Dear White Belt,
I’m not trying to be mean, but it’s true. You don’t know what you’re doing, you are all thumbs and left feet. You go left when Sensei says go right. You immediately forget what Sensei said, and have to ask for the instructions AGAIN.
Or, you get this expression when asked a question you know the answer to, but can’t recall on the spot ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️ ➡️
Whatever happens, however you screw up, you just..
Here’s the thing, it’s totally okay to suck, be imperfect, screw up, or go left when you’re supposed to go right.
Seriously, IT’S OKAY.
Because I’m interested in your continued practice, despite the sucky-ness, I’m going to take a few minutes to explain why.
To begin with, “to suck” is to be alive. We don’t come out of the womb with all the martial knowledge and wisdom ever created by man. I mean, that would be…weird. Imagine you, as a baby, karate chopping your loving mother in the face as she feeds you your five thousandth bottle. Sucking at something means that you’re trying. Whether it’s a martial skill or drinking that milk your mother is trying to feed you, if you’re doing something that requires patience, practice and skills, that means you’re a living, breathing human being.
Congratulations on being alive.
If we want to garner any skills at all, we have to work at it. We must spend as many hours as it takes repeating the same motions again and again.
An even greater need than putting hours of work into a single motion is having someone to guide you, a teacher. I can’t count how many times it took for one of MY Sensei to tap my dead toes back to life before I sucked less.
See, sucking less is the goal. Some of the great masters, those who’ve been at their art for decades, who’ve endured brutal training, who’ve practiced and practiced, will tell you they still have so much to learn. They understand the principle of being perfectly imperfect in their skills.
We aren’t naturally coordinated with sword or Judo throwing skills. Heck, we can’t even walk till our body evens out its proportions enough for our head to NOT be the center of gravity.
No one gets anything 100% of the time. Perfection is an unobtainable pipe dream; it doesn’t exist. But we can come close to it. We can hone, sharpen, and drill. We have the gift of time and instruction. But we can never get to perfection.
So, stop trying.
Let yourself suck. Be okay with mediocrity. Celebrate those two left feet and that plethora of thumbs.
But don’t give up, because it is possible to get better at what you’re doing. Time, patience, and perseverance do get results. Before you know it you’ll go left when you’re supposed to, and you’ll only have TWO thumbs instead of fifteen.
I know this because I’ve been where you are now. In fact, I keep experiencing the suck again and again. Every time I think I’ve arrived or got something down, my teachers throw a new thing into the mix. Sometimes its a variation on a theme; other times it is a higher level understanding of basic skills. Whatever is coming my way, I have to start over and learn something new.
I have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I have to let myself be moved in a new way. I need to submit to the idea of being a “new” student, a beginner at what I’m doing.
Something I love about Budo and the martial arts is how well the concepts and principles apply to general life. Take this whole idea I’ve been writing to you about. How can we apply this knowledge to work, family, hobbies, and all the other aspects of life?
For starters, stop being so hard on yourself. Again, did you walk out of the womb able to perform with god-like precision? That hobby of yours, those close relationships, are people really expecting exactitude in all of your ways? Can good enough just be, well, good enough?
If you apply the principle of just letting yourself suck at things, not in a lazy way, but in a “just keep swimming” mindset that keeps you going, and keeps you moving towards your goals, then you’ll get closer and closer to doing what you want in life.
Eventually it gets better, and you find that you suck…
And that’s the goal kids, sucking less, being better at anything you set yourself to do.
So, get out there and fall on the floor, go the wrong direction, wrangle your herd of left feet, and ask your questions. Do it, just try, and all the other mamby-pamby other patronizing things we say to each other to get motivated.
White Belt, get out there and do your thing.
Your Sucky Friend,