Martial Arts Monday: The Beginner’s Mind

Beginner Mind Blog

I often watch in awe as my sifu executes his forms with precision and ease. “I’ll get there," I think to myself, as I stumble my way through my basic exercises. For me, starting kung- fu was a little bit like pulling teeth. I’d say I want to start learning, try a few moves, get frustrated that I wasn’t good at it, and stop. I’m thankful now for patient teachers who let me come to my own conclusions about if and/or when I truly wanted to start learning the art. Part of my journey was realizing that if I was going to learn kung-fu, it first had to be because I wanted to.

For me, kung-fu had always been something I admired from afar rather than trying to learn. Part of me thinks it’s because I knew that I would not be good if I started. My biggest downfall was not continuing with a sport or activity if I was not immediately successful. My “beginner’s mind”—the mindset that I had to be good at everything right away and get upset if I
wasn’t—scared me enough that I did not want to attempt martial arts and risk failure. For me, kung-fu was, and is an immense challenge. Starting kung-fu myself meant that I had to start learning to see it through. For the first time in a long time, I began to understand again what it meant to rise to a challenge and use it to improve myself. So, I started searching for the value in the art. Yes, the workout was good, but what intrinsic value do the forms teach me? Turns out, quite a bit.

Moving my body the way kung-fu requires is something so completely out of my comfort zone, and at times, kung-fu still makes me uncomfortable. Practicing with my sifu means that I am vulnerable to criticism. This is necessary, but it can feel harsh when you are already doing something new and different. What I have come to learn, however, is that uncomfortability
breeds change and growth. The forms teach me that staying in my comfort zone gets me nowhere. Truth is, your comfort zone can kill you. I spent so long hiding in my comfort zone because I did not want to feel the sting of failure or disappointment. Failing is part of the learning process, and I believe that risking failure shows a willingness to improve. Kung-fu has
been a continual journey of self-discovery inside and outside of the studio. Daily, I learn what it means to strive to be better every day. My hope is that you will strive for the same.