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“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.” This is what is told to children all the time and yet, for many, words seem to hurt far more than physical attack.

As martial artists we tend to focus a lot on preparing ourselves against physical attack and, often, not as much against verbal abuse – whether to our faces or behind our backs. Not directly, anyway. Training in martial arts should, however, over time, instill in you a confidence and air allowing criticism and insults which are thrown your way to run like water off a ducks back.

Being involved in martial arts can sometimes put you in the direct line of various criticisms and insults. As martial artists we will be insulted by martial artists of other styles, people within our own style, fellow students and even members of the public who have their own, often uneducated, opinions in this realm.

Sticks and Stones-criticisingAs in life, you can’t allow insults to hurt you. As a Martial Artist, your martial art will form a large part of your life and in many ways shape who you are, so an insult concerning your martial art, and you specifically within your art, can be easily viewed as a personal attack. However, this is par for the course. If you had to take personally and respond every time somebody criticized or threw an insult your way there would be little time for anything else, I’d imagine.

Martial artists often need to develop a thick skin – like we condition our bodies, so too should we condition our minds against this type of attack. How many of us would still be around if we gave up at the first insult, or the millionth for that matter. The majority who made the insults, though, are long gone – not even a distant memory.

Sticks and Stones-Step upMartial arts teach confidence and how to stand up for yourself, so why fall down at a mere insult? What kind of strength is that? Sometimes the best defence is to carry on with what you are doing. Criticism and insults can only effect you if allow them to. People can be negative and if you dwell on their negativity it can stop you from achieving your goals. These people’s thoughts and feelings are exactly that… theirs. Stay true to your mission no matter what the naysayers have to say. For every one detractor you will find ten supporters. Give the supporters the attention they deserve, not the detractors. You need to realize that you will never be able to please everybody. People who hold a grudge against you and like to make commentary are allowed to do just that. That is their problem, and they need to deal with and come to terms with it on their own. As the saying goes, “What others have to say about you is none of your business.” So don’t add more to your plate by making their thoughts your focus.

Insults and criticism are negative feelings voiced. People tend to be brought down easily by negativity, especially if it is flung in your direction. Negativity attracts more negativity, so it is very important that you don’t allow other’s to affect you in this way. The best way to deal with negativity is to distance yourself from it – cut it out – this includes negative, criticizing, insulting people. Everybody would love for everyone to agree with and support them, but this is not the case. You need to accept it, own it and move on. Such is life. So many people can be supportive and yet we can give that one negative person enough power to bring the whole house down. This mindset needs to change. Sticks and Stones-Fort1The martial arts mindset must not allow this. Dealing with adversity should be what you look forward to. A stone being thrown at a fort cannot bring it down, so why let it bring you down? Keep things in perspective. This will draw you to greatness

People will insult you and talk behind your back for various reasons. The most prevalent, though, is jealousy. Many don’t like to see others moving ahead, holding the cards or living the dream they have created for themselves. Negative talk about others forms part of the victim mentality and is the lowest form of conversation. Talking about others can often point out a person’s own insecurities. Often they want what you have or want to be able to do what you can, but can’t either due to their own laziness or incompetence. It’s far easier to talk rubbish and bring others down than step up to the plate themselves.

Personally, I think that if people want to talk behind your back and make insults towards you it is an achievement. If you can effect a person’s thinking so much that they have to talk about and think about you, essentially they have given you a degree of power over them. While you are constantly entering their thoughts, they don’t even enter yours. While you are getting on with business, they are busy dwelling on and thinking about you, and by default not getting done what they should to move ahead. These self-pitying fools give so much attention and concern to your perceived flaws and misgivings that they literally hold themselves back. This eventually causes them even more frustration and negative thought and soon suck themselves into oblivion.

Sticks and Stones-Walking awayLet insult throwers wallow in their own misery. Soon everyone gets bored of their conversation anyway, and they find themselves all alone. You keep walking forward doing what you do, leaving the garbage in your wake. Even those close to you may be insulting, negative and unsupportive. Their opinions should not be given any more worth than a known enemy. If you have a goal and a true belief in what you want to accomplish, maybe they also need to be cut loose. Often, people don’t want to see others succeed – even people close to them.

Sticks and Stones-Criticising2You know in your heart what is best for you, nobody else. Be true to yourself and stick it out through the storm. You will come out the other side tougher and better. And at the same time you will have gotten rid of the scraps along the way. In the end, you have to face yourself and be content with your own actions and achievements. When all is said and done, what others think is inconsequential. Always remember your mission and never compromise on it.
Remember, the true greats didn’t give up at the first sign of opposition. They stuck it out regardless and proved the naysayers wrong. They learned to take the bad with the good, and that the bad can only take effect if it is allowed to. Sometimes you need to roll with the punches and weather the storm before you deliver the knockout blow.

In martial arts, or otherwise, two-faced back-talkers never make legendary status.