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Caring without caring, with no apologies to Bruce Lee

We generally pursue things because we enjoy them. We take classes that interest us, eventually seeking training in an area that interests us, creating some sort of satisfaction or joy. This hopefully leads to a career that we love, or at least enjoy. Whether we love or loath our classes or jobs, we will also seek enjoyment elsewhere. Seeking the company of others, of the same or opposite gender, is because they have features, mental or physical that we like, cherish, or stimulate us. The same occurs when we seek recreation, if so trivial a word can be used to describe the pursuit of martial arts. We did this because it looked interesting or appeared to be a fun way to spend time.

Then why is it that most of us who train have the haunted look of someone who just took a bite of something foul, the distraught face of the first inklings of a brewing gastrointestinal calamity, or the pained expression of a patient with a thick-fingered and ill-tempered proctologist. How can a fun activity create grimaces only replicated in a horror film? Novice students have no beatific expression let alone a smile, no phenotypic representation of fun. If you're not having fun, you cannot relax and achieve the state of using less muscle.

It is anecdotally obvious that increasing performance anxiety decreases the chance of success. If the tense jerky movements of the beginner were purely neurological in etiology then mechanical practice alone would increase performance. Yes correct practice does breed efficiency by maximizing the results from minimal muscular exertion. However the collected gym veteran, who is polished and fluid with their training companions, can easily underperform in competition or in demonstration before an unfamiliar audience. They haven't instantaneously lost any of the neurological framework of their technique and skills, but they have been burdened by the interference of psychological noise from anxiety, doubt, and fear. Fluid tactics are replaced with jerky flailing, both dangerous but only one deliberately so. The relaxed, dare we say happy, fighter has better endurance and more speed which equals more power.

Like all martial artists we seek guidance from the animal kingdom. Aside from genus felis, no animal suffers from embarrassment, they have no self-conscious psychological baggage when it comes to behavior. Animals don't care who sees them hunt, kill, scratch, or mate. Why do humans? As babes we have no compunctions about any behavior, we learn it through societal conditioning, through the ridicule of others, through praise for desired behavior. We do that which others say they enjoy, not what brings ourselves joy. While adopting all the impulses of the id is not the answer to surviving let alone succeeding in life, not caring what others think might make you happier. Yes we can learn from others, yes we can implement behaviors suggested, and yes we can grow through feedback from experts. But no we should not suffer the negativity of others, biased criticality, or discrimination based on who we are. The challenge is finding what someone says that will make you better despite your pride and what is simply hurtful prattling by negative people.

Care intensely about doing well, doing for others, and doing it to win. But don't care if you fail, they don't appreciate it, or if you lose.

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