Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Self Discipline II

Stu provided some comments on the last post. Stu was dead right when he wrote that the Cambridge Dictionary definition of self-discipline was simplistic. It is. And that is precisely the reason I referred to it, because it would be controversial and promote thinking and discussion. And it has.

I've corresponded about the issue of self-discipline with three intelligent, thoughtful, and experienced martial artists and each has responded with different ideas on the subject. Wonderful. One is for it, another rejecting it, and the other in between. Let's keep this discussion going.

Stu has raised the issue of balance. That martial arts teaches you balance.

I do not disagree, but I also do not agree. It is a complex mix of instructor and student.

I was an exceptional practitioner of jujutsu. I have an above average understanding of the technical elements of jujutsu. Did I ever have 'balance' - God no! In fact, my philosophy was that in order to excel at anything you had to have absolutely no balance. Extreme = unique excellence. There is no Olympic athlete that is 'balanced.'

Mas Oyama wandering off to a forest for a few years to commune with goblins in order to found Kyukoshin kai karate is not the poster child for balance. Musashi living in a cave for years is not a poster child for balance. They are, however, poster children for unique excellence.

This leads to philosophical questions, which unfortunately instructors cannot, or at least should not, shy away from. Can you attain greatness by being balanced? Can you advance anything by being balanced? And ultimately, as I now understand, what is the price you pay for greatness by not being balanced? Is it worth it?

I may not have all the answers dear readers, but I do have the questions.

Balance or unique excellence?


  1. "The candle that burns twice as bright, lasts half as long". Certainly agree that there is no Olympic athlete that is "balanced" while competing. However their competitive lives are short and after winning Gold, what do they do after that? The "broken" private lives of many former elite athletes seen in recent news media attests to their lack of balance.
    Peak performance can not be sustained and while someone may have been a "world champion"at one point in their life, they can not maintain that level of performance all their life.
    Any dedicated martial arts practitioner will have peaked their training for some event, be it a competition or grading. If in martial arts we are preparing ourselves for an unknown self defense situation at some point in our life, how do you peak your training regime to coincide with an unplanned surprise event?
    Maintaining a sustainable level of performance is the only sensible option. There are too many older former elite martial artist who still think they can fight like a champion, even though their wrecked knees, hips or other joints would prevent them from mounting a workable defense.
    I am all for pushing the boundaries, it is how we move our arts forward. However the martial arts are also activities aimed at self preservation, both physically and mentally. A long and active life is the best achievement of that.

    1. I do not disagree Stu. I simply find it an interesting paradox that the arts of balance have been developed and furthered by those that tend show no balance. It becomes a philisophical discussion. The Buddhist tradition preaches balance but by all accounts the original Buddha led a life that anything but balanced. Is it possibly up to the one to lead an unbalanced life in order to develop an approach that others will then be able to attain balance? Jan de Jong preached the benefits of a balanced life but he was far from balanced in his approached to life.


Your comments make my work all the more relevant as I use them to direct my research and theorising. Thank you.