Conscious Work and Intentional Suffering

by Sensei Joseph Winn © March 2018


“Breathe and stretch. Feel the extension. Breathe.” “But it hurts!” “A little discomfort is expected. Breathe and stretch.”


Why do we put ourselves through any degree of pain? It’d be a lot easier if we just, well, didn’t. I would much prefer stretches that didn’t require me to...stretch. Same with kicking drills. Or punches. Or remembering tiny details in my kata.


You already know the answer. Self-improvement requires us to push ourselves beyond where we are now.  At the dojo, we call it “intentional suffering”. You may have heard the phrase, “no pain, no gain”. It’s based on the same idea, only people sometimes take it to an unhealthy extreme, and it no longer qualifies as “conscious work”.


We believe suffering has two forms: Intentional and unintentional.


Intentional suffering means you control the “pain”. It could be easing into a stretch. Or it could be dealing with the frustration in executing a technique better. Maybe it’s overcoming the fear of sparring. All of these conscious actions make you a better martial artist and a better person.


Unintentional suffering is when pain is your (not great) teacher. It’s when you get injured due to poor body use. Or when you get hit in the face after running straight into your opponent’s (well-controlled) technique. It’s any time something bad happens due to a lack of preparation on your part. We try to avoid these experiences, as they: 1) keep you from your training, and 2) don’t really teach you any valuable lesson you couldn’t have learned safely.


What’s the best way to ensure your training is conscious and your suffering is intentional? Train regularly and deliberately. Be in the moment, every moment. Make yourself ok with being uncomfortable, both physically and mentally. Maintain your awareness and focus.


We’re not about pushing so hard you break. We believe in pushing right to your limit, then breathing and stretching.


“Breathe and stretch.” That’s great improvement! Keep it up.


Sensei Joseph Winn © 2018