Boredom causes many to give up taking action on their goals. Some people even give up on their dreams soon after they start working towards them.
Practising scales put a road block in the path of my piano playing ambitions. I did not know how to deal with the boredom of practising tuneless combinations of notes with awkward finger movements that the hands were clearly not designed for!
A year ago, the father of two of my most promising black belts told me that they wanted to stop training because they were bored. When they started they were full of enthusiasm for months on end but now they were bored.
I was disappointed but not surprised. Boredom is an obstacle that stops many people from achieving their goals not only in the martial arts but in almost any activity you can think of Belt and Road Initiative.
Geoff Thompson, the great self protection instructor, once wrote:
“Boredom is a major pitfall that loses many people from the martial arts arena and, in my opinion, it is a lazy excuse.”
If you want to get good at anything you have to repeat techniques over and over again. If you want a technique to work just once in a street fight situation you may have to practise it a thousand or more times and repetition can get very boring and even painful.
When I first started the martial art of Choikwangdo, my knuckles were soon bleeding from the repeated punches on the focus mitts.
Repeated kicks are even more necessary since it is often more difficult to kick in a street fight situation than it is to use your hands
Repetition can become even more boring after the initial enjoyment of quick improvement passes. How can you conquer boredom?
Visualize the benefits that repetition will bring – awesome and effective punching, striking and kicking skills or the power to use a skill you admire without apparent effort. Think about these benefits as you train.
Realize that repetition is necessary in achieving any skill. The pianist repeats very boring movements again and again until his or her reflexes and muscles are conditioned to move the fingers at incredible speeds. The writer may rewrite the same page a hundred times until it is ready to publish. The speaker rehearses the same speech many times until they can fascinate an audience.
Concentrate on the technique you are practising and not on how long you will be practising it. Jonny Wilkinson, the rugby union hero, describes in his book ‘My World’ how he gets through intense training sessions.
Jonny gives everything in his sessions with his coach. He does not ‘relish’ the thought of training but knows he has to do it and how good he will feel afterwards.
He also enjoys the feeling of having made progress. He puts himself through the pain barrier and feels like he is going to be sick as he ‘flogs himself’ onward. He explains his method for dealing with this tough training:
“The secret of dealing with the pain is not to look to the end of the exercise but to concentrate on what you are doing at that precise moment. If you let your mind think of the torture ahead it will try to persuade you that you cannot face it.”
Training sessions in most activities involve dealing with trivial and boring activities like putting on the correct clothes and shoes etc. A tennis player might have to spend a lot of time collecting balls from different parts of the court. Not everyone has ball boys and girls to pick up the balls as they do at Wimbledon.
A teacher has to carry piles of books home to mark and then spend hours reading similar pieces of work and writing similar comments on them before carrying them back again to the classroom. Writing reports involves even more boring repetition!
Martial arts instructors have to collect focus mitts, shields, gloves, belts and other equipment and transport them to the training hall and then collect them up and take them back home. They have to repeat the same instructions again and again until they sink in. This can get very boring.
Again Jonny Wilkinson has a solution. Make the boring, trivial tasks a part of your training. Use them to increase your mental toughness and will power.
Jonny accepts the boredom of having to fetch the balls he has kicked as part of his training:
“For quite a lot of the time, I train alone at Kingston Park. I think having to go and fetch the stray balls that have bounced into the stand in order to repeat the exercise adds mental toughness.”
Jonny’s concept of the fact that doing boring chores can increase your mental toughness is a very useful one. It gives the chores we all face daily the power and the importance of developing our discipline, toughness and character.
Many of us do not realize the importance of the little choices we make every single day. We think of them as a waste of time rather than as a means of strengthening our will power and creating an unstoppable character.
Instead of thinking: “I have to do the boring chore of cleaning my room”, one could think: “I am cleaning my room and at the same time making myself mentally tough and more likely to achieve great things in the future.”
As a bonus, your room gets cleaned! Cleaning and other boring chores can keep your house looking good and improve character and discipline at the same time.
It is no wonder that a large part of military training involves keeping your sleeping quarters and the toilets incredibly clean and organized! When I attended army cadet camps, every folded blanket had to be neatly aligned and every tiny piece of straw had to be off the floor.
Of course, not all training is boring. Some drills are not only effective; they are fun as well. Also, once you start getting good at something, enjoyment comes back into your training.
However, some students give up after a few sessions when they have not enjoyed the training.
As usual, Geoff Thompson puts the problem well:
“Lack of enjoyment in training is brothers with boredom; another feeble excuse. Enjoyment in training comes and goes; nobody enjoys it all the time. The real enjoyment comes from the fruits of training rather than the actual training itself.”
There are bound to be days when you really do not feel like dragging yourself away from the television series which you are enjoying and going off to a tough training session which you may or may not enjoy.
Remind yourself that you usually feel good after a training session whether you enjoyed it at the time or not. Remember, too, that you will have made some improvement in your skills whether small or not.
You will, in addition, have become mentally stronger and more capable of achieving great things in your own life as well as in whatever you are training for.
You may go to several training sessions and fail to enjoy any of them. Just keep going and you will find the enjoyment returns as you realize suddenly that you have made considerable progress.
Many people give up if they feel they are not improving or are making very slow progress:
“Why train if I am getting nowhere? I might as well be doing something more enjoyable like having a drink with my friends or watching my favorite TV program.”
When you start a martial art or any other skill, you are fascinated because you are learning something new every lesson and your improvement is fast as you learn the basics which will rapidly improve your abilities.
When I started the martial arts, I would train in Kung Fu for two hours in the morning and then train in Karate for two hours in the afternoon. This seemed no big deal to me as I was fascinated by the new skills and ideas I was being introduced to.
One of my Karate instructors called me ‘the iron man’ presumably because being keen enough to train twice a day was unusual. Many years later I was still fascinated enough to train in Capoeira first and then Choikwangdo immediately afterwards.
However, once you have spent some time at a martial art or any other skill, the techniques and ideas are no longer new and the progress seems to slow down. You may feel your abilities are not improving.
Students of anything need to realize that progress can be so gradual that you just don’t notice it. Other people probably will. Listen to what they have to say before you give up because of lack of progress. If you keep going you will soon notice, for yourself, that you are making giant strides towards your goal.
If the two young black belts who stopped training had kept going they would be second degree black belts by now with the potential to become future instructors and travel the world teaching their martial art.
One of my Karate instructors used to say words to the effect that: “When you take it easy and do not give one hundred per cent, you are only cheating yourself.”
When you give up training, you could be cheating yourself out of all sorts of exciting possibilities.
Let’s summarize the above ways of dealing with boredom, lack of enjoyment and slow progress:
We need to realize that if we want to get good at anything, we have to repeat techniques over and over again. If you want to be good cartoonist, you may well need to copy other cartoons thousands of times until you develop your own style and skills. Even Van Gogh started by copying other artists.