Comfort is an Illusion


If I can punch you in the face from four feet away, and you can only punch me in the face from two feet away, who wins?

I had that thought just today when I was training with Jermaine, a yellow-stripe student. Jermaine is a really strong kid, but he can only punch about 2 ½ feet past his body. I asked him, “what good does 2 ½ feet do when I’m 3 feet away from you?”

So, I’m holding the focus mitt three feet away from him and he’s trying to step toward the mitt, he’s telegraphing his punch, he’s leaning in, etc. He’s clearly uncomfortable, so he’s trying to get closer to the mitt to hit it. 

We all like to feel good about things. Students will often practice only what they’re good at because they want to feel good. They don’t want to feel uncomfortable. Then, I’ll tell them to do a different pattern, or a spinning hook kick or something, and you see the uncomfortable look in their eye. 

But, to me, that’s when the fun starts! When I’m trying something difficult for the first time, and I’m out of my comfort zone, people expect me not to do it well. I get a free pass! But, once I nail it, it makes it that much cooler!

“Comfort is an illusion. Comfort is not welcome here.” 

This mantra or phrase has been used many times in my dojang, because I am a firm believer that when you are in your comfort zone, you are not learning. 

I think about stretching. If I walk onto the floor and I’m not already in some kind of discomfort, that means I haven’t stretched properly. If I’m stretching, then I should not be in a lot of pain, but I should be at least mildly uncomfortable. 

While they’re stretching, I tell my students all the time: smile through the discomfort. 

The same goes for hitting the heavy bag. If I’m not hitting hard enough, or moving my feet well enough, then I’m not feeling the pain. Again, I’m too comfortable, and I’m not being effective in my training. 

It is no different with mental comfort. Say I’ve just won a tournament and now I’ve got this big trophy. Now, I’ve gotta fly home with my big trophy. So, I get on my plane and I’m walking down the aisle, and my big trophy is bumping into people and they’re looking at me like “ooh! ahh!”

Yeah, I’m a little full of myself. For the moment. And maybe that’s okay for a little while. I earned it. 

But, I’m not learning anything. I’m not thinking, necessarily, as hard about what I did wrong, and what I could do better next time. I’m just kind of enjoying the moment.

On the other hand, if I lose that tournament, those things are all I can think about. I need to work on this, how could I let them hit me with that, my pattern was weak, etc.

The lesson? In loss, even though you’re uncomfortable, you’re really growing. 

At our dojang, we’re constantly reinforcing the idea that discomfort is really a good thing. 

Many times, students are training and they’re hitting the mitts or the shields and I’ll see them do a bad kick or punch, and they’ll scream out in discouragement. I’ll say “no no no! This is your time to train, so every punch is good! 

Be comfortable with your mistakes, be comfortable with your losses. Those would make most people uncomfortable.  

So, if you’re like Jermaine, and you’re uncomfortable throwing long punches in the beginning, by the time you’re comfortable, you’ll be throwing very good long punches.

But, that’s exactly the moment when it’s time to make them longer punched. 

Time to be uncomfortable again. 


Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do offers a trial program for individuals and families in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas that allows you to get a feel for the different classes, meet our instructors, and experience our dojang. It’s a great way to see if Tae Kwon-Do is right for you. To learn more or to sign up, register online or call (716) 836-KICK (5425) and a member of our team will follow up with you on next steps. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals. Pil-Sung!


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