I trained at martial arts most of my life; both in the martial aspects of the training and in the art behind the movements.
There are many lessons to be mastered both in the martial part and in the art itself. Some lessons are more physical in nature (what goes up must come down); while others are deeper, full of wisdom and provide perspective to almost anything you do in life.
The reason it’s called an art is twofold:
- The martial in martial arts is all about the discipline that must be mustered to produce expected results. To the untrained eye, it looks like martial arts is just a series of repetitive moves that if practiced to “perfection” can teach you how to defend yourself, however that is not the case.
- The art in martial arts deals with more subtle aspects; teaching a plethora of skills and developing a personal style. Those skills, once mastered, can help establish responsibility, integrity, and will-power (back in the day, art meant more technique then it does today).
Similarly, personal productivity also conforms to the paradigm of martial and art. After all, personal productivity has repetitive aspects. We can all agree that productivity is more an art rather than exact science.
There are no superior martial arts, only superior martial artists
Whether it’s GTD, Pomodoro, First Thing First or Time of Your Life, all these productivity techniques work. However, they require practice and a certain level of mastery to work. Remember, the method is as a good as the practitioner.
I remember, as a kid, heatedly debating with friends which martial art is the best. We did not want to waste our time learning the wrong martial art. Let me tell you that there’s no such thing as “wrong martial arts”, only a wrong martial artist.
In those days, I tried a bit of everything, Karate, Capoeira, Kung-Fu and Aikido. However, only after I settled on one and practiced did I see actual improvement.
One might think that by finding the perfect method or tool you become great, but one is most certainly wrong…It is practice that will help you master and become a true artist in said method & tool.
Flow like water and nothing will stop you
David Allen talks a lot about the concept of mind like water. Your mind should be like a calm smooth surface. If disturbed by a few drops, it should strive to return to that calm state. And, always ready to handle the next ripple.
In Martial arts, the concept of flow and movement is compared to a stream of water. A stream can overcome any obstacle because it doesn’t resist the obstacle, but rather embraces it. It finds a way to slowly erode whatever is blocking its path by finding small cracks and gradually increasing its flow until the obstacle is gone. In some case, it will go around it, almost ignoring it.
You are often taught in martial arts to do just that; remove resistance and neutralize friction. The most common lesson is to use your opponent’s strength against them. Instead of meeting them head-on, diverting their attack, throws them off balance as you navigate your body from harm’s way and their face into your fist ;-)
By acting like water, you achieve flow. Flow is a mental state in which you are fully immersed in the activity you’re doing, feeling highly energized, fully engaged and focus, on one activity. When mastered, interruptions and obstacles are ignored or handled so as not to interfere with your productivity.
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. – Bruce Lee
There’s an old Chinese story about a young Shaolin monk that wants to be a great fighting monk. He approaches the head of his order, asking him what he should do to reach the level of mastery he dreams of?
The head of his order tells him: “take this bucket of water and hit only the surface of the water from the break of day and until the sun sets.”
The young Shaolin monk, a bit baffled by the answers starts to perform the task, hitting the surface of the water day in and out. After a few years of doing the above mentioned task, and angry at his master for allegedly deceiving him, he returns back home.
When he returns to his village, the entire village rejoices. His family is proud to show-off “the great Shaolin monk” they raised. His parent’s joy makes the young monk even more frustrated. When he sits to eat next to the dinner table later that evening his parents ask him the following question:
“After spending all those years in the monastery you have probably learned a lot, can you show us some of the things you’ve learned?”
Unable to contain his anguish any longer, the young monk hits the table with immense power screaming:
“I’ve learned nothing” while breaking the sturdy wooden table in half.
While thinking that all he learned was how to hit water, he did not realize that once he excelled at striking, he could apply it anywhere with exacting force. As you perfect your personal productivity, stop hopping between methods and tools, find one and specialize!
Until next time.
* GTD® is a registered trademark of the David Allen Company. IQTELL is not affiliated with the David Allen Company.