Enjoy yourself: Reasons one should savour the learning experience

This post has been updated and re-posted from an earlier version.
What emotion do you experience when you’re training or taking a class? Are you aware of it? What’s the expression that you have on your face while you’re struggling to implement a new technique or honing the precise movements of a cut with a longsword or lunge with a rapier? How are you projecting your emotions and attitude to your training partner during this time? This may seem like an airy-fairy type question but our emotional state while learning has a dramatic effect on our brain’s readiness to absorb new information, act creatively, and retain new content.
It’s very easy in martial arts to become pay-off focused: I’ll celebrate when I reach my next belt (or cord in our case); I’ll be happy when I pull off this technique to perfection; when I can succeed at this strategy every time in combat—then I’ll have arrived. The problem with all of these attitudes is that those arrival moments are fleeting. They are simply moments among a long continuum of practice that is part of the journey of mastery. On that journey it’s also important to note that mastery does not describe the destination.
Research has shown that allowing yourself to feel good before you have reached the result actually improves your ability to reach it. People perform better when they’re happy; when they give themselves the reward of enjoyment first.
Next time that you’re out practicing or taking a class, take a moment to really enjoy yourself. Savour your body in action. Delight in the fact that you’re one of the few people in the world learning how to sword fight. Take a moment to celebrate what you’re doing right, what you have learned so far, and the process of learning itself.

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