One of the greatest road blocks that I have ever encountered in martial arts training is the myth of effortless mastery.  You’ve almost certainly encountered the concept in fiction, that the real masters are those who had such natural talent that they reached their levels of skill or fame quickly or easily, or else they had such a head start that they have never known anything but mastery.

Mohammed Ali TrainingWith the recent passing of Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, we have another reminder that the truth is quite different from fiction.  Training is not always fun.  It usually isn’t pleasant.  Bruce Lee worked out 3 hours a day.  Chuck Norris trained 5 hours a day, after his full time job with the Air Force, 6 days a week, for a year to get his chodan in Tang Soo Do before he left Korea.  One of the greatest takeaways that I have from his biography was the note that during this season of training he was often in so much pain that he was unable to sleep.

I believe that those who achieve mastery are those who accept that success requires hard work, some discomfort, and sacrifice.  Then, when their body reports that the belief is a reality, they persevere.  The critical ability to becoming the best martial artist, or the best anything really, is consistently applied effort over time.

Last month we got to see some of the most skilled swordsmen in our region perform effortless techniques, but they weren’t effortless.  We didn’t see the effort, because that payment had been made in time, energy, and discomfort months and years before.

So don’t get discouraged by the achievements of others.  Don’t think that someone better than you are (at the moment) is there because they have something you don’t.  The only thing that they have is history, and you build that one training hour at a time.