Jon Pascal-isms, Part 1: The Pain of Discipline

By: Jeff Mount

So, confession time. I’ve been meaning to start a blog for months now. And why haven’t I? I could throw any manner of excuse out there – aren’t there enough blogs floating around out there? Isn’t face to face communication inherently more valuable? How can I really supplement people’s Krav Maga and CrossFit training with a blog?

But what it really comes down to is this: like any teacher/communicator/leader of persons, it’s important to me that, if I have people’s attention, the ideas I’m giving them are quality. And I just wasn’t sure I had something to say worth reading. But, a trusted advisor once told me that to safeguard the quality of your advice to others, draw from sources other than yourself. Tell them not what you think, but what you’ve been told that impacted you.

When I think about sources of guidance, inspiration, strength, and encouragement around Krav Maga Maryland, one person immediately comes to mind: Jon Pascal, Director of Krav Maga Worldwide’s Force Training Division. I could list hundreds of accolades, accomplishments, and great things about Jon – about how he is one of the first Americans to receive his Krav Maga black belt in Israel. He’s personally trained hundreds of law enforcement agencies and specialized military units. He’s revolutionized police officer safety and defensive tactics training nationwide. Thousands of warriors the world over consider him a prime influence. Instructors throughout the Krav Maga Worldwide community will drop what they’re doing for a chance to train with him, simply because they know they will be forever better because of it.

So, my blogging conundrum is solved. Over the next several weeks, I’m going to be drawing from the wisdom-humility-strength of Mr. Jon Pascal. I may have doubts about the value of my own words. I have no doubts about the value of his.

“The pain of discipline is never greater than the pain of regret.”

One of the great things about Jon’s sayings is that while they may not originally be his, he unapologetically repeats these gems so often that people ultimately associate the saying with him anyway. Jon told me that he heard this one from a speaker at a conference for athletic excellence, who in turn heard it from a man in his 80’s about to run his very first marathon.

The word “discipline” comes from the Latin “discipula”, meaning “student”. This is important because discipline is often confused with punishment. Originally, discipline had nothing to do with wrongdoing. It had everything to do with learning, growth, and mastery of a skill. Both discipline and punishment are painful, but for different reasons. The pain associated with punishment is retroactive – it is connected to past behavior. Discipline is proactive – it seeks to be formative in future behavior.

But why is discipline painful? Because our immediate comfort generally runs counter to our long-term well-being. Training in Krav Maga is paradoxical in that it requires an initial risk that drastically reduces risk later. The same with any fitness regimen, nutrition plan, educational program, relationship improvement plan, etc. They’re never fun or comfortable. They’re not always productive. But they always take discipline, and are therefore painful.

But what about regret? Another friend and mentor, MA Giroux, recently blogged about self-sabatoge in attaining goals, and connected self-defeating behavior with the language we use. She relates the surrender of control for our future plans by using words that are inherently passive. By using such words as should, hope, and try, we make ourselves victims to the people and circumstances surrounding us. Regret comes from seeing opportunities for action lost, choices not made. It’s painful to think about lost opportunities, ways we should have or tried or hopedthings would turn out differently.

Some differentiate between the “pain of injury” and the “pain of surgery”. Breaking a bone is certainly painful – so is resetting it. Subjectively, they may even feel like the same pain. The difference is found in the intentionality behind the action (we didn’t choose to break our arm, but we can choose to have it reset), and the result (one created the damage, the other hopes to restore it).

And here comes another vital element: choice. We choose discipline. If we don’t, regret chooses us. Discipline requires us to intentionalize our choices. Regret will find us if we aren’t.

The pain of discipline is never greater than the pain of regret. Will you choose to engage in the pain of discipline? Or will you let the pain of regret choose you?

Rachel Parker