I write a lot about frustration. Or at least, I feel like I do.

Inability is what drives me to train constantly. It’s also what shoots my training in the foot, sometimes. Somedays you bust your ass off, and the simplest thing screws you up. That little seed of doubt starts to germinate, and you can have a bad few months. You lose the conviction in yourself, your faith in yourself.

I started training with what I thought was a simple goal. I didn’t want to be just a skinny, short little kid who was really nothing other than a temporary entertainment for bullies. I wanted to be more in life. I wanted to be special…a hero.

A few years later when I hit my mid-teens, and started to show some talent? I got back in touch with my real reasons for training. Really nothing like fresh perspectives on abuse to wake you back up. I had faces to practice against, and they started to morph into one large, shadowy figure. Every single blow I threw in training was directed into that figure, as hard as I could throw it. I trained with the single intent of being able to kill with one blow.

And so every single blow was filled with frustration. Frustration at not being able to defend those who needed defending. Frustration at the constant nagging thought that each blow was not going to be hard enough. Nights and days, punching and kicking. Sparring every chance I could, against everyone I could.

Inability to perform the way you expect you should be able to is frustrating. I get frustrated at my own lack of confidence. When I look out at everyone else training, I think I’m the only one who feels the way I do. It’s not true. I hear enough of people’s doubts to know better than that. But our own doubt is a lonely place, you just can’t get past that.

I suppose some people are driven to practice solo from a feeling of confidence and ever increasing skill, but not me. Frustration and failure make me get up out of a comfy chair to pick my rapier up, and work on disengages. Or throw a few punches, or work a slow double-leg shoot.

My daily practice is less about getting better, and more about getting past that motivation. When frustration motivates you, what will keep you practicing when you succeed? I’ve attained many goals in life. And I’ve felt the emptiness that follows. Draw the way you always wanted to, suddenly you’ve got better things to do than sketch all the time. Finally hit that one riff perfectly, and it’s not so important to pick up the guitar and work scales anymore.

Conviction. Hunter S. Thompson had the right of that. Frustration is inherently an artifact of the past. When you feel it, you are clinging to something that is gone. Conviction is the act of turning your head forward, and taking the next step. I cling to my frustrations because they give me a solid base to measure myself on. If I know how I have failed, if I hold on to that and weigh it constantly, those heavy bricks can be a foundation to build a mighty fortress on.

Fortresses are for hiding in. I’m invested in movement. So I have to teach myself new habits in training. If I pick up a sword for the wrong reason, I put it down. When my mind is free, then I will pick it up and train. The past is a lovely place to look back on dispassionately and dig for lessons. It’s always worth remembering that it is long gone, and a million miles away. The future is just a single breath away.