How to Use Your Limitations as Power-Ups

My relationship with movement was full of struggle. I felt like I wasn’t quite suited for martial arts. I would always be an outsider because I didn’t have the “right body” for it.

Then, I joined a new dojo, where the instructors are older and carry around their share of injuries. They always seem downright giddy to train though. They are open about the fact that they can’t do this or that, and have learned other ways to win those battles, and they love the constant process of growth and discovery. Their particular style is an expression of who they are, not the textbook definition of the styles they train in.

I learned from them that the training is more about expressing your body, not defying it and forcing it into the mold of a “perfect fighter."

This concept is pretty common among high-performers. In his book, The Art of Learning Josh Waitzkin, 2004 Ta’i Chi World Champion, shares how a broken right hand led him to develop a completely new approach to Tai-Chi that allowed him to take his skills to a whole new level.

He emphasizes that if he’d seen it as a loss rather than an opportunity, he would never have leveraged it to improve his Ta'i Chi to the point where he could win the World Championship.

So I approach training with an open mind now. It’s an exploration rather than a regimen. I don’t assume I’m limited until I actually find a limitation. If something hurts, I do it differently and find a path that my body can go down to reach the destination.

Martial arts isn’t about learning Muay Thai or BJJ or Krav Maga. It’s about using those systems, which are really more like guideposts, to create your own style of expressing yourself.

It’s like that scene in Karate Kid when Danial-san has just had his knee kicked out and it’s that injury that forces him to master the crane kick. He had to adapt the fight to his body, and in doing so, he did something amazing that was so unique (and admittedly unlikely to be really successful) that it caught his opponent off guard.

My hip is a constant reminder that I’m not invincible and that my love for martial arts and movement is tied up with the need to be compassionate and considerate of myself.


In a way, I’m lucky because otherwise, I’d have no constant reminder that I need to do things my own way.

So if you ever face me in the ring, watch out for my left kick.

Whatever it is that you feel is limiting you, think of it as a guidepost pointing you off the beaten path to unexplored territory.