Experiencing Adversity in Martial Arts and Life
Most of us can’t fathom how we survived our childhoods. I am sure that there were some close-calls that you had growing up. Certainly, there are accidents and situations from which I should not have walked away.
There was one particular instance when I had to go in an hour early to school when I was 16. I had been tardy 3 times, and received a detention which was held before school.
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” ~Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Bird
Growing up, we lived 30 minutes away from "town" and the local public schools were dreadful. This meant that I got to drive 30 minutes every morning; half of the time on a dangerous two-lane highway.
Obviously, I was more sleepy than usual and dozed off at the wheel veering into oncoming traffic. I only woke up as I was was about to hit a mailbox. I, indeed did hit the mailbox, and the car spun around ending up on the embankment on the opposite side of the street. Yep, I could have died, at the very least been permanently disabled or maimed, but it wasn’t my time.
There is a song, ‘Jesus, Take The Wheel’ by Carrie Underwood. This is how I have learned to live my life. As a Christian, I believe that God has his hand on all of us. Things will happen that we are unable to comprehend at the time, but these “close-calls” and near-death experiences serve to shape and transform us months, even years later.
Recalling this story as an adult from the innermost recesses of my mind, it feels much different of a experience than when I was a teen. Today, I have so many responsibilities, and a family that depends on me. As a teen, I was concerned with my own survivability for my sake and also the amount of trouble I was going to get into. I was unable to think past myself; Something that we so desire for our young people.
Martial Arts training also prepares students for adversity. The arduous lessons, challenges advancing in rank, and competitions that don't result in our favor all assist in challenging our minds and bodies to adapt to win. Through these challenges, the martial arts athlete is made stronger, resilient, and more determined to succeed.
‘The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so.’
This relates to the PFC, or Prefrontal Cortex, ‘the area of the brain that helps regulate behavior, including understanding future consequences of one's actions.’ 1
We often expect kids to think like us. Some would deem this as unfortunate. Others would say that it is one of the blessings that we have: to live a life through experiences that shape and mold our brains. It’s bittersweet really. That without adversity, we would have nothing to learn, yet it hurts so much.
As a teen, I knew that I could have died, but it didn’t sink in. I managed to drive the battered car home and my mom took me to school. It was business as usual, just car-less for a while.