I wanted to relate a brief, insightful, and (to my mind) funny incident which happened at the dojo.
First some background. Every week I have what we affectionately call (at my dojo) an assist. What this means is that I am leading a class of mudansha youths and adults while Sensei oversees everything. I should also note that it is not just me, but another yudansha as well, and that Sensei alternates between teaching the whole group (working on a given form, partner drill, self defense situation, etc), working with a few, or correcting my own instruction. Overall, I think this is a great way for students to give back to the dojo and help Sensei with larger classes. This is very important when it comes to the younger children's classes, but also useful for the older classes with which I am involved (take that Churchill!). Those assisting get the benefit of adjusting and correcting their mudansha curriculum as well as experience in teaching classes. Those getting assisted get the benefit of difference emphasis of the exercises. In my case, I just hope I don't contradict what they have learned so far or give them too much wrong advice before Sensei catches me!
Anyways, the little incident I mentioned above occurred during my assist. One of the youths tends to give up when things are hard. It is not that the youth in question doesn't have the ability to continue, but rather this youth THINKS that they have reached their limit.
So we are doing a brief drill to break up class a bit, where everyone gets the luxury of using the wall to perform shiko dachi (think of a 'horse stance' popular in many styles, but with the toes pointed outwards at a 45 degree angle and the thighs about 100 degrees from the shins). In keeping with the exercise I decided to perform the stance with everyone, sans wall, to encourage everyone that I am suffering with them. :)
Anyways, this youth keeps rising up, and Sensei keeps telling the youth to get back down. What followed is a series of rising and being told the lower, the youth lowering, and the cycle repeats every few seconds.
At one point, Sensei (who is very good natured about such things, but shows a comical exasperation with such incidents), jokingly (and yet also seriously) tells us that "its just pain." He told the youth, and everyone else, that you thought you were going to die, but you didn't. Play the odds.
I thought this was very interesting as a life philosophy. How many times have we all sweated through a tough drill, thinking its all I can give, and then pulled out a little extra from somewhere deep inside? How many times did your body scream at you that you can't do this any longer, and yet your mind insisted that you could, so you did? And you lived. This happens everyday, 365 days a year, and yet we are all still here to think about it. Play the odds, you probably won't die from one more pushup, no matter what your arms are telling you. Its just pain.
While on the topic of pain, there is another funny and serious phrase my Sensei uses - "First Pain, then Anguish." I think this is along the same lines as the above.