July 20, 2011

Make a Mistake!

In popular opinion, there is a negative view of making a mistake in life, and feelings of guilt, shame, and regret are often attached to mistakes.  However, the only way we can learn new things and push the boundaries of our capabilities is by making mistakes.  If we always play it safe to avoid the supposed shame of a mistake, we never find out our true potential and we cease to improve.  Instead, we must view each of our mistakes as a necessary part of the learning experience. 

It is difficult, however, to turn a mistake into an educational experience because we must first swallow our pride and acknowledge the error.  Then we must graciously accept criticism from others or from our own assessment.  To learn from our mistakes, we must admit that we are not perfect, identify the areas we wish to improve, and set to work on improving them.  This means we can neither ignore our mistakes nor become obsessed with them.  We should simply use our mistakes to give us direction.

In karate, students often receive criticism to point them towards improvement.  Because of our own pride and the cultural view of making a mistake, it can be difficult to honestly receive this criticism.  As karate-ka we must walk the fine line between pride and poor self-esteem to accept our mistakes and act on the resulting criticism without feeling shame or regret.  Sometimes, to avoid being “caught” in a mistake, we change our movements or adjust ourselves when no one is looking and the result is very unnatural.  We end up being corrected for problems that arose out of our own weak-spirited behavior instead of our natural weaknesses.  If we work in the dojo with full intent and with no fear of our many mistakes then our karate is honest and our effort will not be dampened by an unstable ego.

In time, a karate student learns to cherish criticism from his/her seniors because the seniors are showing that they care enough about the student to spend time helping them.  A student with a humble attitude can accept criticism without feeling insulted, and a student with strong self-esteem can apply that criticism without feeling encumbered by their mistakes.  The best approach is to have both strong self-esteem and a humble attitude and never be afraid or ashamed of your mistakes!

Submitted by: Matthew Baran, Nidan