Lessons in Mindfulness: Balance Through Discipline

External discipline

One of the greatest benefits of studying martial arts is greater self-discipline and self-control. From birth, discipline is a part of the human experience. Imposed on us by caring parents and relatives, discipline teaches us to make wise choices. Teachers, coaches, law enforcement officials, and other authority figures soon add their influence. External discipline is used frequently to obtain compliance in the military, prisons, religious orders or any regulated environment requiring specific behaviors. It canbe an effective method to control individuals, but when the authority figure or consequence  disappears, often we realize that the behavior was just being controlled rather than transformed, or repressed rather than rehabilitated.

Freedom is born of self-discipline. The undisciplined man is a slave to his own weaknesses.

–Alan Valentine

Internal discipline

As we mature, we realize the importance of self-imposed discipline or internal discipline. For example, eating well and exercising usually maintains our health. Building a successful career demands discipline of our time. Financial success requires the discipline to save and invest regularly. In our culture, certain holidays and rituals inspire us to become more disciplined. Birthdays, our annual reminder of the passing of time, can be an opportunity to acknowledge what we have accomplished, as well as what we have not. Without a doubt, the most popular time of the year for assessing our lives and vowing change is January 1st. The beginning of a new year gives us a fresh slate for new resolutions, and millions of people participate in this annual ritual. But well over 90% of us give up on our sincere and heartfelt visions within months. This confirms the need for commitment, follow-through and good old  fashioned self-discipline.

Continuous action

Start investing the time and energy needed to design the life you desire in great detail. Then take continuous action on that design, never stopping until you reach your goals. If you are thinking that this seems really hard, you are right. However, everything in life is hard. Being poor, sick or uneducated is difficult as well. You have a choice: Take control of your life, making it satisfying and rewarding, or allow circumstances and outside forces to determine your future, and ultimately, your life.

We must all suffer one of two things: The pain of discipline or the pain of regret and disappointment.

–E. James Rohn

Shift…don’t run

There is a saying, “Environment is stronger than will.” This is a great truth, and as a student of the martial arts, you belong to a powerful environment which demands concentration, thrives on discipline, and pushes its students toward immense mental and physical growth.  The challenge of such an intense pursuit is to keep everything in balance. How does one build a career, enjoy family and social life, maintain good health, achieve financial stability and grow spiritually at the same time?

Think of a man on a tight wire, thirty feet above the city. He never achieves absolute balance, but constantly shifts from side to side to maintain his position. You must  continuously monitor your life, and adjust when necessary. Determine the best places to invest your time, energy and resources. If you run from one fire to the next all day, you become exhausted and completely unsatisfied. By disciplining your time, thoughts and behaviors, you feel organized and productive.

Something in human nature causes us to start slacking off at our moment of greatest accomplishment.  As you become successful, you will need a great deal of self-discipline not to lose your sense of balance, humility, focus and commitment.


Balance and passion

A question that many people struggle with is, “How do I have balance and passion in my life at the same time?” The question suggests that the pursuit of a great passion requires total devotion of time and energy,  causing the rest of your life to suffer.      A great martial artist strives for balance and harmony in every aspect.  Simplify your life and spend your time rather than wasting time. Learn to live in the moment and give your full attention to the now. Design your life to be harmonious with your deepest desires. When your time and energy move in the exact same direction, there is a congruency…a synergy to life. In short, discipline equals happiness.

Discipline is simply doing what you ought to do, even when you don’t want to do it.


Shudokan Black Belt Academy - Aikido Nottingham