|Strong mental attitude
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When people think of having a strong mental attitude, certain qualities come to mind: firm opinions, strongly-held views and beliefs.
These are usually acquired from the media, from peers, family and friends.
According to the book Maximum Brainpower, these are not in any way related to having a strong mental attitude and in fact reflect the opposite. They are stagnant and unhealthy.
They can lead to hostile emotions, impulsive behaviour, bigotry, stubbornness, resistance, anxiety, inflexibility, forcefulness and conflict.
What is mentally healthy?
• Willingness to change
• A sense of humour
• Keen to learn new things
• Open minded
• Being relaxed
• Commits to things they enjoy
• No fixed opinions
• Keen to listen
• Enjoys a challenge
• Does things for themselves
• Keen to try things out
Bad things can happen to people. Illness, unemployment, relationship problems, debt. There tends to be 2 ways that people respond: 1) They carry on as before or 2) They undertake a significant change in attitude and behaviour.
Those who choose to change often find that unexpected things happen. Their positivism and hope encourages them to seek out new opportunities; to consider different choices, alternatives and options.
The mind is a powerful tool. It can radically affect your body, your health, your emotions and your lifestyle.
Kung fu (hard work)
A kung fu (Chinese boxing) student must cultivate a strong mental attitude. They need to be self-sufficient and rigorous. The training takes patience and resolve.
Nobody gains martial skill overnight. To become competent at the art you must significantly change your habits, lifestyle and attitude.
The biggest impediment facing a student is their own self-image.
If a person imagines themselves to be hard working, committed and earnest - but in reality prefers to chit-chat - then their lack of progress will reflect this.
Tai chi is a perfect vehicle for seeing the truth. A keen student practices every day at home - they make tangible, measurable progress through the syllabus every week.
No talk is necessary; their actions are proof enough of their attitude and character.
The bugeisha (martial
artist) does not engage in the kind of nervous fidgeting or displacement
observed in untrained men or animals when faced with the stress of
All his movements are calculated.
Energy is conserved.
Sabaku (movement) is the the movement of the predator.
Tigers never posture or roar when attacking; hawks in the act of taking their quarry do not flutter or scream.
The actions of the predator are the essence of economy.
In the midst of chaos, fear, and mortal danger, they appear to be almost relaxed.
Tai chi students acquire new ways of working with the mind and shed existing habits:
- routine, habit, practice, familiarity
- get to class every week
- get up early every morning and practice hard
- don't be half-assed
- switch off the TV, your phone, the web
- walk rather than drive
- cook your own food
- wash your own dishes
- climb the stairs
- turn up on time
- don't be a smart-arse
- be courteous/polite
- conquer your demons
- gain composure
- recognise your weaknesses and overcome them
- listen to your body
- be mindful of your own fabrications, illusions, myths and fantasies
- be earnest and sincere
- have respect
- see what is right in front of you
- become calm, quiet and present
- stop worrying and act instead
- not being lazy, weak
- embrace hardship
- stop making excuses
- be patient: with the art, with your teacher, with yourself
- motivate yourself
- don't lean on other people
- chart your progress
- aim to improve every week
- have conviction: potent, decisive, resolute, serious
- don't procrastinate
- finish what you started
- proof is everything
- burn your certificates and destroy your trophies: show your skill instead
- a black belt from 5 years ago is meaningless today unless you have maintained or improved your skills
- theory is never enough, produce results
- concepts, ideas, opinions, perspectives and interpretations mean nothing if you cannot put them into practice
- what can you actually do?
- focus on what is real and tangible
- avoid exoticism
- be discerning, concise, thorough
- be rigorous
- seek the essence
- read the Classics: Taoist and tai chi
- see every experience as an opportunity to learn
- put your knowledge into practice
- recognise that mistakes are opportunities for improvement
- don't try to understand new things in terms of what you have previously experienced
- work together
- seek depth and meaning, shun superficiality
- don't expect a handout
- you learn the art, you do the training, you gain the skills
- heavy repetition of the basic elements
- daily practice
- ask for corrections
- find out useful, necessary information that directly pertains to the training at hand
- figure things out
- train with practice partners between lessons
- look after yourself: physically, mentally, emotionally
- show initiative
- have integrity
- don't expect praise, reward or recognition
- meditation, awareness, clarity, composure, metacognition, constructive reading, memory
- grow a strong, pliable, flexible, adaptive brain
- see possibilities
- be open to the unknown
- avoid assumptions
- actively, deliberately strengthen your brain
- avoid forcing an outcome
- work around problems and setbacks
- be creative, curious, interested, balanced
- not everything is about you
- life is not always kind or fair
- a sense of humour helps you to keep on an even keel
- avoid pride, machismo, vanity, conceit
- do not take yourself too seriously
- be humble, genuine, trustworthy, kind, considerate and thoughtful
- gain a sense of perspective
- don't expect people to service you or wait on you
How you think
How you think is reflected in how you live. A chaotic mind usually produces a disorderly home. It will be echoed at work and in your relationships too.
Unhealthy thoughts and behaviours are manifested physically.
Cultivate the right attitude
Instead of allowing your mind to run wild, slowly rein it in. Train your thoughts to settle. This can be achieved in a wide variety of ways.
The tai chi will help considerably providing you are committed to cultivating a strong mental attitude.
Your attitude affects your body
Take responsibility for your learning. Learn to move in an integrated, strong manner - without forcing. Your body slowly becomes useful, sensitive, alert and graceful.
Instead of being clumsy, it is alive and vigorous, calm and responsive.
Your attitude affects your health
Adopting a strong mental attitude radically affects your fitness. You are far more likely to exercise, eat properly, rest and organise your time constructively.
By taking responsibility for your fitness, you recognise what needs to be done and you actually do it.
Tai chi requires action not talk
We live in a culture where TV and the web has provided the illusion that expertise can be gained by just watching. By being passive, an observer, a spectator.
Such an attitude breeds laziness, complacency and stupidity.
When you meet a master swordsman,
show him your sword.
When you meet a man who is not a poet,
do not show him your poem.
When you meet a martial artist, do not waste their time by talking. They want proof of skill. They want to see your art. They really don't want to chit-chat...
Equally, if you meet someone who does not share your enthusiasm or insights, do not waste your breath on them.
21 May 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023