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4 Steps to Martial Art Mindfulness

What if I told you that there is a martial art component that everyone can learn? You can practice it any place, at any time. Your physical limitations do not matter. Your size makes no difference. Your age, heart health, and other issues do not hinder you in any way. Would you be willing to try it?

It is a skill that can help you through your entire life.  You can even teach it to others.  Yes, you can be a martial art teacher of sorts because, friends, martial arts are not just physical. The other half of the equation is mental. All you need are a few pointers on how to bring out the inner “martial artist” in you by using a positive and powerful martial art mindset.

  1. Mind over Matter

There are many times in life when you will tell yourself that you cannot do something, for various reasons.  I am too old to be a runner. I am not smart enough to take that test. I do not want to try that because it looks too difficult.

I have the very same thoughts, at times. That is how most of us are wired, with negativity just inching its way out whenever it has the chance.  What you do with these thoughts, and how you dispose of them, is the first step to engaging a martial art mindset.

Very simply, when a negative thought enters your mind, tell it “no” or “stop,” and then replace it with a positive thought. This same mindful exercise allows martial artists to pursue their goals and push through learning and applying difficult techniques or skills, and can help you achieve your goals, too.

Just the other day I was driving in the car and I began to dwell on a problem.  It was so easy to fall into a funk about how difficult the issue seemed.  At that instant I realized that I was headed into a negative black hole.  Delving too deeply meant that a lot of time-consuming, over-thinking would take place. Fortunately, I caught myself, and reminded myself about the positive, instead: “Hey, wait a minute.  What about all those good things going on? Your blog and your writing have a great readership. Your positivity outreach touches the lives of thousands. What in the world is there to be upset about?”

Talking to myself really helped (I probably looked crazy talking to myself in the car!).  I recognized the negativity, nudged it out-of-the-way, and substituted it with a reminder of all the good things going on. I changed what could have been a very negative reaction and a bad day, to a positive one.

To excel in the ranks of life, remind yourself that you can, not that you cannot. Let go of the insecurities.  Nothing is beyond your capability.  Each skill is right within your reach. Substitute your negative mindset with a positive one. Do it repeatedly until it positivity becomes a habit and an automatic response. Believe in yourself.

  1.  Mind Your Own Business  

There are times when the negativity of others invades your space, and you cannot avoid them, even if you want.   The only person in this equation you can change is you, so you may need to politely bow out of a negative conversation, if it begins to alter your mindset.

The best approach is to always stay on the path you want to follow. Make sure it is a path that constantly moves forward toward new challenges, rewards, goals, and ideals.  Keep your eyes forward and do not let the negativity of others deter you.

Also, remember to focus on what you are doing and not on what others are doing. In martial art class, I constantly tell my students, “Stop looking around at others!   You know this!” Because of their lack of confidence, they naturally want to look at who is beside them while practicing.  What if their neighbor is doing it wrong?  In their quest to be right, they may end up practicing it wrong because they were focusing on what others were doing, instead of what they should be doing.

The same thing happens if you focus on the negativity of others. Before you know it, you will be following along and participating in the negativity, and that is exactly what you must avoid. In life and in martial art class, mind your own business and you will avoid the negative impacts of those around you, or doing something wrong when you know how to do it right.

  1.  Mindful Thinking  

All this positive thinking requires a lot of brain power. On occasion, maybe you should think of nothing, a/k/a meditation or reflection. It is much more difficult than it sounds, but it is worth the effort.

Recently, I was relaxing by a pool on a comfy lounge chair. I tried to clear my mind, but I found my thoughts wandering about what was next on my “to do” list.  I remembered what I learned in Tai Chi, breathe in and push the belly out, then breathe out and completely relax. This helps to exhale the stress and other nuisance thoughts away.

The interesting thing is that when you are concentrating on getting your breath in order, you think of nothing else. In the simple act of trying to breathe more thoughtfully, your entire mind focuses on that, and nothing else.  At least for those few moments, you enter a space of mindful, or perhaps mindless, thinking.

Forms and patterns are good examples of mindful thinking in action.  A martial artist focuses on the movements, how to breathe, and when to use power. He falls into his own rhythm. Every form has its own interpretation by the practitioner. During this practice, the mind often clears of every thought except power, breath, and focus.

Personal reflection is a wonderful way to begin mindful thinking in your life. Talk to any expert in this subject, and he will tell you to start small, for perhaps just one minute. One minute of meditation or reflection feels like an eternity when you are trying to think of “nothing.”

Martial artists learn to control their thoughts and their breathing through their practice. Give your mind a break, and refresh.

 

  1. The Mind-Body Connection

Your body does nothing unless your mind tells it to.

If my mind did not tell me to “kick higher” I probably would only kick shin high. Instead, I incorporate flexibility practice into my kicks, and now I kick as high as I can.

If my mind did not remind me to be productive, I would probably be sleeping right now instead of blogging.  If my mind did not push me to try new things, then I would give up just about everything, before I even started.

How you think molds and manipulates your physicality. To have good physical wellness, you need to equate what your mind tells you, with what you want your body to do. This is how I excelled in martial arts class.  I listened to my mind.  It said that I should punch and kick as hard as the next guy.  It told me to not be afraid to work with different partners, or learn different things.  It said that if I tried something new, I would enjoy it.

If I attend a workout class with thirty other people, my mind can drift in one of two ways. I have two variations on what I might think, one is negative and one is positive:

Negative: There are a lot of “regulars” in here and I’m never going to be able to keep up. 

Positive: I’ve been working out all my life.  This will be a fun challenge to see how I do in this group.

What if I am in class and others are more advanced than me?  Should I tell myself that I am not as good, or should I work to achieve my own personal goals?  The mind-body connection works together. When you find balance there, you are on your way to achieving a healthy martial art mindset.

Putting it All Together

The  concepts mentioned here make for a strong martial art mindset, and an understanding of positive, forward-thinking, that leads to success in your life.

  • The first step to your martial art mindset is to eliminate the negative thoughts from your mind and replace them with positive thoughts.  It is an age-old lesson, yet most struggle with it.  Once you learn to be more effective at making the negative-to-positive switch, you can apply it to everything, including your profession, relationships, and your hopes and dreams.
  • Slow down the hectic pace for a moment. Take time to breathe and empty your mind of the accumulated negativity. Once you find a way to relax your thoughts, even briefly, you will notice an enormous difference in how you feel.
  • Finally, recognize that your mind and your body are interrelated. Your overall health and well-being are connected to your way of thinking.  You can do anything, if you set your mind to it.

Friends, you can improve your martial art mindset by applying the principles listed here.  My life took a positive health-filled turn when I began martial arts. When I combined my martial art practice with positivity, I began feeling energized, hopeful, and accomplished.

Where will your new, mindful approach take you?

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