Attaining great skill by doing seemingly insignificant things

It was about 8 years ago when I picked up Taekwondo. Back then, a group of friends and I enrolled into the same Junior College and chose Taekwondo as our CCA (co-curricular activities). We had little idea of what Taekwondo was all about. We only knew that it was a type of martial arts with really fanciful kicks.

On the first day of training, we were welcomed by the chairman and the coach of the Taekwondo club. We were taught some basic etiquette of being a Taekwondo practitioner as well as the conducts to adhere to when entering the dojo. Then, we were asked to join in the warm up. This was where hell began.

For the next 1 hour or so, we did stretching. Yes, you read that right. Stretching for one whole long and arduous hour! And the stretching we did was not like those that your PE teacher asked you to do. Oh no. We started off with basic stretches by trying to touch our toes while we were standing with legs shoulder-width apart. Then we went into more advanced stretches– splits. When we were unable to go low enough for our splits, our seniors would pull our legs further apart and force our bodies closer to the floor. Our legs were forced into angles we didn’t know were possible and we felt sore in parts of our body we didn’t know muscle existed. It was nothing cool nor glorious.

And that wasn’t the end. As beginners, we had to train our basics. For the next 2 hours, we practiced holding our legs in the air, punching the air and learn how to shout with our diaphragm. It wasn’t fun and it looked nothing like the cool and fanciful martial arts we knew on Youtube. All we did was stretching and basics. For the next 3 months or so, this painful routine continued. Many other newbies who joined the club thought this was not the thing for them and left but we stayed on.

Thankfully, before long, we were able to kick above someone’s head. We could deliver a kick so strong it could knock a fat guy back. Results were starting to show! We understood the reason we had to go through the painful and seemingly insignificant routines. When we were doing these, we were training our weaker muscles.

tb_PasKarate_450x300OMG! My groin hurts!

Years down the road, I won my own set of gold medals and learnt to perform the many fanciful kicks my friends and I were so awed at in the past. Yet, I continued with the basic routines taught so many years ago. I’m still performing painful splits and practicing holding my legs high up in the air because as insignificant as they may seem, they certainly helped me in being better. From this, I realized a lesson that could be applied when we want to achieve something or change ourselves and that is: success often starts with the seemingly insignificant things we choose to do.

378585_10150520667535656_620730295_nDoing a stretch before a photoshoot

Fanciful kicking

If you want to lose weight, start by learning to deny your cravings. Learn to say ‘No’ to yourself when you have the desire to buy that McDonald’s ice cream. Learn to stop eating when you feel full. Learn to not have supper despite feeling hungry. These actions, while seemingly small and insignificant, will have a huge impact in your quest to lose weight.

Similarly with changing our character and attitudes, it often starts with small actions. Perhaps it is your new year’s resolution to be a more loving person. Well, start by learning to be mindful of the needs of others. Or perhaps you would like to grow to be a friendlier person or grow in the area of evangelism. Start by learning how to make friends with your friend’s friend or how to strike up a conversation with a stranger.

“All great things start from small beginnings” -The Great Marcus Tullius Cicero

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