In the year before I ever took my first official class in kung fu, I discovered in a book three things that changed the course of my life: patience, perseverance , and a strong will. It was my first exposure to one of my greatest influences, my second teacher, Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming. I was very fortunate to develop a close teacher-student relationship with him back then. It was Master Yang that first helped me to realize that the martial arts was much more than fighting or even self defense.
From him I learned the basics of massage and meditation (we would meditate together for 30-60 minutes after lunch on his couch). He always spoke of personal morality and most of his books contain stories to teach this aspect of the practice. His training filled many gaps that I felt were missing in my earlier training. My love and attraction to Ba Gua Zhang and my discovery of Master Bok-Nam Park are why I moved on, however, I never forgot the influence of Master Yang.
What is a Discipline?
To say that kung fu is a discipline is to say that the practice permeates all levels of the practitioner: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The spiritual is not in a religious sense as in a set of beliefs. It is in learning to do what you are doing, in this moment, to the best of your ability. Engaging your full self into the NOW is how it effects you deeply.
Discipline to some, especially the lazy, is a bad word. That’s why the Dalai Lama once stated, “The easy way is the hard way; the hard way is the easy way.”
Do what you should do, then you can do what you want to do – without the stress!
Kung fu is not a sport. A sport is a game. There is competition and winners and losers. And some do treat their training as such.
To say “It’s a discipline,” means to reach beyond mere sport and into that realm of personal education and perfection. To train the mind, the body, and the spirit. If the focus of martial arts was solely on the physical technique for fighting then it wouldn’t be so complicated!
Having discipline in your life develops your belief in yourself. It means your word is gold. If you say you’re going to do something, you do it. And when you do your self confidence is raised. And as it is raised you then can see and do more than you thought you could do before.
Discipline made the great warriors of ancient times just as it makes the great athletes or successful people of today. In feudal societies etiquette and self control (aka Wu Dao in Chinese, or Budo in Japanese) was often the narrow line between life and death. Today, it is between success and failure.
When you fall down, get up! Life will knock you down – it takes a strong will to get back up. A strong will results from discipline.
Want a great life? Everything counts!
Originally published October, 2004 “It’s Not A Sport…It’s A Discipline”3