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Endurance in life and art

“Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines,

but it is to the one that endures that the final victory comes”.


Endurance (In Neh) (Endure / patience)

The definition of Endurance according to Webster’s dictionary is:

  1. The ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially: the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.

  2. the act or an instance of enduring or suffering

The founder of the Moo Duk Kwan, (school of martial virtue) Hwang Kee, once stated that he felt that masters testing (Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa) should be held in the mountains for a month. The concern brought up was that people have jobs, lives and personal responsibilities and that this would not be possible. So he agreed, and the first masters’ testing was to be held for 4 days. However, currently the testing for 4th degree master levels and up is eight days long in our martial arts system. It is only through facing hardship, stress both mentally and physically can we fully understand what endurance really means. It has to be tested on both levels of the human abilities. During one of our studio’s Dan (Black belt) level pre-testing clinics, students are put though all the areas of the test to help them prepare. The endurance portion of the test was the next exercise. Students for 1st degree are required to perform one hundred and twenty punches, while maintaining a “horse” stance in a thirty seconds exercise. Therefore, the students took their positions, and prepared for the beginning. I gave the command: “Si Jok” (begin), and they began punching with full force as fast as their capabilities would allow them. “Gu Mon” I stated, return to ready positions and take a thirty-second break to breathe. Now we will begin again, “ready begin,” I stated. This exercise was repeated three times, for a total of a minute and a half.

I gazed at the students to look for their reaction. Their breath had quickened, they were beginning to sweat and their attitude was starting to fail. I could see in their eyes what was going on in their mind. “Is he going to do this again” I am sure they wondered. Therefore, I asked them to take a seat to allow their body and heart rate to come back to a normal level. “The only way we can test our endurance is to challenge it, and see how our mind helps us to push forward, even when faced with a difficult task. This is what endurance is all about, the mind helping us to succeed”.

As we journey through life, there are many times we are faced with challenges both mentally and physically. We can all give example in our lives when we thought we would never succeed or it would not be possible to us to overcome. The question then comes about: “What did we do to complete the task at hand”?

Understanding what endurance is in our life and understanding what skills or traits we need to succeed is vital. Most of the time in everyday life, we face many opportunities to explore our control of endurance. Think for a moment, its Sunday late morning, and you have stopped at a restaurant to grab a quick lunch. Therefore, you pull into the drive up to place your order. As you are sitting in your car, thinking about all that you want to do that day, time seems to slow down. After a short period, you begin to become impatient. “What is taking them so long”? You think. You look at the time, and it has only been two minutes! You gaze into your rear view mirror and there is a line of cars behind you, and several in front of you. Your pulse starts to quicken, and your anticipation becomes excited. As to come to the window to place your order, you state what you, and voice comes back through the speaker: “Can you hold one minute, thank you”. Your first response is a deep breath and a sigh of frustration.

As you approach the window to pick up your order you are met by a young adult, who tells you your total cost. You can see by their expression that they also are feeling that frustration. You think to yourself, “here they are making minimum wage, and everyone they talk to is in a hurry, how do they feel”? You then come to the realization that at the same time both you and the worked are facing the same endurance test. In this case, the endurance was not physical, even though you started to get a physical response, but rather an internal reaction. Most times in our life as I had stated, we face more times then most a situation that requires “internal patience.

Even while writing this book, I had to face this. I suffered an injury that required surgery, a torn rotator cuff. My first thought is, ok now what do I do? I will be off work for three months at the least. Therefore, I thought to myself, what better time then know to take advantage of the situation and focus on things I do not normally get a chance. This would require some adapting, due to having my arm in a sling and being immobile. Therefore, I sat down and developed a plan. A few months ago, my wife had given me a gift of a hands-free dictation system for my computer. I thought this was the time to build put it into full use. After some trial and error, like most things that are new, I began to become more comfortable with it. Even some daily tasks, that we take for granted like getting dressed in the morning, making coffee, eating, or just basic mobility became an issue. Obviously, frustration was the next thing that entered my mind. However, being a martial artist I started to rethink the situation. Therefore, I approached it as a challenge, and how to adapt my immobility to mobility based on what I was able to do in a situation. The literal translation of In Neh means first to Endure and second patience. To now face with the situation I knew I had to strengthen my patience. This like the other of the eight key concepts is all interrelated. It would first require courage, endurance, concentration, a big dose of humility, honesty, speed control, tension and relaxation, and finally power control.

If we are parents, we are given the opportunity to face endurance constantly because of our children. Everyone is faced that time when our children seem to want to test our endurance. It is how we respond in those situations that can result in a negative or positive experience.

The way that we respond produces an energy, which is sensed by the children, and therefore causes a reaction. Therefore, it is vital when faced with these situations that we control our endurance, through our emotions. Otherwise, the child sees and learns by our reaction how to handle the situations. With mental endurance, it is important to use the control of speed. How fast we react to situations or how slow can cause and effect on the outcome. When dealing with children it is a much better approach to pause, and listen because, they at the very same moment are dealing with frustration and testing their own endurance. The saying, pick your battle is very pertinent in this case. When these situations become out of control because her lack of understanding of endurance they create a snowball effect. Our reactions are shifted to other people, resulting in their reactions to most likely have a negative outcome.

Physical endurance is something that is motivated by the mind. We can see this in marathon runners for example. They have trained long and hard to be able to physically handle the race. After conditioning their body to withstand the stress placed upon their muscles, and breathing, they must start to condition their mind. We have all seen examples of children for example running a race in school. You can tell by the look on their faces as they round that last corner and head towards the finish line. Their attitude will dictate the outcome. You can see the determination in their eyes and the way their body is moving. Endurance, and the control of, will be the big difference between winning and losing.

Ways to enhance your endurance:

Timed exercise: Increase the duration, with each set over a period of time

  1. Mental endurance: Go to a restaurant that has a drive up, during a peak time of the day. Notice how you feel during that time, and find a different focus to reduce the stress and extend your endurance.

  2. Learn to say NO to things that do not help you.

  3. Practice daily meditation, beginning by setting aside 5 min. a day, and increase by 5 min. each week. Do Nothing.

  4. Take a walk by yourself in nature. This is so important to helping our self to step away from all the daily distractions, and focus on our self. We then can handle situations in calm manner, and our endurance becomes lengthened.

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