"I don't like this move."
"This technique isn't for me."
These are examples of things I hear from students from time to time. Usually they are unaware I am listening, and I like to keep it that way so they feel free to express themselves in the process of learning. I myself have said similar things in the past while going through the process.
One such time, I was on a trip to San Diego to train with Mantis Boxing expert - Sifu Tony Puyot for a few days back in 2008. On this particular trip, Sifu Puyot was passing on to me, his entire 8 Step Mantis Boxing throwing curriculum as taught to him by Sifu James Shyun.
I was excited to go through this material, and we spent the entire afternoon at Sifu Mike Dasargo's school going through all 20 of the throws and their variations. During the session, I remember getting to one throw, what we call Thigh Lift Throw (see photo) and absolutely hating it.
I felt so disconnected from the movement, and I was laying out reasons why this throw wasn't for me, and why I would never use it. I convinced myself to learn it, practice it, but I put it in a category for something that will work for someone else's body type, but not mine.
I returned from San Diego and set out practicing all the material from that weekend. I spent months going over everything, and working on integrating some of it into my fighting. Obviously some takedowns worked better than others, but I practiced them all.
Fast forward a couple of years and I was hit in the head by an 'epiphany stick'. Also known as that voice in your head saying - "Look at you dumbass." I noticed the throw I was successfully using the most, was none other than...the Thigh Lift Throw. The one throw out of all of them that I despised, turned into something I relied upon heavily in my fighting repertoire.
I realized how silly I had been, and I picked up the pieces to move on, vowing never to make that mistake again. I can't say for sure that I have been completely successful in that undertaking, but I can be certain that I stop myself whenever I hear those words enter my mind.
This single experience helped me beyond measure when approaching the learning of a different art - Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. There were many times I was attending a camp, workshop, or class, and felt that what we were learning was way beyond my level. Instead of getting angry and throwing my "sucker in the dirt" (Sifu Puyot), I categorized what I was learning as 'something for later', and committed myself to participating in the workshop with full focus, and effort so my partners could get the most out of the workshop too.
The things we struggle with the most, will occasionally turn into some of our best work. As we go through the process of learning and meet these moments of difficulty, if we step back and observe ourselves in the moment, as well as what we are learning, we can approach things with an open mind and empty cup.
If we try our best, ask questions, assist our partners, and prepare ourselves to see that material again in the future, we will be better prepared at that time to receive the knowledge and we will not become bogged down with bitterness and despair.
We should never discount what we are being taught as something - "not for us", or - "that will never work for me", etc. In doing so we limit our potential for growth.