Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, July 22, 2019

12 Principles Every Martial Artist Should Add to his Life

I am a great admirer of Stoic thought. Below is a post from the Daily Stoic which addresses athletes in general, but I think can be applied specifically to martial artists. The full post may be read here.

Forged on the battlefield and the political arena, it is no surprise that the Stoic teachings have been widely embraced by athletes and the sports community at large. The Stoic philosophers drew constant parallels between the athlete and the philosopher, claiming that body and mind are one, and that mental dispositions are crucial for performance. The healthy mind resembles the healthy body—it’s strong, resilient, compact, agile, proportionate, and functional. The art of life, Stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself in Meditations, is “more like the wrestler’s art than the dancer’s.” It teaches you to “stand ready and firm to meet sudden and unexpected onsets.”

Today, Stoicism has been embraced by nearly every professional sport—including some of the most renowned football coaches and executives in the world like Bill Belichick, Nick Saban, Michael Lombardi and Pete Carroll, basketball coaches like Shaka Smart, Olympic gold medalist Chandra Crawford, the Irish tennis pro James McGee, baseball manager Joe Maddon, basketball superstar CJ McCollum, and many others.

As Ryan Holiday, author of the Stoic-inspired cult bestseller The Obstacle Is The Way, explains, the connection between sports and Stoicism is very clear. Any athlete will immediately see the parallels: “Stoicism as a philosophy is really about the mental game. It’s not a set of ethics or principles. It’s a collection of spiritual exercises designed to help people through the difficulty of life. To focus on managing emotion; specifically, non-helpful emotion.”

Here are twelve rules from Stoicism to help you become a better athlete today in order to win, be number one and conquer the heights of greatness.

Plan Ahead

Everyone wants to succeed, but very few are willing to undertake the preparation and effort required.

Therefore, you need to begin by asking yourself if this is what you really want, and if your motivation is strong enough to get you where you want to go.

Suppose you wanted to be victorious at the Olympic Games, Epictetus says,
“That’s fine, but fully consider what you’re getting yourself into. What does such a desire entail? What needs to happen first? Then what? What will be required of you? And what else follows from that? Is this whole course of action really beneficial to you? If so, carry on. If you wish to win at the Olympic Games, to prepare yourself properly you would have to follow a strict regimen that stretches you to the limits of your endurance. You would have to submit to demanding rules, follow a suitable diet, vigorously exercise at a regular time in both heat and cold, and give up drinking. You would have to follow the directions of your trainer as if he or she were your doctor.”
Now is the time to think this through. Later, it will be difficult to give up your dream.
Confragosa in fastigium dignitatis via est. “It is a rough road that leads to the heights of  greatness,”

Seneca would write. Are you ready to take that path?

Recall the line from Coach Taylor: “Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.”

It starts with clear eyes. You need to see clearly the road, yourself and the competition.

Assess Yourself

Like we said, it starts with clear eyes. As Epictetus reminds us, this is the first challenge facing us—to be completely objective and honest about ourselves. Who you are and who do you wish to be? Is your dream a realistic one?
“Just as nothing great is created instantly, the same goes for the perfecting of our talents and aptitudes. We are always learning, always growing. It is right to accept challenges. This is how we progress to the next level of intellectual, physical, or moral development. Still, don’t kid yourself: If you try to be something or someone you are not, you belittle your true self and end up not developing in those areas that you would have excelled at quite naturally.”
Marcus Aurelius would write,
“These are the characteristics of the rational soul: self-awareness, self-examination, and self- determination. It reaps its own harvest. . . . It succeeds in its own purpose . . .”

First, you must look inward. Next, you must examine yourself critically. Finally, you must make our own decisions— uninhibited by biases or popular notions.

Fully Commit and Set Your Standards

Having considered all that lays ahead and decided that you have what it takes to succeed, you should enter your competition wholeheartedly and without hesitation. Epictetus urges us to,
“Think things through and fully commit! Otherwise, you will be like a child who sometimes pretends he or she is a wrestler, sometimes a soldier, sometimes a musician, sometimes an actor in a tragedy. A half-hearted spirit has no power. Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes. Average people enter into their endeavors headlong and without care. Perhaps they meet with an exemplary figure like Euphrates and become inspired to excel themselves. It is all well and good to do this, but consider first the real nature of your aspirations, and measure that against your capacities.”
You also need to clearly set the standards for yourself. As Epictetus admonishes his students:
“When the standards have been set, things are tested and weighed. And the work of philosophy is just this, to examine and uphold the standards, but the work of a truly good person is in using those standards when they know them.”
As an athlete, what standards are you setting for yourself? Are they high enough? Are you observing them?

This determined approach will serves us well, because as Cicero makes clear, “It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment.”

Accept the Sacrifices

“We must undergo a hard winter training and not rush into things for which we haven’t prepared.” Epictetus
With full commitment comes sacrifices. No great achievement is accomplished without hard work. There is always a price to pay. Epictetus makes the point:
“Just as certain capacities are required for success in a particular area, so too are certain sacrifices required. …  If true wisdom is your object and you are sincere, you will have work to do on yourself. You will have to overcome many unhealthy cravings and knee-jerk reactions.”
Athletes have to endure pain and hardship without grumble. They have to get their heads down, focus on what’s within their control, and shut out the rest.
Marcus Aurelius commanded himself to never shirk from hard work and from his duty. As he would tell himself,
“Never shirk the proper dispatch of your duty, no matter if you are freezing or hot, groggy or well-rested, vilified or praised, not even if dying or pressed by other demands. Even dying is one of the important assignments of life and, in this as in all else, make the most of your resources to do well the duty at hand.”

Set Your Discipline in Stone

The importances of enthusiasm in the pursuit of success should not be underestimated. But as Epictetus reminds us, a true athlete requires a firmer foundation.
“We’ve all known people who, like monkeys, mimic whatever seems novel and flashy at the moment. But then their enthusiasm and efforts wane; they drop their projects as soon as they become too familiar or demanding.”
It takes great patience and perseverance to fully develop one’s natural talents. Without discipline and continuous practice your bursts of inspiration will come to nothing.
Constantly remind yourself of the line from Publius Syrus:
“Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.”
Be disciplined, and take control over your impulses and poor instincts. Direct your actions to what you aim to accomplish and settle for nothing less.

Have No Excuses

Look at this note that the most powerful man in the world wrote to himself at one point in his own private diary: “It is possible to curb your arrogance, to overcome pleasure and pain, to rise above your ambition, and to not be angry with stupid and ungrateful people— yes, even to care for them.”

This of course was Marcus Aurelius and essentially he was calling himself out on his excuses.

As an athlete, you need to adopt a similar attitude. No more excuses.

Have you said any of these? “I was just born this way.” “I never learned anything different.” “My parents set a terrible example.” “Everyone else does it.” What are these? Excuses that people use to justify staying as they are instead of striving to become better.

How do you think the great athletes became who they are? They worked on it. They didn’t make excuses. Just like you can.

No comments: