WǔDé – The Definition of a Truly Great Martial Arts Practitioner - Part Ten – Will (志 – Zhì)

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

This is our final chapter of “WǔDé – The Definition of a Truly Great Martial Arts Practitioner”. We have spent time reflecting on the 5 Actions or Deeds that we should be seeing in others and cultivating in ourselves: Humility, Loyalty, Respect, Morality and Trust, and will now complete the list of Thoughts or Mental Attitudes with “Will”. The other 4 being Courage, Patience, Endurance and Perseverance.

Will (志 – Zhì)

Without the will to do something, you will do nothing. If you are already following a passion, whether it be the martial arts or something else, you clearly have Will. However, Will is a very broad brush. There are two aspects of Will that we need to consider when focussing on WǔDé. The first is the idea of willpower, determination or self-discipline. The other is the ability to use our minds rather than our bodies when focussing on our practice.

Let’s consider the concept of willpower or determination. For many people they show an enormous amount of determination to start with, and once things get hard, their passion flags and they move on to the next “new thing”. Will is the ability to focus despite hardship. The ability to restrain one’s own impulses in an effort to continue with the project or mission. The ability to control and master the natural desire to not push yourself too hard especially when the activity is a hobby rather than a money-making necessity. All of us see fellow students who practice more than anyone else, who attend more classes than anyone else, who want to train for every competition, go and live in China to train 7 days a week, and 2 years later they’ve moved on to rock climbing. That is not true willpower, that’s short-term obsession. You should benchmark yourself against the student who always turns up to class no matter what, who tries to practice despite not being able to remember everything, who may have some physical impairment that makes their learning the martial arts that much more difficult, yet after 15 years they are still working on it. That is willpower; that is determination; that is true self-discipline; and that is the person we should use as the perfect example of WǔDé Will.

You should also expect this sort of self-discipline in your teacher. Is your teacher punctual? How long has your teacher been studying for and do they continue to study? Do they turn up looking professional and have a well-structured plan for your class? It’s very easy for teachers to become lazy... they are getting your money so why should they work so hard; they’ve got other things on their mind. If that’s the feeling you are getting from your teacher then they clearly aren’t exhibiting Will in what they are doing and you should consider whether they are the true embodiment of the martial art you wish to study.

The other important aspect of WǔDé Will, which we have seen in all the other WǔDé “Thoughts” is the use of the mind in our practice. Are you truly focussed on what you are doing, and doing it with great attention, not letting the mind wander? If you are doing your training and listening to the latest Podcast or Indie Music Release, you are not actually focussing on your practice. It’s fine to use music while you are doing your strength and flexibility training, or as a tool for getting your timing right but if you are focussed on it, then how can you possibly be focussed on your art. At that point you have clearly lost your way and your martial arts will be no more than a dance. Even if you’re practising one of the fast disciplines you still need to think about it. It shouldn’t be rote. You should be considering the martial application within each movement, considering your balance and control, considering your internal power rather than external strength. The Mind should control the body at all times. If you are letting your mind wander then your body will wander as well.

“Strong souls have willpower, weak ones only desires” and “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”.

 We have come to the end of our series on “WǔDé – The Definition of a Truly Great Martial Arts Practitioner”. Hopefully you will now understand what it means to be a martial arts practitioner, what to look for in yourself and others, but more importantly, have a solid philosophical framework to mould how you approach life. Real Martial Arts practice transcends the training hall and should be evident in how you treat yourself and others every day of your life.

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