Rule number one: Chew your food 30 times, before consuming.
Rule number two: Put your chopsticks down when eating.
Rule number three: Eat everything on your plate with chopsticks, including every grain of rice.
Sounds obsessive… and obsessively impractical… but it’s actually one of many stereotypical routines of a Shaolin Monk. The purpose: building a way of life and medium where developing focus, patience and willpower becomes second nature! It’s a “small win” geared towards creating a mentality constantly in harmony with martial arts.
For centuries Shaolin Monks have been perfecting skills in martial arts while leaving many in consternation with their level of dexterity. But what really stands out is not necessarily the intensity of training but the lifestyle that Shaolin Monks uphold! Because at the core of martial arts there’s an important muscle that helps make all the difference when training! That muscle is willpower!
During an interesting psychological experiment conducted in the mid-nineties by Psychologist Mark Muraven, it was discovered willpower acts just like a muscle. Meaning: willpower can become strained and exhausted after a long day, but will also increase with the right amount of exercise. As Muraven explains, “If you want to go for a run after work, you have to conserve your willpower muscle. If you use it up too early on tedious tasks all strength will be gone by the time you get home.”
The more you exercise this muscle, the more patient and tolerant you’ll become particularly in sport. When it comes to martial arts; willpower has played a substantial part of the discipline for centuries! It’s naturally ingrained in psyche an spirit of the experience and is key to improving many aspects of a lifestyle!
Australian researchers Megan Oaten and Ken Cheng further demonstrated the impact of willpower in an experiment in 2005 by observing “struggling” participants. Those taking part of the experiment were asked to keep a detailed diet diary while being pushed to their limits during exercise! Surprisingly not only did their tolerance increase, but it lead to other good habits: decreased smoking and drinking, low caffienated diets, and overall a less depressed and more proactive life!
The research by Muraven was so ground breaking and effective, big corporations and institutions make it a top priority to increase the willpower of their employees.
It’s easy to think of willpower as a self-regulatory skill, but surprisingly it’s more appropriate to think of it as a muscle. It’s a factor that can be increased and the intense training in martial arts strengthens that muscle by providing the opportunity to spark focus, face fears and overcome anxieties on a regulated basis; whether it be through focused pair-work, training basics or even heavy sparring.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to recommend holding horse stance while brushing your teeth, or planking while reading a book. But the application of martial arts in lifestyle will help you achieve goals in ways you wouldn’t expect! Expanding your willpower is one of them! Hit the Dojo and watch your life evolve around you for the better!