Another old story for you…

A young man turned up at the school of a famous martial arts instructor. Upon arriving, he told the Master that he wanted to become his student and be the best martial artist in Japan. He asked the master, “How long should I train under you?”

“Ten Years,” replied the master.
The young man complained. “Ten years is a long time; but what if I train twice as hard as your other students?”
The Master thought for a moment and replied, “20 years”.
The young man was confused, “20years? But what if I practice every day and night with all my effort?”
After a pause the master replied, “Then 30 years”.
Even more confused, the young man enquired, “Why do you say it will take longer every time I say that I will train harder?”.
The master smiled. “It is clear. When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the way”


In martial arts practice we’re often given what feels like conflicting advice. We should want to become an expert, aspire to black belt….but learning the next skill, attaining the next belt is not important.

How can we make sense of this conflicting information? Actually the more we practice the more we no longer see these in conflict, our level of understanding develops.

What the story means to me at the moment is: be bold – but don’t be attached to the outcome.

When we attach, we become desperate, fearful of losing that which we are holding on to. Attachment creates paralysis and it slows learning. It is paralysis built on fear. Fear of not having.

In Hapkido we learn to be in the present, to enjoy the process, not focus on the outcome. When we focus on the process, ironically we both enjoy and achieve more.

So to me… the story isn’t about letting go of achievement, but about letting go of attachment to the outcome and enjoying the process…being in the moment.


Being the best
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5 thoughts on “Being the best

  • 8th October 2012 at 9:11 am

    Thank you Saboumnim,
    I love this story. It resonates in so many ways. When I started Hapkido I think I did have some goals in mind, but over the years my goals have changed. If I started training with one goal in mind that didn’t change then I would not be allowing myself to grow and develop. I think by being rigid with my goal I would actually stop myself from seeing what is actually there and learning.
    I have also been suffering with an injury lately, and I havent been able to train. But I’m learning that it doesn’t mean I have to stop practising Hapkido, especially Ki, in my everyday life. If my goal was to train really really hard and be the best, what would happen to my goal when I couldn’t train? Does that mean I would have to give up?
    How do we measure ‘best’ anyway? I want to improve all the time but that means I have to be able to keep practising Hapkido even when I can’t train in class.
    One more thing, I love training with Changs Hapkido students and I learn so much from training with them. If I was only focued on being the best, not only would I fail as everyone is so good, but I would miss out on so much.
    I love this story!

  • 8th October 2012 at 10:27 am

    Great story Saboumnim. Flexible of mind, flexible of body! Thank you, Adam

  • 8th October 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Great story Saboumnim. I recall hearing about one of the top Nordic skiiers whose strategy was to always focus on the next 20 metres and periodically look up to ensure he was heading in the right direction.

    This seems like a good life strategy. Focus on what needs to be done now (being present), but without losing sight of where you want to go. It is also a good strategy for dealing with multiple tasks / opponents. Deal with one at a time. Move on only when a given task / opponent is ‘completed’.

    Best wishes


  • 10th October 2012 at 9:13 am

    Man without Target has nothing to Aim for…

  • 10th October 2012 at 11:36 am

    … following on from that….

    Sports psychologists can’t agree on whether or not perfectionism is a good or bad thing. They believe part of the reason for the disagreement is that there are actually two aspects to perfectionism: one is striving for perfection, the other is having negative reactions to a less than perfect performance. Read more here:


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