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  • Writer's pictureShihan Kendall

Fearless Beginners

Updated: May 23, 2021

​“Don’t let what you can’t do

stop you from doing what you can do.”

~ John Wooden

Every January brings with it a wave of new students, kids and adults, and the first month of 2021 was no exception. But it never gets old seeing so many people take their first steps on their martial arts journey, and our Dojo Team has found this latest batch of White Belts to be particularly impressive--not because of what they know, but because of their comfort with what they don't.

It takes a ton of guts to be a beginner at anything, to step deliberately into the realm of what you don't know, and be willing to make all the mistakes that comes along with that. Generally speaking, children are the best at this, as this graph shows:

This graph, mind you, is not nearly as scientific as it looks. It's more based on anecdotal evidence, the experience of your Dojo instructors. We have found that in general, children are more likely to be comfortable stepping on the mat not knowing anything. Get to adolesence, that time when we suddenly start caring a whole lot more about what people think, and the comfort level drops dramatically. (It should be noted,though, that we've gotten five new teens in the past few weeks. Unprecedented!).

In young adulthood, we see the comfort tackling new skills climb a bit. There's a greater sense of adventure at this age, a higher sense of invincibility. Farther into grownup-hood, though, people become far more at home in their comfort zone and less willing to wander down unfamiliar paths.

The exceptions to this general rule -- and I am so grateful that this job brings me into contact with so many of them -- are the people that realize that there are only two categories in the realm of knowledge: the things we know, and the things we can know if we want to take the time and make the effort. While people around them worry about the length of the journey, these fearless beginners focus on just the next few, completely manageable steps.

We owe it to our young people to become comfortable in the realm of what they don't know yet, confident that they can build on what they do know. And we owe it to ourselves not to become too at home in our comfort zones. Some of the greatest destinations lie at the end of those unfamiliar paths.

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