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Elite Martial Arts

Master of 1, Master of All

Posted: June 17, 2010

“If one is master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time, insight into and understanding of many things.” —-Vincent Van Gogh

Wait, wait, wait; I know what you’re thinking. Why are you quoting a guy that cut his own ear off while in a delirium caused by drinking a now illegal drink (absinthe)? Well, just because this guy was “out there”, that doesn’t make his statement any less true.

When we set out to master something, whether it is martial arts, medicine, art, or underwater basket weaving, the fact remains that we learn a lot about life.

In martial arts the goal setting process is pretty straightforward, as students work to attain a rank. In other disciplines this may come in the form of degrees or diplomas, or even critical acceptance. (When it comes to artistic endeavors.)

In each of these there is a progression which cannot be ignored. By becoming good at one thing, we begin to see the processes that govern all things. For example, we probably all know of a business person who own many businesses, and they are all successful. Sometimes these businesses are in unrelated fields, so we wonder how he get so good at so many things. The answer is that he understands business and applies these principles in all the businesses. I’m sure this same person would be successful in almost any field.

For a more critical look, we will use martial arts training as an example, since that is what I am most accustomed to using as a reference point. Additionally, martial arts training has impacted an uncountable number of lives in positive ways. So it is a very good example of how mastery of one thing leads to the mastery of others.

If we look at the black belt as a goal, it is made up of smaller steps or belt ranks. Each of those steps is further sub-divided into many smaller things that must be understood in order to advance. These become our very short term goals. When we run into an obstacle that we can’t seem to overcome. We have to re-evaluate and re-think what we have been doing in order to put us back on our goal-oriented path.

Perhaps, this will include getting extra help from friends, or family, or people that have gone before us. With regard to martial arts, extra help from a variety of instructors or students is usually a good way to start. You may have the same problem that someone else has had before you, and they can usually help you to get back on track. Sometimes you will need to supplement your training to develop a particular attribute. If you can’t do a particular technique, because of a lack of flexibility, you can modify the technique, and work on your flexibility. You can even break the technique into smaller steps. As long as you don’t quit, eventually you can work it out.

So how would this relate to business? If you define your long term goal of success, you would then break it up into smaller components. From there, you would break it down to short term goals. You keep working on them, and when you hit a roadblock, you re-evaluate. You may get extra help from other people in your industry or in another industry (consultants and coaches). If you have a great product, but you have difficulty speaking in front of people, you may have to supplement your education, by taking public speaking classes. In the end, if you don’t quit and keep pushing forward, usually things will work out.

It is easy to see that the steps in both instances are pretty much the same.

Additionally the confidence gained, usually makes you more able to see the big picture and act on opportunities. Many people say this is luck, but the reality is that you must be prepared to act on your lucky breaks to truly benefit from them.

In closing, I would just like to point out that no-one ever really masters anything. That would require perfection and omniscience, and we as people don’t posess these attributes. The process of mastery, like life itself, is ongoing; and we must always strive to become better.

And if you don’t like Van Gogh’s version of the quote, check out Curley’s from the movie “City Slickers.” (It’s from a movie, and their is one curse word sh**, so be cautioned if you are watching this with small children.)


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