet Place--see the tall trees?

If we take the path of most resistance, we will push ourselves out of mediocrity.