Quitting Time

“Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”-
Winston Churchill


We have discussed the question of why people train. The flip side of that is a question that I am always curious about, “Why do people quit?” A very small percentage of people who start training a martial art make it to black belt, and an even smaller number are still training five years later. The ones who do continue to train couldn’t imagine their lives without it. So, what is the difference between the two groups? In my opinion it has a lot to do with ego. There is a multitude of ways that training tests your ego. The people who will last are the ones who learn to accept their limitations and weaknesses. The ones who train for their ego actually train for others. If you are not training to improve yourself, eventually the thrill will wear off, and you will seek it elsewhere.

A common symptom of ego is when you make excuses for not being able to do something correctly. You might blame it on lack of sleep, an injury, or anything else you can come up with to make yourself feel better. The fact is, it doesn’t matter why you need to be corrected, only that you do. A teacher would be failing at their job if they neglected to bring it to your attention. You will never improve if you can’t see your mistakes. When you run out of excuses to hide behind, the easiest option is to quit.

A person hung up on ego will not ask questions when they don’t understand, or are unsure about something. To ask would be to admit that they don’t know. I think this is especially true as a student rises in rank. It’s one thing to not understand when you are a beginner, because you’re not supposed to know anything. It’s a lot harder to admit uncertainty when you are belted. If you are not ego-driven, you accept that you will always be a student, and you understand the scope of all that you do not know.

Another manifestation of ego is when a bigger, stronger, or more highly trained person goes too hard with a smaller, weaker, or less advanced student. It’s when a student goes beyond what they know is acceptable in an attempt to boast their own self-worth at the expense of another person. This doesn’t include new students, who cannot be expected to have control yet-they are often nervous, and unaware of the strength they are using. If you are training for the reward of being “better” than someone else, when you are bested enough times-you won’t want to do it anymore.

Your ego can cause you to become bored in your training. Maybe you think the technique you’re working on is too basic for you. Or you don’t understand why you aren’t being promoted faster. You may become disillusioned with the process if you feel you aren’t being challenged enough. This is just your ego gauging your success by how much you know. Students will rush to learn new and exciting techniques without having a strong foundation. “I learned that yesterday, got it…what’s next?” This type of student will never understand that it’s the constant repetition of the basics that form a person into a martial artist. They will often leave after a short time, complaining that they weren’t learning anything.

Sometimes ego can cause a person to think they aren’t good enough to train. If they compare themselves to the other students, and feel that they come up short, it’s quite likely they will quit. The truth is, there’s no requirement that says you have to be good to continue training,  you just have to keep trying. Pride makes people abandon many things that they enjoy, out of fear of judgment.

People who quit rarely come back and tell you why. When they do, it’s usually the standard answers… “Can’t afford it,” “Not enough time,” “I moved and it’s out of the way.” Those are just more excuses, because everyone who trains deals with those same kind of issues. I think they leave because, for them, the sacrifice is greater than the reward.

If you train for ego-gratification, that will always be the case.

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