Context: I recently started training Krav Maga. Three classes for six pounds—I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try a new martial art.
And while many reject this fighting style as brutal and unpolished, I’m a solo female traveler who has never learned proper self-defense. I actually don’t think there is any better skill I could acquire.
And so I’ve started training Krav Maga. In my last class, I paired up with a man who stood a solid foot taller than me. My reflexes were sluggish after a poor night’s sleep, and on the 20th repetition of the same block, I didn’t get my hands up in time.
I took a hit straight to the jaw. Luckily, we weren’t training anywhere close to full power. Even so, I still have a faint bruise below my lip a week later.
I look in the mirror and see a reminder—not of failure, but of strength.
Of strength, because when I got hit I only paused for a moment before continuing to run the same exercise. Of strength, because every block I miss brings me one step closer to competency. Now is the time to make mistakes, to sharpen my reflexes, to learn to keep my hands up.
If, god forbid, I ever have cause to call on these skills in real life, I will be that much more adept. For every “failure” in training, I am that much less likely to fail again.
I am psyched about getting punched in the face, because I know that I am now one slip-up closer to never slipping up again.
I believe that my experience, though painfully unique to martial arts in certain aspects, also translates broadly to various other situations. If a magazine rejects an article I pitch, I don’t get the job after an interview, or a yoga class I teach winds up empty, aren’t these all just metaphorical punches to the face?
What if we could be psyched about all of them?
In hindsight, I see that my experience in Krav Maga boiled down to a series of actions, which, I believe, we might easily replicate in other moments of failure:
1. Take the hit. There is a moment of shock, followed by the pain (emotional or physical) of the punch. Whether 10 seconds or 10 minutes, we need to take time to absorb it.
2. Keep fighting. We’ve got to put our pain aversion to the side and jump right back into the same exercise. Try again. And again. And 50 more times—again.
3. Get those hands up. Learn from the mistake. Albert Einstein didn’t say, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” but it’s a good definition. So we make different mistakes, maybe hundreds of them, but we should manage to not do that one thing we screwed up before.
4. Get excited, not discouraged. Bolstered by a surge of adrenaline, I left that class feeling stoked, despite my swelling lip. I hadn’t failed; I had improved. And with that perspective, the pain didn’t bother me so much.
The next time life punches you in the face, I hope you may look for the beauty in the bruises. May it be of benefit!
Author: Toby Israel
Image: Guian Bolisay/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina