Habits: The White Belt Mentality

By Brian MacKenzie and Rachael Colacino

It’s holiday time. Responsibilities mount, travel devours free time, good habits slip. With the start of the new year close, it can be tempting to deny good habits and practices until after the holidays. But no matter when you begin or resume beneficial, purposeful habits, keep in mind constant learning and openness, or what we like to call the White Belt Mentality.

Children who practice martial arts early in life learn the beneficial habits of structure. For adults who begin martial arts later in life, the practice of martial arts offers a developed system where the habits of respect and honor are part of a time-honored tradition.

Starting a new sport as an adult means starting at the beginning, as a literal or figurative white belt. This is where the superior mental training inherent in martial arts gets it right by requiring a mentality of openness to learning whether you’re a black belt or not. That’s what’s missing in other sports these days: there’s no humility, we’re not open to newer thinking or other ideas. This can lead to a dangerous place whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior. If we stop learning, if we halt the learning process; we may overlook valuable information, including why we’re broken or injured.

Consider then the habits you establish along the way. Are you training no matter what? Or are you listening to your body? Training is essential; we need to move and that’s why we train. One-thousand years ago, we didn’t need to train because life didn’t provide a level of comfort that muted movement. We moved all the time because we had to; we needed food or shelter, or we needed to hide, or we were at war. It wasn’t an Amazon Prime world, an iPhone world. Now we have conveniences in a world we’ve developed to remove us from what nature absolutely provides.

Which is not to say that you need to shun convenience. But what you do need to do is create habits that allow you to evolve to a more well-rounded, constantly learning human. Whether you’re dealing with movement issues or chronic pain or unhealthy eating habits, it’s no one’s fault or responsibility but your own. That’s what habits are – your pattern for dealing with pain, for understanding your own pain. Pain can force motivation for many of us, but not until it’s unbearable enough to force those changed habits. If the pain isn’t pervasive enough, we don’t make the lifestyle changes because we’re comfortable. Use the White Belt Mentality to learn what you need.

There’s substance in creating consistent habits in a daily movement routine. Are you tumbling, running, jumping? Are you engaging in fundamental human movements? The same ideas apply to food and your habits and relationship to what you eat. If you seek out carby, sugary foods at night, what will it take to create a new habit? And when will you be in enough pain or discomfort to make changes?