One day in Karate class Shihan was having us do kata individually for him, and he was nit-picking. My daughter had recently received her black belt, and when it was her turn she became visibly frustrated over the constant correction, so Shihan told her to stop for a moment, and he said “Skyler, it will never be good enough. No matter how well you do the kata, I will always find something wrong with it. That’s what keeps us improving.”
That is an attitude which all martial artists should strive to maintain. Perfection may not attainable, but it is still the goal. Without constantly striving to do our best, it’s easy to fall into being satisfied with “good enough”, and so we stop moving forward. I believe the human ego has a tendency to allow us to rest on our laurels when we feel as though we know something with a degree of proficiency, because then our ego has something with which to maintain it’s hold. To then have someone like Shihan tell you that it’s still not acceptable, it’s still not perfect–and that it never will be–is a hard thing for many people to deal with. Shihan regularly corrects senior students who have been training for thirty years, and he says of himself that as long as he is alive he is a master of nothing, because there is always more to learn.
A couple of years ago, Shihan asked Skyler and I to paint a phrase on the dojo wall near the mats, and I often notice it when I am in Jiu-Jitsu class. “Is that the best you can do?” Even if you think so, Shihan might not!
Martial arts training can teach you much more than just how to fight, if you are open to the lessons. Learning how to deal with criticism, and how to always strive to improve, are just a couple of them. Some of my Sensei have called me a perfectionist, but I am just trying to embody the spirit I have been taught. I know I can never be perfect, but I will also never be “good enough”.