that moment when your grandmaster stops class to help a black belt candidate learn how to do a brick break and then turns it into a life lesson ?
I grabbed my phone to capture a video for when she breaks it, and I’m glad I got this motivating speech. The clip is just over a minute.
Caption: Grandmaster standing in front of a thick concrete block upon two others, with a student who is going to attempt breaking it, in front of a class: “think through, think through. This is, you know, guys, breaking is a metaphor for breaking through stuff. You know the challenges that you have – I’ve seen 240lb linebackers, football tough guys [tough guy noise] they can’t break one. It’s in here [points to head]. During testing, they got their black belts, they’ve been kicking everybody and they’re really strong, they’re like this, right? [poses like bodybuilder].
They come and they go ahhhhhh eeek [winds up to break but pauses short]. Stops. The reason is, the brain is really powerful and so what happens is, it tells you, ‘That’s a brick. That’s a brick. I cannot break that!’ And as soon as your brain says that, subconsciously when you say that, your hand just stops because your brain stops everything in motion. And so the biggest guys can’t break through this. Until they learn how to do that. And then after, after 2 years, 2 years, 240-50 pound guy, big guy [flexs again] he broke eleven after 2 years of training.
But he had to train himself to do that: ‘I can do it, I can do it.’ So, this is, you can do this. But you have to tell yourself you can do it. You know what I tell my little dragons (toddler class)? Yes I can? Or I say ‘can you do it?’ and they say ‘YES I CAN!’ It’s the same deal, you have to look at that and say ‘I can go right through that.’ And then you have to convince yourself, (student’s name), you have to believe it, and the belief has to become real, and then you make that happen.
And so, that happens with anything you can do. Any endeavor that you come across. Okay? Right? You wanna be the next Bill Gates? If you tell yourself, ‘Ah, man, that’s already been done’ then you’ve already lost. That’s exactly the same thing! You have to start thinking about that. That – [points at brick] – you have to break through that barrier.”
My reasons for posting this excellent motivational speech to this blog for you writers is two fold. The first is that it’s an important life lesson and reminder about mind over body. Overcoming your own inner negativity is difficult and something I still struggle with when approaching my daily life. Reminding myself that ‘Yes, I can’ and believing in myself are very difficult for me when dealing with depression. To fight through the feeling that I’m worthless and have nothing to contribute. I actually broke three bricks when I was eighteen after passing my third degree black belt test, the first two on the first impact using a palm strike and the third with my forearm/elbow. I had a bruise the size of my forearm for about a month and a tiny scar left over to this day. (That isn’t normally what happens.) However, it took me nearly ten years to accept the life lesson that the brick offered.
It was really scary because you have to look past the brick, aim beyond it, in order to break it. It also has absolutely nothing to do with physical strength, but in overcoming the barriers your mind creates for you. The truth is that we’re all a lot more powerful than we think we are. It’s not some mysterious gift that some people have over others, but rather a willingness to overcome the internal barriers we set for ourselves that say X is beyond us. As the Grandmaster states above, when you say ‘I could never’ then you’ve already lost.
The great misconception most people, not just writers, bring to martial arts or fighting in general is that’s about “the biggest and the best”. This pervades popular culture to the point that perfectly legitimate characters are seen as unrealistic due to the false reality created by the media. We get questions in our inbox all the time about “How can my physically weak character learn to fight?” or “How can my female character learn to fight?”
There is no special path to combat. There is only patience, dedication, and hard work. What is so beautiful about characters for authors who embrace this in their understanding is that they realize that there is nothing holding these characters back. They become action characters, driving their own narrative. Fighting is not some aspect separate from their personality, they are in control and that’s the moment when a character becomes empowered by their narrative.
They are an active force driving their story forward rather than a passive one. They control themselves, they control their own mind, and they are in control of their own destiny.
It’s not the act of violence which empowers a character or person in their life, it’s the realization of their freedom to make decisions for themselves and that those decisions push the narrative forward. They take power and the responsibility which comes with it. When someone is forced to do something, they are not empowered. When they choose to do something, even if they are afraid, even if it is terrible, even if it is a hard choice, a bad one, or a wrong one, then they are.
The ultimately best part about all of this realization is that it’s within your power to make the change. It will take time and hard work, it won’t happen all at once, but you can train yourself to overcome those things which make you afraid or fill you with the belief that what is before you isn’t meant for “someone like me”.
Even if you don’t believe in yourself now, you can train yourself to.
There is no right way, just a way and you’ll find the one which works best for you.