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What you really, really want

Beyond the Mat Lesson One*
You have to want it and you have to work hard for it.

Black tshirt club

Me and my beau after my official black belt test orientation. Black shirts FTW!

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past 10 years thinking about desire and intent. As the youngest of three siblings with a go-with-the-flow attitude towards life, I ultimately discovered that I would need significantly more passion to achieve the things that I wanted than I had in most cases. Without that burning desire, you can’t help but wonder — is this something that I really want?

A few years ago, I thought I wanted to run a marathon. But even though I successfully completed a half marathon in 2010, I simply wasn’t invested in the journey. After I hit the 10-mile mark in my training program, I stopped making time for it. I hardly ran at all the month before the half marathon, and even though it was a really fun event, it was incredibly difficult, and made me reconsider whether I really wanted to run a full marathon after all. If I had truly wanted to run a marathon, perhaps I would have worked harder to perform well at the half.

On the walls of my martial arts school is the threefold motto, “Conceive, believe, achieve.” I wanted to get my black belt the day I tied on my white belt for the first time. And unlike my love-hate relationship with running, I’ve truly enjoyed the journey to my candidate belt. Despite how much I enjoy martial arts, though, over the past few months, I had a lot of doubts — about my level of competence, my ability to qualify for the test in time, my ability to handle the stress of a six-month black belt test… even about whether I really wanted that black belt at all.

Yet, my training partners and coaches never once doubted me. This current of confidence carried me, totally nerve-wracked, towards last Saturday, the metaphoric plunge over the edge into the start of Intention, the 2015 Freestyle black belt test.

As my friend Christine told me at gold belt, when I asked her for advice about leaving a full-time position and going freelance — when the choice is sink or swim, you swim. With a lot of help and perhaps a bit of hand-holding, it finally clicked for me when I got my red senior belt. I learned how to work for it like I really wanted it. In doing so, I discovered that I really did want it.

Now that my doubts have firm competition from the belief that I can and will do this, I’m not only ready to put in an unforeseen level of dedicated training over the next six months, I’m totally looking forward to it. Especially with this amazing group of people who I very much admire, and who inspire me every time we train.

Candidate belts!

Me and my testing partner Suzi after receiving our candidate belts

* Part of the requirement for black belt testing at Freestyle is maintaining a weekly journal, with several predetermined topics in the Beyond the Mat section of our testing booklets. I’ll be cross-posting these journals here at my blog. You can read more candidates’ journal entries at the Intention 2015 section of the Freestyle website.

7 thoughts on “What you really, really want

  1. Fantastic! I am so glad you found your passion! I also found it hard to train for a half marathon… however, I discovered that it was easier than I had feared (my longest distance before the race was 8 miles) and I’d like to do another one someday.

    But it’s not a passion that gets me up every morning and pushing my physical limits. Maybe when I decide on a race and actually register… but right now, I just walk my 5k per day and am good with that. And actually, considering all the stuff I need to do right now, that’s probably good enough. Passions take time and sometimes they need to be put on hold when the rest of your life demands attention.

    1. Thanks Natasha!! While I don’t want to do a marathon, I wouldn’t nix the idea of doing another half some day! Those events are pretty fun. And walking is fantastic exercise. Not only did many famous thinkers have regular walking regimens, a lot of research seems to be coming out that lots of walking can be better for you than sitting all the time and then going for a run a few times a week.

  2. One of the biggest things I learned in the last year and a half is that you have to really identify what goals you TRULY want versus what goals you THINK you want.

    Your comparison of your running goals versus your martial arts goals is a perfect comparison.

    In my job, I never understood why anyone who was a cop wouldn’t want to work the streets. I never understood why anyone who worked the streets wouldn’t want to be SWAT. And I never understood why anyone who became good at all of that wouldn’t want to promote to Sergeant (or higher).

    I thought that’s what everyone SHOULD want so I THOUGHT I wanted all that too. Just like with running, or being a triathlete, or traveling all over the world, or making millions of dollars. That looked cool and sounded cool, so those should be my goals right?

    Then I realized all desires are not created equal. Just because most “cool” cop hobbies are shooting guns, driving cars fast, and bodybuilding, doesn’t mean we all should desire those things. Some cops like endurance sports, blogging, and playing Dungeons & Dragons. And those different interests bring together a variety of skills that add to the overall strengths of the team (I guarantee you cops that blog and play D&D write better reports than the average cop).

    It takes a lot of really deep thought and introspection to REALLY realize what you want in life. Sometimes you desire something just because it sounds like the right thing to desire (like running a marathon). But when you really look into it deeply, you discover your true passion lies somewhere else.

    Congrats on finding a true passion. Most people never do…

    1. Thanks bro! I’m laughing about your report writing comparison. It’s true. Kind of like how henna makes me a better web developer (eye for spacing).

      The funny thing is the belt itself is still a weird concept to me. In some ways I’m more proud of my blue belt in BJJ than my candidate belt. But — and you’re going to think I’m such a dork for saying this — the Freestyle program feels a lot like an MMO to me, in that the game REALLY starts at endgame (e.g. black belt). That’s when you’ve finally maxed out you basic stats and unlocked all the base achievements and can finally go on raids and stuff. (The black belt curriculum has takedowns and more emphasis on live sparring and grappling.)

      I’ve been wanting to nerd out and write that post for months… maybe I’ll get around to it before this test is over. 😉

      1. If you think about it any goal is like an MMO.

        Final Goal: To become a Black Belt (Aka, level 50, or whatever max level is).

        Steps Towards Goal: Start at Level 1 (White Belt), proceed to Level 2 (next belt), proceed to Level 3 (next belt), etc.

        It is very linear and structured with martial arts, but it is the same for anything else. You just need the goal and to define the steps to get there.

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