It takes patience to master anything. The journey to black belt takes years, and it is different for each martial artist. It’s no surprise that, across the country, about 1 in 10 make it that far. (That percentage is higher in the ranks of SDSS, a result of higher-than-average student retention.)
Each new belt brings new goals, and there are no compromises along the way. As soon as you tie the new belt around your waist, you’re presented with a new set of challenges, more demanding than what was on your last test. That takes patience. But, as the Persian poet Saadi once said, “Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”
The Crane Teaches Patience
In our Life Skills program, the Crane teaches patience. The crane is known for standing still, often on one leg, for hours, just waiting for food. It is a remarkable animal. The crane’s fighting style shows a different kind of patience, strategically giving and taking space to dismantle its opponent.
Our lives seem to travel at light speed. Communication, travel, information, food, clothing, you name it – we judge the quality of something by how fast we can get it. We have a cultural addiction to getting what we want right now.
That attitude is just impossible in the martial arts. Success is built on being centered, and slowing down the mind, heart, and body. Class routinely begins and ends with students seated on the floor, focused on the breath, finding their center.
Patience is the key to building awareness. Awareness is essential for self-defense. To be aware, you combine patience with focus. Martial artists learn to see everything in their surroundings and not just the threat in front of them. Knowing where you are and what is happening is a secret to avoiding many difficult situations. Sometimes, the best way to win a fight is to never let it begin.
The real battle is inside ourselves.
Grandmaster DeMasco, in The Shaolin Way, talks at length about how life is a battle. It is not a battle in the streets but within ourselves. “Fighting is the only action that will make you stronger,” he teaches. While many of those lessons can be learned on the mat, the real battle is in life. Life knocks us down and wants to keep us there. “Your ability to keep coming back and keeping your fists raised against weakness as you find your own personal strengths,” Grandmaster teaches, “will determine whether you win or lose.” Resilience and patience come hand-in-hand.
“Fall down seven times, stand up eight,” the Japanese philosopher said. Our ability to rise each day, then “stand up” as many times as we fall, then get up the next day and do it again is a key. The patience we learn in the martial arts will get us there.
The Marshmallow Study – Patience leads to success.
There was a famous series of studies that came out of Stanford University in the late 60’s and early 70s that tested the patience of young children. Test subjects were offered a marshmallow (or a cookie or a pretzel), and then they were offered a deal. The deal was, if they held off eating the one marshmallow, they could get a second marshmallow when the researcher returned. It was a test to see whether they could delay gratification.
Researchers followed up with the test subjects 20+ years later. The children who held out for the second treat had what they called “better life outcomes.” They had better grades in school, better SAT scores, more education, and even a better level of fitness.
Patience leads to a happier life.
Patience is the Serenity Prayer in action. It helps us all make peace with the things we cannot change, provides the focus to change the things we can, and builds the awareness to tell the difference. Patience can help us live a happier, longer, more peaceful and joyful life.