Learning to love training…and your enemies.
The following is based on an exchange which took place last week in my tai chi class.
Student: ‘This exercise is really annoying me.’
Teacher: ‘The exercise has nothing against you personally.’
Student: ‘Like the ant has no quarrel with the boot?’
Teacher: ‘Ah, I see you have studied your Stan Lee.
‘Some days you are the ant. Some days you are the boot. But remember, the purpose of the exercise is to harmonize the inner and the outer.’
Student: ‘How can it produce harmony when it inspires such hatred?’
Teacher. ‘Whatever exercise you hate the most, you should practise until you learn to love it. Then find another hateful exercise to love.’
Student: ‘I smell another metaphor.’
Teacher: ‘You have a good nose.
‘We are taught that the true spirit of martial arts is love.
‘In “The Art of War” Sunzi advises us to “Know your enemy and know yourself.” Well, you can never learn anything about anyone by hating them. The only way to truly understand your enemy, as with your self, is by loving them.
‘Also, success is never complete so long as there is animosity. You will have conquered this “annoying” exercise only when it becomes something you look forward to. Likewise, victory can never be complete unless you love your enemy. You only truly conquer your enemy when each of you is willing to fight and die to protect the other.’
‘If you try to avoid the exercise altogether, or cheat at it, the skill it builds will be required of you at an inconvenient time. You will also be no better at conquering similar challenges.
‘In the same way, if you try to avoid and ignore the conflict, it will find you unprepared. You can also never destroy an enemy. Because each one that falls will be replaced by even more formidable foes, of both the internal and external variety.
“You will often come across challenges which you will hate. Sometimes you will conquer them and learn to love them. Sometimes you will fail. But each time that you achieve such a perfect victory, you come closer to perfection yourself. Frustrating exercises, like frustrating people, become easier to love with practice. ”