Character Traits

written by Terence Miller

It has been told to us on many occasions that in order to preserve the arts that we study, and to better our individual selves, we must exhibit a particular trait. This trait is more important than all others, because it instills in us a characteristic that is not inherently found in many people. Many ancient civilizations showed characteristic strengths of it, but it has become a characteristic weakness of ours. We need it to do well in whatever endeavor we choose. It is a prerequisite that most of us want more of, and tend to admire in those who exhibit it in abundance. This personal trait is discipline.

Modern conveniences have created a climate that we as human beings find pleasing to our sense of laziness. The loss of tradition and values, as well as the abandonment of such practices, has fostered a lackadaisical incompetence in our desire to personally attain something greater that what we are. This unravelling of tradition no longer ensures that a great degree of discipline will be instilled in each individual.

I believe that there is honor in what we train for. I know that my peers believe the same as I do. We are not the sheep….we are the wolves. Why else would we subject ourselves to physical and psychological pain just to prepare for a possibility? Why would we hold our teachers in such high regard and train hard to earn the respect of our peers? It is because we believe in something more than ourselves. We believe in discipline. It is in the physical training required through discipline that we achieve higher levels of consciousness. Most fighters are different from other people. We search for totality in our discipline because we understand that it is more than being physically capable. It is the whole package. The mental, spiritual and physical planes must all work together as a cohesive unit to define the greatness of an individual in any chosen endeavor.

Training develops discipline. It is a long, arduous process that involves instruction, demonstration, repetition and sacrifice. We live in an age of softness where most people do not want to work in order to get what they want. Discipline involves work. Discipline is the act of doing something you hate in order to achieve greatness in something you love. It involves listening to those who can lead us towards the truth in what we desire. Disciplined students do not involve themselves in the policies of martial arts. We already know the truth. We already have the answers. Discipline is future-oriented, and superintends future choices. It is proof of our desire and love for those we respect and those who have shared their time and knowledge teaching us.

Discipline is a war of attrition: it occurs incrementally. It is not a personality trait that will come overnight. We learn it by experience. We learn it by doing. For those of us who have the fortitude to impose discipline upon ourselves, we can pass this trait on to our students through example. We can have a moment of grace by allowing them, at the very least, a chance to create at the core of their beings an attribute of greatness.

Remember to give thanks to all of your instructors for their guidance.