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Habit in the Martial Arts

BLOG - Grandmaster Gedo Chang

I am 78 years old. However, the 1st 19 years I did not understand what my father had tried to teach me. But after I went into college I began to understand. Since then I would always get up at 4:00am in the morning for daybreak KI class with meditation. My alarm clock has always been set for 4:00am. Most of the time I am up before my alarm clock rings, however, even when my alarm clock wakes me up in the darkness, I automatically reach out and turn off the bean sized button. My finger goes directly to it even in the darkness, half dozing. Isn’t it amazing, how can I directly hit the button in the dark, half asleep! It is because I have been using the alarm clock for almost 60 yrs. It had become a habit.

Aristotle said: “Excellence is not an act, excellence is a habit!”
I believe you also have experienced this. Perhaps you go to the washroom at midnight, and after you are finished you automatically flush the toilet without thinking. It is because it is a long time accustomed act. Action that is unconscious is an excellent act, from habit!

You learn Hapkido skills from Instructors, A very fine student practices the same technique over and over again, maybe over 100 times, until they can perform it unconsciously. However, according to my experience many students repeat a skill only a few times and then are waiting to learn even more new skills. As a matter of fact, I feel regret and sorry about such students!

A friend of mine who is a professional singer and guitar player once told me, he needed to practice a song 250 times, before it was introduced to the public. The most famous Japanese samurai in the 17th century, he could dominate all other martial artists, Miyamoto Mussahi said: He practiced one skill 2000 times before a demonstration.

There was a very famous Chinese teacher. One day a very rich politician took his son to the teacher. He asked him to teach his son Chinese characters . The basic alphabet of Chinese is 1000 letters, which takes about 3 months to finish in general. The father visited 3 months later. He was expecting his son to have finished the 1000 letters. But he had only finished a couple 100 letters. The father was disappointed and upset. The father returned 6 months later finding his son still had not learned much more! So the father was upset and said to the teacher, The learning is to slow, I will take my son away from you and I will teach my son myself. After he brought his son home and started teaching. He 1st gave his son Confucian and Mancius philosophical books, which were considered kind of difficult to read and understand. But his son immediately understood everything! Later the father showed his son, Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu which was one of highest level books! The son could understand it perfectly! The father was so surprised. How in the world did your teacher teach you? He asked his son, because I am very astonished, you seem to understand everything! Even the books that you never learned. The son explained how his teacher taught him. For example, the very 1st letter of the 1000 letters is Heaven. The teacher Taught him to read the letter, but he also taught the meaning, philosophical, and Religious implications of the word. The teacher not only taught the letter on how To read and write, but he taught everything about each letter. Listening to his son explain, he realized he had made a big mistake, slapping his own knee. He took his son back to the teacher and begged, would you please continue teaching my son. But the teacher refused his proposal , saying your sons education has been ruined.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe you know who Pablo Cassals is. He is a Spanish Cellist in the 20th century, but they say throughout all history he is the best cellist. He is considered a Saint of Cello. He started to study Cello from 8 yrs old, and at the age of 14 he had a national cello concert in Barcelona. He was also invited by Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th American President, to Carnegie hall.He died in 1973 at 97 yrs old. Until his death he never missed his Cello practice, over 10 hours a day! One day a news reporter questioned him, “Almost 90 yrs you have been practicing cello and your performance is absolutely perfect, how come you still practice?” At that time Mr. Cassals was 91 yrs old. He replied
“Whenever I practice I feel my skills are improved a little more.”
Ladies and gentlemen no matter what you do, do it repeatedly over and over! Please practice repeatedly over and over again. I like to dare say, if you reach up to a transcendence level, transcending the ordinary! You will be able to carry out this transcendence into many other fields!! Automatically you will understand other fields of importance.

Finally I would like to introduce a Samurai Maximin
“He who has mastered an art will reveal it in every action.”

Thank you very much,
Grand Master Gedo Chang


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