Follow Through

"Man, he would've been so good!" This is something I've told Amir so many times in regards to the countless young men (and women) who have graced Lightning Kicks Martial Arts Academy, but for one reason or another things seemed to fizzle out. Perhaps life got in the way, or they moved, or any number of factors kept them from moving forward in their journey of self discovery and transformation via the martial arts.

However, all too often it seems the factors that keep these individuals from achieving greatness are well within their control and it is just a matter of following through. And that seems to be the sticking point for so many, what keeps so many of us from moving forward with our lives in the direction of our dreams. Everything seems good on paper, when it is just an idea, a dream which requires no actionable items yet. But that all changes when you take that first step towards your dream and everything becomes real, becomes scary, and you have to find out how close or far away you really are from that dream.

This is a reality I see so often. Individuals who step in on their first day with the passion of dreams turning into a reality fueling them off the ground, and these individuals put a significant amount of effort and show quite a bit of promise at first. However, once all that energy dwindles away they begin to plateau, lose self belief and begin doubting themselves, telling themselves this was a dumb idea and talk themselves out of becoming great.

Others are simply impatient, especially men who believe their natural killer instincts and God given talent should translate seamlessly into martial arts training. They find themselves disappointed as they are manhandled by individuals they deem as their inferior and are hit with the rude awakening that they are at the starting line with everyone else beginning the journey. They realize that the dream they've fostered in their mind all these years is not nearly as obtainable as they thought and they have to accept the reality that they aren't nearly as tough as they thought they were.

The process of turning a dream into a reality can be quite humbling for many and is another reason many have prematurely exited the process of transformation. It can be incredibly painful if the self image you've created for yourself is completely deflated when you step on the mat and find yourself to be the least impressive individual in the room. This is especially the case with BJJ where you can expect to struggle immensely through the first 6 months of training. This is a real hammering process where, unfortunately, you must be the nail for a prolonged period of time before you become the hammer. This requires a significant amount of patience, humility, and pure love for the craft which many simply struggle with. Their wounded pride forces them to exit the process and retreat towards their safe space, all the while telling themselves that they could have been amazing, if they wanted to.

Getting your purple belt, blue belt, or even your first stripe on your white belt isn't like ordering a 20 piece McNugget. There is no drive through, no quick payment, and no greasy bag with marginal food that is clogging your arteries with junk. The process must become a passion and you must see yourself more as an artist (hence the term martial artist). Artists love their craft and are passionate about the work they put into their art. In the same way the true martial artist is one who isn't concerned with "improvement" but with the opportunity to be completely enthralled in what they are doing. They find themselves in a state of complete flow and the world around them melts away in the process of learning, growing, and becoming one with themselves. The act of doing truly becomes an incredibly fulfilling experience and the thought of achieving becomes a secondary goal.

For those who know themselves to be impatient I would take the above approach to your own journey of transformation. Enjoy each and every day of doing, knowing that you are getting better, you are evolving, and every step on the path of your dreams is transforming you into the person you've always believed yourself to be. And one day, years and years into this wonderfully satisfying journey you will find someone at the head of the class is calling your name to come up and receive your black belt. You will think about about who you were when you first started the journey, and then you will think about who you are now and you will truly believe that the journey was, in fact, the destination.

Author the Author

David Tanner Lauka is a member of Lightning Kicks Martial Arts Academy and author of Capturing the Ghost. He is also the founder of the Slaughterhouse Combat Team, a non-profit organization designed to equip trauma survivors to battle their fears through the martial arts. He is a childhood trauma survivor who suffers from PTSD and hopes to use his story to encourage others in their journey of healing.