It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s just that I stay with problems longer. Albert Einstein
People often read this quote as Einstein being modest about what many call his “genius”. Recent studies about the great scientist, however, suggest that he was simply offering an honest assessment of his accomplishments. As a young boy, no one referred to Einstein as a “prodigy.” One of his teachers, in fact, told his parents that Albert would not achieve anything of significance. Eat your words much?
We don’t know how much “talent” Einstein possessed. We do know that he had an insatiable curiosity and a sustained focus. He would spend years on a problem.
What does this have to do with Krav Maga? Well, has it turns out, a lot.
In the fifteen years, I have been practicing Krav Maga (teaching for 12 of those) I have seen some people progress and become proficient while others improve much more slowly. Talent, a very abstract concept, might play a role but it is difficult to determine how much “talent” a person has when they begin training. Perhaps, other activities have fostered skills and abilities that translate nicely into self-defense. We have had, for example, former professional dancers, who perform footwork and body defenses more readily than others.
What is certain, however, is that the most proficient students (and instructors) have displayed four traits – four traits that Einstein and other achievers also possessed. Happily, they all begin with the letter “P” and are easy to remember. Proficiency [P] = Px4
Practice. Proficient Kravists practice consistently and with focus. They are dedicated to developing and refining their skills and knowledge. Think of the great concert pianist refining her skills week after week.
Persistence. Like Einstein devoting years to a physics problem, the proficient Krav Maga student steadily trains and recognizes that success is usually an accumulation of small steps rather than big leaps.
Patience. We all have limitations, face obstacles, or come across techniques we just “don’t get” or struggle to perform. Patiently working through these barriers leads to a better practitioner on “the other side.” Of course, there are always more challenges ahead, always more to learn.
Push. Pushing beyond our present limitations – physical, mental, and emotional – leads to our improvement. If you have trouble pushing yourself there is always an instructor happy to oblige. I push myself but my instructors e.g. Jean-Paul, or Megan, help me refine my techniques and push my various limits. We all need a push sometimes.
All of this is not to say that talent does not exist. Even the most rigorous training would not lead me to outrun Usain Bolt or match gymnast Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 scores (though it would get “Olympic laughs haha). The point is that consistent training, persisting through your mistakes and pushing you limitations will lead to you becoming a proficient self-defense practitioner. Persist – like Einstein.