Paul Castagno shares how his martial arts training has taught him how to protect himself when life starts throwing wild punches.
We are almost a month into 2015 the cosmos has deemed it appropriate to give me a swift roundhouse kick right upside the head that was worthy of a Chuck Norris fact. I just felt like I couldn’t catch a break. Every incident that happened may have been manageable on their own, but all together it was overwhelming. Then I found myself overwhelmed with being overwhelmed — not a good cycle.
Thankfully, the mental benefits of my years in the martial arts have been equally, if not more, impactful than the physical. I can’t even count how many times the things I learned on the mat helped me in other areas of my life. So, allow me to share a few things that my training has taught me and that helped get me through this rough patch. I hope they will also help you should you feel like life is kicking your butt.
Getting angry never helps
I can recall more than a few times during my training where my emotions got the better of me. I would be sparring, and generally feeling like I wasn’t doing well, and then I would find myself getting angry. But what happened when I got angry? You guessed it – my technique got worse, I lost my focus, and proceeded to get punched in the face a few more times.
I honestly can’t think of one time getting angry ever yielded a positive result. Just like in my training, it only made things worse. Often times it is a reaction to feeling insecure, fearful, frustrated, sad, etc. To me, being mindful of this helps to get the root of the anger so I can both address it, and make sure I channel that energy into something positive.
Recognizing when its time to “tap-out”
Those that train martial arts know that one of the reasons you tap-out is to avoid injury when someone gets you in a compromising position. Often times people who refuse to tap never actually succeed in escaping. They only increase their chance of injury. It is important to remember that tapping-out is not quitting, but accepting the position you found yourself in. After you tap-out, you try again, having learned from the experience.
Sometimes we just need to know when to “tap-out”. Accept how we feel, without judgement, and know that these things happen to the best of us. Fighting it was only causes more stress, and thus, makes us more overwhelmed. We need to try to step back and embraced a solution, a new plan. Tomorrow, next week, or when this passes (and it always passes), learn from the experience and move forward.
We are much stronger than we think we are
Now that I teach I regularly have the opportunity to coach people through self-doubt. Every time I am reminded how we can be our own worst enemy. I can relate. I have been there in my training time and time again. But every single time these students make it through, amazed at what they just accomplished, and realizing that they are much more capable than they thought.
Sometimes when things are extremely stressful and/or we are faced with an uncertain outcome we wonder how we are going to pull through. If we actually have the strength to deal with it all. We often make it out to be much worse in our heads. But the reality is that we are much stronger than we think we are. We have made it through before, and we can do it again.
Having healthy ways to release your stress are extremely important
When I find the stresses of life are getting the better of me I try to make time for the things that keep me centered. When I step on the mat I leave everything else at the door. Nothing else matters. For the next few hours I am present focused and at my best.
If need be I’ll train until I have nothing left. Until every last bit of stress is smoked out of my system. After that, a calmness comes over me. I find focus and energy. I find renewed strength. The simple act of just moving and doing something I love helps me through all the things that originally felt insurmountable. It’s a reminder of how important it is for us to find healthy ways to release our stress and make time for them when we need them most.
You have a lot to be thankful for
Yes, martial arts taught me I have a lot to be thankful for. Just my ability to be on the mat in any capacity is not something to take for granted. On top of that, the positivity of the people and the atmosphere sticks with me long after I leave. They help me stay focused on the things that are truly important in my life.
Chances are that even your worst days are full of things to be thankful for. Things that we can often take for granted. Perception can be a powerful thing. If you can train yourself to focus on the positive things in your life then it will help you find the strength to get through all the challenges it throws at you.
So when you feel like life is beating you down…
Remember that it will pass. Often times it never lasts as long as we think it will. In the mean time, be mindful of your emotions, embrace your connections to positive people/things in your life, and allow yourself time to focus on healthy ways to release your stress. They are your “guard” against everything life throws at you and, ultimately, the only things in the world that have any real value. Everything else is just “stuff”.
Photo credit: bluesbby/flickr