If you haven’t seen the 1987 movie The Princess Bride — wait, seriously, are there still people who haven’t seen it? What are you waiting for? Rent that thing tonight! (And yes, this article contains spoilers for a 28-year-old movie.)
Anyway, there’s a famous line in the movie. It goes like this:
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
It’s an awesome line, don’t you think? It’s especially awesome when delivered by Mandy Patinkin. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Patinkin built his entire career on that line.
If you find it inconceivable that any of this has to do with Tai Chi and Qigong, please bear with me.
I’ll explain all that. But first, a little backstory behind that famous line. (If you’ve seen the movie 25 times, then you can probably skip this section.)
Inigo Montoya absolutely adored his father, a renowned sword maker. One day, a 6-fingered man, the evil Count Rugen, commissioned a sword from Inigo’s father.
When the sword was finished, Count Rugen refused to pay. Adding injury to insult, he also decided to kill the sword maker, Inigo’s father.
Inigo, just a young boy at the time, watched in horror. Grabbing a sword, Inigo challenged the 6-Fingered Man to a duel. But Inigo was far too inexperienced a swordsman. The Count spared Inigo’s life, but left him with a nasty scar on his cheek.
For that moment on, Inigo was determined to become the world’s greatest sword master. Then he would find the 6-Fingered Man and deliver this well-practiced line:
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
In other words, Inigo suddenly had a massive amount of motivation
Inigo sought out the best fencing masters and manuals, and practiced diligently. Through years of arduous training, the scar on his face was a constant reminder of his deeper motivations. (It also reminded him to practice his line in order to get the full dramatic effect when finally confronting the 6-Fingered Man.)
That’s how Inigo became a fencing master. Substitute “Tai Chi” for “fencing”, and it would have been exactly the same thing.
Now that I think about it, if Inigo had decided to learn the Tai Chi Sword, it would have made an awesome Kung Fu movie!
Who is Your 6-Fingered Man?
The overwhelming majority of Tai Chi and Qigong students struggle with motivation. If you thought that you were alone in that experience, think again. You’re not. You have lots of company.
If you struggle with motivation, then take a lesson from Inigo Montoya and find your 6-Fingered Man.
What gets you out of bed in the morning and makes you want to practice?
What drives you, motivates you, day after day, year after year?
When you wake up in the morning, and you just don’t feel like practicing — what thought will suddenly give you a burst of energizing motivation?
For Inigo, it was the scar on his face that reminded him of the 6-Fingered Man. That thought motivated him not just to practice, but to become one of the best fencing masters (and best actors) around.
My 6-Fingered Man
For me, my 6-Fingered Man is clear: Depression.
No, it didn’t kill my father. But clinical depression left an indelible scar on me.
I know one thing for damn sure: I’m not going back to the darkness. Not ever. Nah-uh. Not me. No way. No how.
See. I’m already getting riled up. I’m motivated. I would go practice right now if I weren’t in a cafe writing this article.
Tomorrow, next month, or next year, when I wake up and feel like skipping my morning Qigong and Tai Chi, I’ll just think about depression.
That’s what gets me moving. That’s what gets me outside to practice when it’s too cold or too hot.
Some people will say that you shouldn’t use negatives (like clinical depression) to motivate yourself.
I say hogwash. We learn from experience, and let’s face it: lots of our experience involves negatives. The experience hurts, and we say “never again.” That’s part of learning from our mistakes. That’s part of growing.
Depression is my 6-Fingered Man.
6 Tips for Finding Your 6-Fingered Man
Different personalities will respond to different motivations. The trick is to find YOUR thing, to find YOUR 6-Fingered Man.
Here are a few tips:
1. Think about other people. Think about a spouse, a child, or even a pet. Certain personalities will find more motivation in doing things for OTHERS rather than for themselves. For example, you might be motivated to stay healthy for your children, rather than for your own sake.
2. Get angry. What makes your blood boil? According Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, anger is not all bad. It can be fuel. Sometimes, anger is precisely what we need to get moving.
3. Dream big. Do you have a dream, even if it’s unrealistic? Does it motivate you? For example, I have a student who told me that she wants to see the earth from space. Now that’s dreaming big!
4. Use images. Some of you will do better with an image posted on your wall, your computer, or your phone. Does a quick glimpse of an image get you motivated?
5. What hurts? A memory from the past? What did you learn from that? What would you change in the future?
6. What energizes you? Does a thought of the future — traveling somewhere, succeeding in something, meeting someone — give you energy?
Mastering the Art of Persistence
Let me be clear that I am in no way advocating revenge.
I’m advocating persistence.
In the 21st century, persistence is an uncommon skill. Most of us want instant gratification. We want the latest gadget or gizmo, and we want it now.
If I could create a pill that would magically turn people into Tai Chi masters, it would probably be very popular.
But that pill doesn’t exist. When it comes to mastering Tai Chi, Qigong, or any art — there is no substitute for persistence.
Without persistence, you’ll never know the joys of mastery.
You have to resist the 21st century trend toward instant gratification. The good news is that you already know that instant gratification doesn’t really gratify. You know that it is fleeting and unsatisfying.
The joy of mastery is like nothing else on earth. It’s what life is all about.
I believe that mastery is in our DNA. Primitive humans had to master all sorts of arts, skills, and crafts. In the 21st century, we’ve lost touch with that part of our humanity.
My goal is to infect students with so much passion for Qigong and Tai Chi that they end up becoming lifelong practitioners.
To become a lifelong practitioner of any art, you need persistence. And to be persistent, you need motivation.
If you’ve been trying for years to be persistent, but ignored the issue of motivation — then you’ve just found your mistake. Go find your 6-Fingered Man, and you’ll be amazed at what you can do!
Find your motivation, and find your inner Inigo Montoya!
Have you found your 6-Fingered Man? If you don’t mind sharing, I’m sure that others would love to hear about it. Tell us in the comments below!Mindfully yours, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world how to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. As the director of Flowing Zen and a board member for the National Qigong Association, I'm fully committed to helping people with these arts. In addition to my blog, I also teach online courses and offer in-person retreats and workshops.