Generally, a man can only rise to the limits of his character. In the pursuit of martial arts mastery, it is imperative for one to have first mastered himself. We call this “mastering the lower self”.
The “lower” self–which we call the “nafs”–is referring to the basic instincts, impulses and desires of a man. It is in this place where most of a man’s faults lie, as are the foundations for his best traits. Greed, weakness in sexual desires, pride, wrath, envy, laziness, and gluttony are among the characteristics of the undisiciplined man; while inside the one who has mastered them are the opposites of those traits. You may find those who excel in spite of the presence of those faults, yet he has placed a glass ceiling to how high he can go as long as he has not learned to control them. On the other hand, you will have men who have controlled those desires in the pursuit of greatness–just to begin their decline after developing flaws in their character. Look at your favorite athletes who have been caught in scandals: Mike Tyson, Tiger Woods, Shaq O’Neal–all whom have seen problems in their personal lives affect their game. Then take a look at other men: businessmen, politicians, religious leaders! A man can only rise to the limit of his character. This is important, especially for the martial artist, as there is a direct connection between one’s ability to develop fighting skills and the discipline he has in his life. A man who cannot resist the pull of alcohol, an extra marital affair, an honest dollar, or even a CHEESEBURGER lacks the control it takes to take his training, focus, and ultimately his skills to a higher level.
This is why we consider technical development to be at the lower levels of the person as well as the lower levels of a man’s soul. When he has developed as far as his physical person will allow him, a fighter will need to rely on those things that extra pushups and weight lifting cannot bring him. Think of Masutatsu Oyama in Mt. Minobu, Muhammad Ali at Deer Lake, or a celibate, alcohol-free Mike Tyson in the Catskills! Can you become strong and durable while chasing women after training? Yes. But you will be sorely limited in how far you will develop. And herein lies the place where potential champions and true masters of the art lose the fight against themselves, while others–who may be less talented, yet more determined and committed–rise above the expectations of their dreams.
I find myself delving into a book I am currently writing, so rather than spoil the book, I will end this article here. Thank you for reading my blog. Please come visit us again!