This past week the concepts in The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson came up several times in a few un-connected conversations at the Dragon Gym. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you follow the embedded link above and get yourself a copy. Following the principles he lays out can make a tremendous difference in your life both personally and professionally.
Before I get into how we can apply “The Slight Edge” to our martial arts, Kettlebell, and fitness training I want you to think about another concept: Anything can be a microcosm for something else. It depends on your familiarity and depth of understanding and thus able to apply lessons from one area to another.
For example, I live and breathe martial arts, I’ve made it my profession and life long endeavor. As such, I see examples of how my martial arts training and experience can help inform other areas of my life. Similarly, I can see how martial arts training can help inform other areas of my students' lives.
What is something that you know, understand deeply, and enjoy doing? Can you take a step back and identify the steps or elements that have made the answer to this question true? Do you see that there are similar ways you can apply that success to your martial and /or fitness training?
Another way to think about this is language. When we learn a new language, especially later in life, we learn it through the lens of our mother tongue. For example, when I was taking Spanish lessons in high school, we started by defining Spanish words with English ones.
We define something new, with something we know and are comfortable with. Is this the best way? Maybe, maybe not, but it works.
There is a lot to the slight-edge, but for our purposes, now, it is the idea of doing little things consistently, taking small steps every day. This is the epitome of martial arts philosophy.
During our training as kids, we were often told the story about the little boy and the pine tree and then sometimes given live examples. (Of course, the story always changed a little depending on which instructor was narrating!) I’ll keep it brief.
Essentially, an aspiring student goes to an instructor seeking martial arts lessons. The instructor is happy to teach, but only on the condition that the student can jump over a tree. Of course, the student is unable to make such a huge leap. The instructor then offers an alternative: jump over this second, smaller tree every day and when it is as tall as the first he’ll provide the lessons.
This first lesson is fairly obvious, work hard everyday then eventually you will reach your goal.
The second is a bit more subtle. Part of the student’s responsibility became to ensure the growth of the tree. Working hard every day is not enough, you have to feed and nurture your goal as well.
At first, the tree is quite small, and jumping over it is quite easy, you could skip a couple of days a be fine, but in time, the tree will outgrow your jumping ability. Today, going an inch off course doesn’t seem like a lot, but in time, without correction, you will be miles away from your destination of choice.
This is utilizing the slight edge. Although something is easy, and it can be, we need to keep up at it, or it will get away from us and we won’t reap the benefits.
Earlier this year, I gave you the example of pushups. By just doing a few pushups every day, let's say 5 sets of 10, you can accumulate 18,250 pushups in a year. It was easy to do, and only takes 5 minutes…did you keep up with this practice?
It’s not just the hard work, it’s the consistency of work that will yield results.
Try again to apply this to your martial arts and / or fitness training. First, take a few moments to prioritize. Be clear with your self on what your goals are. A year from now, do you want to be able to jump over a tree or do 20,000 pushups or is it something else? You need to determine what is important and relevant to improving your health/fitness/martial arts ability/life. Then, when you struggle with consistency, remind your self of that importance.
Writing things down, every day, helps a lot.
Once you’ve determined what is important for you to achieve, think about how you will break it down into small, daily consumable chunks.
Every day, write down the steps you took towards this goal. Remember, these steps should be small enough to be consistently attainable/complete-able on a daily basis.
Next, determine how you will nurture and feed your tree.
“It takes a long time to grow an old friend” – John Leonard.
When you recognize the importance of your goal, you can more easily accept that it may be a long road to eventually get there. To stay on that road you need a couple of things. A good attitude, if you treat your daily steps as drudgery then they will not yield results. You need to keep yourself happy and excited about what is yet to come. And, that leads to the second thing: support. Remember, you are not necessarily going this alone. Surround yourself with others: your classmates, friends, family, coaches that will help keep you on this journey. (Additionally, surrounding yourself with those that are helpful, may include eliminating/reducing contact with those that aren’t)