Sir, Are You Aware…

Everyday Is Training Day

Sir, Are You Aware…

Awareness. A concept I often discuss during my entrepreneurship classes as it is vitally important to fully understand who you are, your strengths, and more importantly, your weaknesses before embarking on a risky endeavor such starting a business.

As a young karate student, Self-Awareness was one of the “Selfs” we were required to learn and memorize (Self…discipline, respect, confidence, control, defense, and awareness).  Many successful entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuck trumpet the importance of personal awareness and deep reflection of who we really are before venturing down a path that we may not actually be built to succeed on.

I read about Gestalt theory many years ago during my graduate degree work in Human Relations; came across it again in my martial arts study when searching how to achieve the ever-evasive perfection of self.  Gestalt paradoxical theory of change posits that the more we attempt to be who or what we are not, the more we remain the same.  It is only when we understand who we are, becoming aware, that we can begin to change and realize the ideal version of ourselves. 

People change by becoming more fully themselves, not by trying to be something or someone they are not.  Likewise, the goal of Gestalt therapy is to raise clients’ awareness regarding how they function in their environment (with family, at work, school, friends) and what is happening (the moment-to-moment process); ultimately allowing them to become more self-aware and better equipped to make desired changes to their lives.

Some artists shrink from self-awareness, fearing that it will destroy their unique gifts and even their desire to create. The truth of the matter is quite opposite.

James Broughton

One of the primary objectives of the martial arts is for practitioners to become better versions of themselves.  I clearly remember my first instructor, Sensei Tim Hoover, saying his goal is make every student better than him.  As a 6th grader that was profound to me.  As a 45 year old, I still find it profound…and largely a principle many teachers and managers unfortunately do not follow.

My martial arts students often joke at my seemingly simplistic approach to teaching.  How do you get out of the armbar…don’t get in the armbar! Simple enough, right?!   They will also tell you that I routinely refuse to provide a step by step approach to accomplishing something and prefer rather to give a vaguer answer.  How to I escape position X…get your knee to elbow. Figure that out and you’ll not only escape but never get controlled. 

My approach isn’t out of laziness, more out of hoping to push my students toward self-discovery and ultimately awareness.  By giving the answer, there is no thought behind the action; it is simply regurgitation.  The problem? Nothing is stagnant.  Murphy always seems to show up to the party.  Encouraging someone to thoughtfully, and sometimes painstakingly, work through the problem with just enough guidance to stay on the right path we begin to have actual learning.   

This is precisely why I don’t like to see students attempt to model their style or ‘game’ after someone, the current world champion or flavor of the day.  That person isn’t you and you are not that person.  The beauty of the martial arts is the medium they provide for the discovery of your true self.  Personal liberation through the expression of martial arts.  Love the process, enjoy the act of training, be present in every class.  Stop worrying where you are going or feel need to be.  Realization of our ideal self and experiencing happiness occurs when we abandon the vision of what we would like to become and simply be who we are.

Here is a great watch, Buddhist monk, photographer and author Matthieu Ricard has devoted his life to these questions, and his answer is influenced by his faith as well as by his scientific turn of mind: We can train our minds in habits of happiness. Interwoven with his talk are stunning photographs of the Himalayas and of his spiritual community.