Karate Kid Weightlifting: Why I Can’t Teach Patience, But You CAN Learn It

We all know the phrase, “Wax on. Wax off.” But have you really THOUGHT about what it means? In terms of your own training and the patience required? The Karate Kid had it right.

“Problem: Attitude.”

– Mister Miyagi

In the totally awesome 1980s martial arts movie “The Karate Kid,” the main character, Daniel, was told by his Karate master, Mister Miyagi, that his early training was going to involve painting fences and waxing the master’s car, NOT learning how to punch or kick. This did not make Daniel happy!

When you walk into my gym, I won’t make you paint any fences. But I will make you hang out with a stick or PVC pipe for quite a while until you learn good form. How long? As long as it takes. It can be as little as one hour to as long as a full month. Until I believe you “got” it, you aren’t allowed to move on.

Everyone assumes an Olympic lifting coach like me is going to care most about what you can squat, or how good your technique is ALREADY, or what you are currently lifting in the snatch or clean. But that just ain’t true.

  • I can teach you good technique
  • I can make you strong
  • I can increase your mobility

The one thing I CAN’T do is make you patient. Only you can do that. And I need to know you’re willing to work at that skill. If not, you need to find something else to do.

Let me tell you, there is a reason I dubbed my gym, “The House of Boredom!” Becoming a good weightlifter is a heck of a lot like becoming a good martial artist. You don’t just become a black belt by magic. It takes long-term work on finicky details, day after day, year after year.

You can either stick it out and do something amazing, or you can quit. It’s up to you.

Wax On, Wax Off

I can tell a lot about a person by how they respond to the first hour of training with me. I don’t just mean I can tell a lot about how good a weightlifter they will be (though, that is also true). I mean, I can tell a lot about what kind of a person they are – period.

Some people have no patience and haven’t the slightest interest in developing the SKILL of patience. So they won’t. And consequently, they will never be good at anything that requires it. I don’t want these people in my gym. They are a giant pain in the ass. And they aren’t worth it.

I also find these people quite sad. Why? Because patience is a skill you CAN learn. It is NOT a “trait” – something you are either born with or you aren’t.

In the 1920s people used to think of strength as a trait, like eye color. We now know better. Your current lack of patience is just as irrelevant as your current lack of strength. Both can be learned, but only if you are willing.

The Karate Kid Didn’t Start Out Patient Either

You may be confused at this point! I know I told you that I can teach strength, but I can’t teach patience. But if that’s true, then you might ask, “How can I learn patience if you ain’t gonna teach me, man!?”

Good question! You’re very astute.

martial arts, kids martial arts, patience in olympic lifting, olympic liftingThe funny thing about a lack of patience is that it’s more about fear than anything else. Fear you won’t succeed, that you aren’t succeeding fast enough, or as fast as others. As with all fears, the only way to get over it is to face it. I can’t do that for you. I can’t even program a “routine” that you can follow. All I can do is encourage you to keep going.

In this case, the fear you’re facing is failure. True patience is the ability to “roll with the punches” of the inevitable failures that are the bread-and-butter of learning.

Imagine someone learning how to do calculus. Most of the time in the beginning they will totally suck at it! They will get almost every single problem WRONG. These folk have a choice to make. Quit because it ain’t fun to be horrible at something, or keep on trying.

You can split the world into those people who kept going and those who didn’t. The first group acquired the skill. The second didn’t. It’s that simple.

The biggest myth is that people who are good at math, music, or Olympic lifting were BORN that way. Sure, you need a requisite amount of talent to become great, but anyone can become far better at these things than they even realize is possible – if they’d only try.

You can’t know your potential until you get there.

The Plan That Isn’t A Plan

Every time you fail at something you want to be good at, you are at a fork in the road. Either you are going to continue or you are not. What’s it gonna be?

THAT is how you develop the skill of patience. You make the choice, in the moment when you want to give up, to keep going instead. It will be HARD at first, but over time it gets easier. Eventually you find yourself able to deal with setbacks in a way you couldn’t have handled in the past. You’ll be a genuinely more patient person.

I can’t help you with this. I can only encourage you.

  1. Keep going.
  2. Keep going.
  3. Keep going.

Whatever your goals are (they certainly don’t have to be weightlifting related) the process is the same. Try hard, fail, try hard, fail, ad nauseam. And then BOOM! You’ve done something amazing.

The Karate Kid started out painting fences, not having a clue how it would help him, frustrated as hell, and wanting to give up. He ended up kickin’ some major bootay and getting the girl. He chose wisely.

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