China 2019 – Day 20, Tuesday, 6th August

The temperature has soared back up but I do love the training here in a humid 37C, which is said to feel more like 42C today according to my phone app!

One thing I like about martial arts is that you train for imperfection, and when situations are not ideal.

Too cold? Good, work harder.

Too hot? Good, sweat it out.

Floor surface not level? Good, your balance will improve.

Feeling tired? Good, training will make you feel better.

Injured arm? Good, an opportunity to train your legs.

Injured leg? Good, an opportunity to train your arms.

Had a hard day at work? Good, training is the antidote to your daily grind.

Don’t want to train? Good, it will improve your mental strength.

I think you get the picture…

(My mum has always said I have an answer for everything, maybe she’s right!)

Martial arts isn’t – well, shouldn’t be – a sanitised practice where you need the perfect scenario to train. You’re training to toughen yourself up in so many different ways – physically, mentally, spiritually, so why do you need the ideal place and mindset in order to train?

Training should be seen as a microcosm of everyday life. Generally in our daily life something is wrong – we never have a perfect balance of yin and yang across all facets of our life. We have to do our best and get on with our day. So not training because the scenario isn’t optimal for you, kind of misses the deeper point.

The people who have such a mindset where they will practise and attend their regular class(es) virtually no matter what, are the ones who improve – way above and beyond others who need the stars to be aligned before attending training.

Such students achieve something far more important than extra practice of techniques and forms, and way more important than physical fitness:

Mental strength.

One often neglected part of training is mental toughness. It can be trained and improved the same as anything else.

Getting to training when the circumstances are seemingly conspiring against you is a test of mental fortitude in itself, and physically training in martial arts will focus the mind, make it more resilient to doubt and worry, build a more confident version of yourself, one that is less likely to be mentally bullied or pushed around at home or at work. It’s not because you are suddenly tough on the outside for all to see. It’s an inner resilience that shines through and shows in your attitude, your posture, and in your eyes.

Strength comes in many guises and I’m not saying that martial arts is the only way to build strength of the mind – but it’s a very good way that has been tried and tested over thousands of years!

The years and decades of training, learning new skills, achieving goals and targets you never thought you could, surprising friends, relatives and even yourself at your accomplishments, doing demos, entering competitions, winning, losing, hurting and aching yet coming back for more, making mistakes again and again, constantly working on corrections, feeling stronger, more flexible, looking better, becoming humble in the face of how much you need to learn yet feeling pride in how far you have come, being pushed constantly by your instructor to do more, train harder, balance longer, sink lower, learn more, retraining old patterns of thought that don’t serve you any more… All of this and more gives you mental toughness beyond belief if you have the right attitude and approach training in this way.

I’ve seen the toughest looking young guys who lack even even a fraction of the mental fortitude that some of my 60 and 70 year old ladies who do tai chi with me have.

So with this in mind, without really being in the mood, I took myself off for a post dinner bike ride this evening (photos below!) and lo and behold, I loved it and felt loads better, then returned for some broadsword and open hand forms training, and now a stretch in my room before sleep.

Hotpot update: she’s definitely taken to sleeping in my room and I think she thinks it’s part hers now. I caught her outside it this evening looking at me and crying to be let in – hence stretching indoors and not outside this evening. I clearly lack the mental strength to say no to a cute dog (humans, I have no problem with, don’t worry!).

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