The Mental Arts Tidbit for February 24
The Mental Arts Tidbit
Karate was my first martial art, and it is still where I feel the most at home. Among the many lessons that my Sensei taught me was the importance of knowing when you needed a break because you were tired versus injured.
“You know the difference,” he growled at us during a particularly hard practice. “You let me know if you get injured. Otherwise, keep going.”
Most importantly, our teacher always kept his word. If we were injured, we could sit out: no questions asked.
But you had best be sure that you were honest with yourself.
This was my first experience with having autonomy over how I treated my body. In high school, it was never a choice whether or not I could get enough sleep — if I didn’t think I was done studying, then I continued. Sunday morning, which is usually used by most to get more sleep, were interrupted by the need to finish homework for Chinese school that I didn’t have time for during the week. Success brought survival in many ways for me when I was growing up, which is why my body suffered in the process.
Spending those years in Karate with this responsibility of self-regulation taught me a few important things about the difference between discomfort and real pain in my own body.
Discomfort was an unfamiliar feeling of going past a specific threshold, like breathing faster than I had ever breathed before or feeling an ache in my body.
Real pain was sharp, sudden, and familiar — real pain felt instinctively bad.
Over time, I learned how pushing through discomfort could help me make gains in my confidence or a new personal best, and how pushing through pain would result in permanent damage or set me back on my overall goals.
I wasn’t always accurate in how I assessed the situation, but with experimentation and introspection, I got better at it.
Try This Tidbit
Self-awareness is a continuing practice of refining and reflecting. In reflecting on your past training experiences, what criteria can you use to create your own definitions of discomfort versus pain?
Have You Seen?
I created four principles for The Mental Arts: read them here. And maybe forward the page to someone who would also be interested in these Tidbits!