The pain of training

I admit it. I’m human.

That means in my core I seek pleasure and avoid pain. It’s just how living things behave. However, as humans we have this ability to think and reframe things. We may undertake “small pain” if we know it will help us avoid “large pain” and there is some pleasure-seeking in such behavior. For example, giving a small child a spanking because they ran out into the street, that’s a small pain to help them learn to avoid the bigger pain of getting hit by a car. Letting your child turn in a term paper late and getting a failing grade is a small pain compared to the bigger pain of perhaps losing their job because they never learned how to work under deadlines. One advantage of studying a martial art that spars is you learn what it’s like to get hit and how to deal with it, a small pain compared to the first time getting hit being when someone is attacking you bent on taking your life. We can learn how to take small pain if we know it leads us towards a better end.

That said, the small pain is still pain, and at least speaking for myself, I still don’t like it. 🙂

I was reading this quip from John Farnam about training. It helped me reframe my mindset.

Good training is ever scary, demanding, and makes you feel inadequate and stupid. When you finish and ‘feel good about it,’ you probably weren’t pushing yourself hard enough. Learning takes place when you fail, not when you succeed!

I disagree that learning can’t take place when you succeed, but the overall point remains valid.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt inadequate and stupid during training. I didn’t shoot well enough, I got my butt handed to me, I got choked out, I totally botched this, I feel embarrassed about that. People learn who I am and due to my résumé/credentials think that I should be some badass, but then I get out there and while afterwards others may tell me I did great I still feel like I suck.

Next month I’ll be participating in a weekend-long seminar. It promises to be very intensive both in terms of shooting skills and hand-to-hand skills. I admit, I’ve been a bit anxious about the class because I know the teachers are demanding yet some of the best in the business. I know my skills will be pushed to the limit. I want to do well in the class, but I think my measure of doing well was “succeeding” at things: that I would shoot in the top 10% of the class, that my empty-hand skills would always lead me to victory in all the drills. After reading the quip, I have reassessed my measure of success: how much I learn. Even if I wind up at the bottom of the heap, that tells me what I need to do to improve. Deep down I know this, but being human, I guess there’s some need to satisfy ego, some need to save face and not look like a total doofus out there. I just have to make a bigger effort to be, as Bruce Lee said, “be a doll made of wood.”

Thus, any training worthy of the name is going to be both frustrating and ‘dangerous,’ no matter what safety procedures are in place. But, failing to train is even more dangerous, and the consequences ever appalling and irrevocable. Ask any commander who has lost a battle!

That’s the more important thing. To get out and train. To push myself beyond my limits. Allow myself to be humbled and embarrassed, so long as it means I’m learning something about myself. The only external opinions I should care about are those of the instructor, but then only so far as it takes to allow me to continue to learn. As a human, it’s tough to allow yourself to go through these small pains. I just have to keep reminding myself that the small pain will help me alleviate the bigger pain. 🙂

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