In this article, I explore two dimensions of time: the time that’s ever passing us by, and the time that signifies that you are ready for a new chapter or task.  According to the Ancient Greeks, these dimensions of time are known as chronos and kairos, respectively.  Considering these two dimensions has helped me to explore and apply them towards my outlook for self-development.  Below, I’ll share how I discovered these dimensions of time and how I apply them to my martial arts training.

Running on chronos time

If I were to say the word ‘time’, how would you define it?  Chances are, it’ll be the ever-moving stroke of the clock, counting by the seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years of your life.  Arguably the vast majority of our references to time is the chronos dimension of time.

Since most of us generally think in terms of the chronos time dimension, it’s no surprise that many people who begin their martial arts journey continue to view time in this way.  I was no different when I first began.  I trained in chronos time by viewing my progress through training frequency and learning the martial arts syllabus content so that I was eligible to test for my next rank when the time came.

The break of time

I find it fascinating how most of my self-growth throughout life is triggered by challenges.  I believe self-growth isn’t a given in these circumstances, but is a choice.  Applying kairos time, you can maximise the potential for self-development.  This is because the clock that’s ever ticking seems to disappear from view.  You no longer view situations as time wasted or time to quickly make up.  Instead, you view them as not the right conditions or moment for you to achieve what you had set out to do.  It’s all part of learning.

Essentially with kairos time, you manage your development from within yourself.  This involves being able to reduce the outside noise and the actions of others.  Focusing on you in this way enables you to understand yourself better.  For example, instead of regretting that you didn’t start martial arts earlier in life, kairos time helps you to acknowledge that you started at the right moment for you.  Had you joined sooner, could you honestly say you would have given the same amount of dedication to your training?  Perhaps personal, family, work, or location factors were not suitable at an earlier stage in life.  I therefore believe the kairos mindset gives a deeper meaning to your journey.

I first discovered kairos time approximately six months before my anticipated black belt test, when my instructor said that I wouldn’t be ready to grade. At the time, I was really upset.  To me, it didn’t seem fair because I had increased my responsibilities for nearly a year by then.  I felt that if I was good enough to have had these responsibilities, why wasn’t I good enough to test?  Despite being hurt, I accepted the decision.

Understanding kairos time

Now with hindsight, this event was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Although it took a long time to actually realise, it led me to understand the concept of kairos time.  Training to complete a chronos time requirement to be eligible for my test no longer mattered.  The ever-ticking clock had stopped.  Going into into deep self-reflection, I thought about the significance of the black belt for me, and also the possible underlying reasons why my instructor made his decision.  After considerable thought, I realised that I wasn’t achieving my potential. 

I began to adopt a strategy, which I still use today.  Essentially, I’ll imagine summoning two forms of myself: my childhood self from the past and an alternative dimension me who didn’t pursue martial arts.  With these versions of me, I think about how they would assess my performance and what they feel is possible for me to achieve in the coming months and years.  From this, I figure out a mental plan how to get there.  Each milestone leads to a bigger goal.  For my martial arts journey, that bigger goal is to become the healthiest and fittest version of me possible.  In summary, my goals are now deeper. It includes the syllabus content AND personal goals that I wish to achieve.  

How I use time today

I now mainly use kairos time for my martial arts training because I no longer think that I’ll be ready at a specific point of time that’s lapsed.  Instead, I think about all what I want to achieve and will know when I’m ready for the next chapter.  Saying that however, chronos time helps to keep things moving – especially when it comes to using my time efficiently within a day to squeeze some training or performance reflection. 

Both chronos and kairos time are useful for your martial arts training.  However, since most of us are generally only aware (and work in) chronos time, this article introduces you to the possibility of applying kairos time. I encourage you to consider how both dimensions can provide a deeper meaning to your journey.

So tell me, what dimension of time is your martial arts journey on?

Sabrina Mistry

As a qualified Personal Trainer and 2nd Dan traditional martial artist, Sabrina combines both to deliver workout programmes, martial arts instruction and fitness classes that are designed with the longer-term health of the body in mind. Get connected on Instagram and Facebook: @beyondthedojang

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