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The Mental Game: Learn To Like Failing

Today marks yet another addition to the KarateMart.com Martial Art Blog, The Mental Game.

There are all sorts of articles on the internet full of martial arts tips that focus on technique. Learning the best way to pull off a successful spinning roundhouse kick or choke hold can be helpful, but what about the second half of your martial arts skill set? Of course, I'm referring to the mind. After all, a martial artist without a prepared mind is only working at half strength.

This series will focus on very basic lessons of the mind and look to apply them to the martial arts. Which brings us to today's lesson:

Learn to Like Failing

Continue reading to find out how failure just might be the key to your martial arts success!

(source via 99U)

Making a mistake. Messing up. Missing the mark. FAILURE. For many people 'Fail' is one of the worst four-letter words that a person can hear. We do everything we can to avoid it. What's more, we consider it a badge of dishonor. But what happens when we turn that mode of thought right on its head? What if, rather than run from failure like terrified animals scurrying from the light, we instead chose to stare it right in its ugly face? What would we learn?

It's that moment of learning that we're really after. The instant when our mind realizes how something shouldn't be done so it can continue figuring out how it should be done. Nobody in the whole of human history has avoided making a mistake, but the smartest of us do learn from them. So the next time you're struggling to nail that kata just right, just keep some of these tips in minds. And above all, allow yourself to fail.

Learn the basic idea.
Learn It:

So you've just been given a new series of movements to work on for your martial arts training, and you've put it on yourself to have these moves down solid come next class. What's the first thing you're going to want to do? It's easy:

  • Tell yourself that you will fail. You read that right. Until you are comfortable with the fact that you aren't going to learn these (or any) lessons without making a mistake, you will only be making it harder for yourself. Be okay with getting things wrong!

  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. Again, failing shouldn't be seen as a sign of weakness. Especially when you are trying to take such an active role in correcting things. Too often we avoid admitting our shortcomings in an area for fear of being looked down on. This shouldn't be the case. Find a trusted classmate to practice in front of (without the fear of making a mistake), listen to their input closely. You'll be amazed at the huge improvements your training will make just by incorporating this small change in your training routine.

  • Don't focus on others around you. Gazing in amazement at that classmate that seems to be able to pull off any martial arts move without breaking a sweat will only set your mind on comparing yourself to them. Hurt feelings, anxiety, and overall lack of self-esteem will rapidly ensue. Instead, focus only on yourself. Your performance. Your movements. Commit all thought to improving your abilities.

    Find ways to apply it to your training.

    Apply It:

    These ideas are all fine and good, but you won't really start making improvement in your training until you start applying them to your martial arts studies. But how do you do this? Here's how:

    • Start small at first. Pick one of the lessons above and try it at your next class. For the class after that, choose another. Maybe you'll make a conscious effort to not focus on how great other students are doing. Maybe you'll spend a few moments before each class telling yourself that at some point today you will fail. Set small goals like these during your classes and you'll have a trained brain in no time!

    • Integrate the lessons into your home training. As any martial artist knows, much of your learning will come from the time you devote to your lessons outside of class. But failure can turn up anywhere. So no matter where you decide to practice your lessons, take a few extra moments to prepare your mind for a few good ol' fashioned mistakes. Now hopefully you've brought a friend along to help!

    Repetition makes perfect!
    Repeat It:

    Repetition is the key to success. Repetition is the key to success. Just because you manage to do something correctly a few times in no way means you have mastered it. Our minds require repeated attempts at an action before we even start to learn the basic steps of accomplishing that action. Learning to accept failure is no different.

    Practice getting comfortable with failure. Every day. Pick something from your daily routine and accept that you will fail at one aspect of it. Do this as often as you can. Every day. Stare right back at that ugly face of failure and slowly, very slowly, it will become less scary. Soon it will begin to fade, and your fear of failure along with it.

    Final Thoughts

    It isn't until we've learned to accept the possibility of failure that our minds can focus on achieving success. Once you have learned to see failure not as a monster to be feared, but as an opportunity to be snatched, you will have taken your first steps towards achieving true martial arts greatness. You will have learned to see each mistake as a stepping stone toward your ultimate goals. You will have learned to like failing.

    Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! We love to hear from you!

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