Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The freedom of discipline

A lot of people dump their kids into martial arts classes to "get some discipline."  What does that mean anyway?  Is discipline a comodity that you can buy a quantity of?  What sort of discipline do they want for their kids?  Do they want their kids to be disciplined or do they want their kids to learn to live in a disciplined way?
If you look up discipline in a dictionary, you'll get several definitions, including...
  • the trait of being well behaved
  • to punish in order to gain control or enforce obedience
  • training to improve strength or self-control
Let me tell you right now as an aside, as a sensei I'm not into the first two aspects above.  Me trying to use punishment to coerce good behavior is a bunch of B.S.  I'm not going to be the one to punish your kid if you're not going to do it - and I'm certainly not the one to be punishing an adult.  If the student can't be at least civil, he can begone.  You have to have at least that much discipline (in the first sense above) to even begin participating.
But something that occurred to me today, while reading Donald Whitney's Spiritual Disciplines book, is that the reason that you do the discipline thing is in order to get to a state of freedom.  The result of discipline is freedom.
The same way that a person that is super-diligent on their diet and exercise is free to go to a special meal occasionally and eat whatever they want without worry about consequences.
The same way that an elite musician is free to display amazing artistry like no-one else is, because they have put in the practice time even when they would rather be watching a movie with the buddies.
Martial arts practice can't really develop discipline (in the third sense above), but it can be a medium through which a person can learn to discipline themselves so that they can eventually have the freedom to...
  • perform the skills involved in that martial art...
  • live a fuller life without the interference of inappropriate fear reactions...

Patrick Parker

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