“Secrets of the Masters” – the Three Primary Conditions

This post is also available in: Italian

“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade…”

Shihan Pascetta

As we proceed through life, each of us passes through similar stages of development. We can further subdivide each of these stages to examine Physical Development, Intellectual Development, Emotional development, and Spiritual development. These four “pillars” are the figurative “legs” that support the particular “table” that constitutes each of our lives.

For the serious Martial Artists, the overall journey ultimately becomes a quest to achieve “balance” in each area of development. This “quest” particularly distinguishes the difference between a “Martial Artist” and a “Martial Technician”.  A Martial Artist must also be a Martial Technician, however, a Martial Technician is not necessarily a Martial Artist.

This concept of balance is pursued further by the contrasting and integration between all four of these interdependent facets. The role of the MA Master is to create an atmosphere in the Dojo, along with pertinent activities, that provide a fertile environment for development of each of these four pillars.

The Atmosphere

The atmosphere within the Dojo must include various protocols, first defining the relationship between Master and student. This is seminal to the relationships that follow between all the students of a particular Dojo. Those relationships between students, senior and junior further contribute to this experience.

It is the responsibility of the MA Master to define and exemplify these relationships, both formally and informally; in word and in action. The knowledgeable MA Master understands the significance and impact of the Dojo atmosphere and environment along with the long range affect on the students under his care. Hypothetically, the principles, concepts, and philosophies he aspires to teach are codified in the protocols, procedures, rules, and practices within his particular school.

I use the term, hypothetically, due to the fact that there are many instructors who simply follow habits that they personally observed, experienced, or perhaps found appealing in their own earlier training experience.  These instructors have, however, little clue about the major impact of these practices (or lack thereof) on the development of their students.

This occurs either because their own instructors never taught or explained this integral element of teaching or the current instructor never remained with a qualified Master teacher long enough to learn this aspect. When used properly, this element of the MA training experience (“atmosphere”) can bring immeasurable benefit. Conversely, when absent or distorted, the lack of attention to this element can equally have an adverse affect and serve to produce students that are unbalanced in various ways. Before even one technique is taught, this “atmosphere” sets the stage for everything that follows in a student’s training. When well structured, it has the potential to nurture and support even further progress and development of the individual student.

Ultimately, the students of any particular MA school reflect the principles and mindset taught in that establishment, by that particular “Master”. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” The following is one example of an important element taught as part of the Martial Arts “mindset”.


In the process of everyday life we are consistently exposed to one of only three types of “situations”. I define these “Three Primary“ Conditions” as: 1.) Non-Control; 2.) Influence; and 3.) Control.


I choose to begin with “Non-Control” situations because this is the largest category and the most frequent condition we find ourselves in as humans. Regardless of how assertive, positive, intelligent, or physically powerful a person may be, he/she is not omnipotent. There are simply an overwhelming number of factors of conditions that we have  absolutely no control over or even the slightest influence.

For example, let’s consider an occurrence as commonplace as the weather. Although this daily aspect of our lives can have major impact on our lives, we cannot change it. Whether there occurs a sunny day, moderate rain, a tempest, tornado, earthquake, or volcanic eruption, we have no control or capacity to change any of these events, good or bad.

No amount of asking, hoping, pleading, enthusiasm, complaining, or lamenting will add even one more raindrop to the tempest, or one more ray of sunshine to the day, or one less cloud to the sky. This simple reality serves to remind of us of our obvious limitations regardless of all the other amazing human accomplishments.

The list for “Non-Control” situations can go on ad infinum.  I don’t believe that I need to list further examples.


I call the second condition, “Influence”. By this I am specifically referring to situations that you have the potential to change by some action of decision of your own.  For example: You may not be able to “control” whether your car tire goes flat after accidentally hitting a road hazard, however, you can influence the outcome of this situation by carrying a spare tire,  or a can of flat fix, having a cell phone, or even joining a company providing road service.

The list of “Influence” situations is not as expansive as “Non-Control” and is largely a function of the skills and resources that an individual has developed over his lifetime. The important thing to remember is that “Influence” always comes with a price. If you are not willing or able to pay the “price” for such “Influence” then that particular situation actually qualifies better to be categorized as a “Non-Control” situation.

For example, you may be able to “Influence” another person to act in a particular manner. The “price” may be as simple as the time and energy you expended on establishing a positive relationship with that individual. In that example the “benefit” would usually outweigh the “price”.

In contrast, a thief may influence someone to hand over his money or other valuables. In this case, the “price” is the risk of injury and/or imprisonment for the thief if he is apprehended and arrested. Regardless, all “Influence” types of situations come with a “price” that must be paid.


The third and least frequent of these conditions, I call, “Control” situations. These are situations over which a person has complete control. In my opinion, these are extremely limited to only one area. That is the area of “Attitude”.

The only area that we have the potential to “control” any significant amount of time is our own “attitude”. And even that  is limited by many factors no matter how hard we try. As humans we were each created with free will. The first free will “choice” we make begins with what “attitude” we choose to embrace.

We can choose to view any situations, occurrence, or experience in the manner we decide internally. The different results are remarkable. Each of us has witnessed the contrast between those people who “see the glass as half-full” or those that “see the glass as half-empty”.

We have witnessed the difference between those who “see a solution in every problem” and those who “see a problem with every solution”. The impact of positive self-view and optimism are well documented in many peoples’ resistance and/or recovery from physical illnesses.

The value of the struggle to develop and maintain an attitude that is life enhancing is one that should not be underestimated.

The Process

The role of the Martial Arts Master to teach and exemplify a mindset that empowers the student to rise above the adversities in life (physical, emotional, relational, social, etc.). A simple formula for the student to follow is:

Step 1

1.)Accurately categorize any challenging situation in life as one of the “Three Primary Conditions”. Please note that the operative word in this step is: “accurately”.

Step 2

2.) In the case of all “Non-Control” situations one must accept the futility of struggling against those things we are unable to change. This resistance to things well beyond our control is simply a waste of our focus and energy.

The key is to learn how to best relax and “go with the flow”. Faith is a valuable tool here to those who accept the tenet that GOD is ultimately in control. Scripture clearly states that “the rain falls on the just and the unjust”; that “all the worry in the world does not  increase a  man’s physical stature even a small amount”; that “GOD turns all things to good for those who love HIM” (according to HIS purposes), etc. By the way, “all” means “all”!

If there is a blizzard on the day of your wedding and no-one can attend, all the complaining and crying in the world will not change the situation one bit. If the stock  market crashes the day after you’ve invested your life savings you cannot turn back the clock. If you are diagnosed with terminal cancer, you are not likely to reverse the diagnosis by shear “willpower”.

However, looking beyond the moment can certainly prepare one to move positively forward even in the face of adversity, calamity, and/or lesser trials. When you are in stuck in traffic and the “idiot” in front of you blocking the road is “making you late” for your appointment, it helps to speculate that perhaps this delay is also “making you late” for some accident up ahead that you may just be missing! Only GOD sees ahead clearly and understands all these “appointments”, both life  enhancing and life challenging.

Step 3

3.) In the case of “Influence” situations one must realistically weigh the “cost” to be paid for influencing any situation. For example, an athlete may “influence” his chance for victory in competition by investing hours, days, weeks, and perhaps years conditioning and preparing for such competition. The real question is whether or not the benefit outweighs the “price” of the investment.

What sacrifices did he have to make in order to invest such time and commitment to training and preparation? How much did his family suffer while he was using this time away from them?  How much did his professional career/livelihood suffer? How did this dedication to his passion for sports impact his other relationships? Was he able to balance the other important aspects of his life while concentrating on his athletic goals?

Another athlete may “influence” his chance for “success” by cheating the rules of play or even by using performance enhancing drugs. Again, the question equally remains as to whether the benefit of “winning” is outweighed by the knowledge that this is a false “victory”. What “price” must be paid if and/or when the truth comes into the light? Further, all that is before one takes into account the physical damage done by the use of such drugs.

These are the type of judgments and decisions each individual must make. We cannot make them for each other. There is, however, no excuse not to learn from other’s actions and consequences.

The bottom line remains the same. If one weighs accurately the “price” to be paid against the benefit to be gained, he is more likely to reach the right decision for his life. In the even that the “price” is greater than the benefit, then it is imperative for the individual to re-categorize that particular situation as “Non-Control”.  Any consistent practice to the contrary will ultimately reduce the quality of one’s life.

Step 4

4.) The third category, “Control” is likely to be a life-long struggle for each person. As I stated previously: “the only area that we have the potential to ‘control’ any significant amount of time is our own ‘attitude’.” Please take notice that I use the term, “potential”.  Remember that “potential” does not automatically imply any guarantee of fulfillment.

There are so many factors that affect our “Attitude”. These can range from our physical state (general health, energy levels, injuries, and even  hormone levels), to our emotional state before even considering many other external influences.  It is important first to recognize that when we have a negative or pessimistic attitude that we sometime become our own “self fulfilling prophesies”.

If we believe we will succeed, it is never a guarantee of success, however, if we believe we will fail, we significantly increase the probability of failure. Logically, it make much more sense to approach life’s challenges with the most positive attitude we are able to muster.

Of all the complex elements that form the psyche of an individual, the “attitude” has the most potential to impact a person’s life more profoundly than anything else internal. Through the control of “attitude” a person can potentially receive the most benefit from his intellect. He can potentially channel the energy that comes from various emotions, both positive and negative. He can influence his own physical health and even his own immune system. He can move along on a pathway to experience the highest quality of life within the parameters of whatever has confronted him.


As Martial Arts Masters, it serves our students well to teach methods that they can use to enhance their entire potential. There is nothing mystical about this process. First, we must learn to practice and develop these elements in our own lives and then do our best to exemplify them to our students.  We must follow the proverbial, “Walk the walk, not just talk the talk”.

Life is truly a struggle for existence from our first breath at birth to our last sigh at death. None can escape this reality.  However, we can use our GOD given intelligence, seeking wisdom, and thereby attempt in our own feeble way to improve the quality of our existence and that of others while we are here. This is the way of the warrior, the way of the Martial Artist.


Copyright 2010, R.V. Pascetta. All rights reserved.

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One Comment

  • Scott Sileo says:

    Shihan, very enjoyable article. To (roughly) paraphrase Grand Master Urban, and you likely heard him say this firsthand, but the world would be a very different place if today's youth (and tomorrow's adults) would internalize the MA mindset. For me, I found it very easy to gravitate this way of thinking, since almost everything about MA seemed to fit a void that I had in my life when I began training at the age of 17. That said, I doubt that many of today's MA practitioners could even tell you WHY they train. For some, a belt. For others, to emulate today's pop culture MMA figures. My hallucination is that very few would realize that they are undertaking a life changing journey, if only they hang in there long enough. I often wonder, as I see literally dozens of students filing out one of the more "commercial" schools in our immediate area after class that happens to be near a place I pick up my daughter regularly, if they truly realize that what they just did for the last hour has very little to do with punching and kicking.

  • Excellent post, Shihan!

    • rpascetta says:

      Thanks Rob, for taking the time to read and comment. I know that you have dedicated a many years and much effort toward the advancement of and professionalism in the martial arts. So, I greatly appreciate your feedback and input. At any time you are interested in submitting an article for viewing and discussion, please consider it an open invitation to use this Blog as a vehicle to reach more martial arts enthusiasts. I'm sure they would respond well to your ideas.

  • Mary says:

    I love this sentence: It is my firm belief that if we ever come to the point that we think we have all the answers then we have crossed the threshold into self-delusion.

    The Secrets of the Masters is a wonderful page. You are blessed that God provided you with all of these gifts.
    Our crosses in life are blessings…

    My pleasure to have had the opportunity to meet you in person and able to listen to your remarkable journey. A gift for me!

  • rpascetta says:

    Thank you Mary for your kind compliments. I have truly been blessed in many ways. GOD is more than good! It has been my pleasure to also know you. Thank you for taking the time to give your input and encouragement.