The Obstacle is The Path - Zen Proverb
As humans, we often look for that which is easy and, consequently, not challenging. We create life hacks, take short cuts, and shorten things that need to be left alone. This is what distinguishes a martial artist from a non-practitioner of the arts and a success story from a beaten down soldier. If you set out to only accomplish things without putting in the work, you'll never get to the accomplishment and more importantly, you won't experience it on the way. You won't even know why you may want to accomplish the things you set out to do.
Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan karate, emphasized that every practitioner must seek perfection of character. In order to accomplish this, it is essential to obtain a clear focused mind in pursuit of a mental and physical state harnessed for perfection. When learning and practicing karate, particularly as it involves both physical and mental tasks, one must first start with the mindset of discipline. In karate, attending to the work of the mind is a discipline that can be practiced both in and out of the dojo.
In his book ‘Wado-Ryu’ karate, Hironori Otsuka tells us that there are three kinds of strength - Physical Strength, Technical Strength and Mental Strength - and if any of those is deficient it will be “ the downfall of the individual “. It’s a common misconception throughout the martial arts that ‘technique’ is the key; if we have good technique then we will be effective in combat. The fact is that technique is no more or less important than physical fitness or mental conditioning. Many martial artists dislike this idea as it infers that those with poor technique can defeat those with good technique (if they lack the required mental and physical condition). A labourer on a building site (physically conditioned) who regularly gets involved in bar fights (mentally used to combat) could easily defeat the martial artist who concentrates on technique to the exclusion of the other forms of strength.
If we are to be able to effectively defend ourselves then we need to ensure that our training also develops physical condition and mental strength in addition to technique. The key is to ensure that our training is intense enough to encourage growth in all three areas e.g. we drill our techniques with intensity and to the point of exhaustion (stimulates physical strength) and no matter how much we want to quit or ease off, we then drill them some more (stimulates mental strength).
We need at least two sessions a week that take us to our very limits. They key is not duration but intensity. We can train for hours and never break sweat or we can work flat out for around two minutes and be close to throwing up. Real fights are extremely intense and, if our training is to be valid, we also need to train in an intense way. This intensity in training has many benefits besides increased combative effectiveness.
Here is an essential principle of Mental Toughness:
We all experience frustration when our needs, wants and demands are not met, or when we are faced with obstacles that impede our progress. Frustration is a fact of life; therefore our ability to tolerate frustration is crucial to the successful achievement of our long-term goals.
When we are easily frustrated and upset, we are said to have, Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT). If, on the other hand, we are less disturbed or upset by short-term frustrations, and persevere through difficulties, we are said to have High Frustration Tolerance (HFT). Developing High Frustration Tolerance is vital to good mental health and a key element of Mental Toughness.