The Student, The Master, and The Fighter
by The Modern Martial Artist
As a martial artist, I hope to bring balance into every aspect of my life. Easier said than done! I often find myself worried over upcoming work or beating myself up about a decision I made that did not turn out well. It is extremely difficult to accomplish anything when you are weighed down by negative thoughts and stress. The difference is that now I catch myself and am able to move on fairly quickly, thanks in great part to the mindsets I have laid out below.
The Student, Master, and Fighter analogy is one I have implemented just this year, and I have been seeing some amazing results! I tend to notice that if my life is out of balance or is heading in the wrong direction, it is usually because I am overusing or underutilizing one of these three aspects that are a part of each of us. What are their roles?
* The Student learns and observes.
* The Master plans and creates rules to adhere to.
* The Fighter is completely present and uses the planning and wisdom of the other two parts to perform at a very high level.
As you read this article, try and figure out if you are overdeveloped or underdeveloped in one of these key attributes of your personality.
The Student is the observer. When you are new to something or do not know much about a particular subject, it should always be the Student who makes an appearance. I took my first martial arts class at six years old. I was eager to learn as much as I could and began punching with the wrong knuckles, thinking the whole times that I must look just like Bruce Lee. My instructor patiently corrected me, and taught me how to pay attention and how to learn.
In his book Mastery, Robert Green calls this the period of Deep Observation. If you know somebody that tends to dive right into something with no research or regard for the upcoming consequences, they are most likely skipping past this step and moving right into the role of The Fighter. In my experience, this almost never works out well.
As essential as this part of you is, the problem with the Student mentality occurs when you lack confidence or courage. It is easy to feel that we are never ready to get started. So many people think their problem is that they do not have the talent or do not know enough to go after what they want. In reality, their problem may be that they have Decision Paralysis and need to move onto the planning stage of the Master.
To use myself as an example, I have been thinking about opening up my own martial arts school for about 8 months now. I was in a prime position to build up clients on my own and instead chose to take a job at another place that offered me management when they opened a new school. I told myself that this was so I could “learn the ropes” and make sure my plan was “really solid.” While I did learn a great deal, as it turned out, there were about 3 people in line for their own school before me! I failed to trust in myself to make a plan on my own, and it cost me.
The Master is the man with the plan. He creates realistic goals and figures out how to get you to where you want to be. You might not always like what he says, but you know that he has your best intention at heart. The Master forces you to do those ten extra kicks, or to put down the donut and eat some carrots. He is essential for any kind of success in life.
The master tends to be underdeveloped in people who had a poor experience with their parents. If you were not taught how to plan out your schedule, budget your money, or give yourself a reasonable bedtime, then you have problems with your inner Master.
You could be trying your very hardest and have the discipline necessary, but lack organization skills or a clear path forward. In Getting Things Done, David Allen mentions that it is essential to have a clear destination. He refers to the Art of Stress Free Productivity as a Martial Art, because it requires calm action in a crisis. He even tells you to “Be like water.” Give this video a listen if you have the time! It’s a little lengthy but worth it.
Once you have planned out your way forward then you are stress free, and able to move onto the final goal: The presence and joy of life that comes with being the fighter.
The Fighter is completely present. He is doing what it seems he was made to do. His lessons as the Student are forgotten, but he uses them without thought. When he is fighting, his body seems to move all by itself. The planning of the Master is present, but the farthest thing from his mind. He is not wondering what strike to throw next, or worrying that he should have practiced differently.
He is experiencing a state of flow. One that can only be achieved with tireless practice and planning. This is when the fighter is at his happiest. He feels fully alive. He is expressing himself fully and completely.
Think back to a time in your life where you have felt like this. You may have been playing a sport, hanging out with your friends, dancing, or even at your computer playing a video game. Odds are, you were not worrying about the future or regretting your past. You were not trying to figure out what you could do to be better. You were just there.
Be Your Best
The end result should be to be the Fighter as much as possible. Study what you need to, but don’t overdo it. Plan until your stress is gone, but do not over plan. Spend as much of your time as possible doing what you want to do.
The key is balance. Take a look at yourself, and ask, which part of me do I need to devote more time to or improve? Which part of me do I use too much? How can I get into better balance?
From this Modern Martial Artist, this has been David Christian, wishing you, happy training.
Books by David Christian of The Modern Martial Artist
Power of the Pros: https://www.modernmartialartist.com/downloads/power-of-the-pros/
Footwork Wins Fights: https://www.modernmartialartist.com/downloads/footwork-wins-fights/
Everything Boxing, Kickingboxing & MMA
Great article. Many ancient frameworks evolve these three concepts. Not too distant from the Tamas, Rajas, Satva idea. Th ‘fighter’ is also in the flow state. In John Boyd’s approach to this whole area he talks about Operational Tempo and OODA loop and eventually getting to a cycle of almost subconscious ‘Orientation-Action’. I really enjoy your writing and ideas and breakdowns David. Dempsey has always been my idol.