Dec 26, 2010

Rededication to Martial Arts Training

Throughout our martial career we may develop a tendency to become complacent in our training. We get lazy. We are tired from the stress of work (or the lack thereof), family and the other things in life that contend for our time and energy.

It helps to have goals to work toward and to be able to focus our efforts on those goals. But what is the goal really? For beginners it is the [once] coveted black belt that is now even awarded to snot faced ten year olds for showing up to class on a semi regular basis. For those of us advancing in years and not necessarily in belts the goal is just to be able to get through the next work out with all of our body parts intact.

I have a new student that is training at the Provo Jujutsu Club. He is physically challenged in several ways. He walks with crutches and though he is willing to practice some things standing up he does most of his training kneeling on the floor. What is his goal in the martial arts? In the long run I am sure it is a black belt but for the short term it is to endure the pain and frustration of those limitations imposed on him. I applaud his efforts and hope he can endure the training I have prepared for him.

I have had students make it to black belt level. For every 100 who come to train maybe five will make it to brown belt. For every 100 brown belts promoted maybe three will make it to black belt. They feel they have achieved the pinnacle of their training when they tie on the newly minted black belt. Then some old fart that trains here puts his arm around their shoulder and gently reminds them: " Now you start over so you can learn what the basics are really all about". Shodan is just that.... first level.

In my personal quest for further knowledge I have found that I too become complacent in my training. This can become life threatening should I ever have to call upon my martial skill to defend my self or someone else. It is easy to rationalize not training with full intent of purpose but it is also important to maintain the edge provided by consistent training. Occasionally I have to throttle myself and recommit to training. It is easy to delegate and I must admit that it is nice to have help teaching.

Recommitting to my training usually means getting back into kata, basics, makiwara and the boards (technique boards or lists. We do not train to break boards!). It also means doing reading, research, and testing concepts to see if they really work. I doubt that if I had ten lifetimes to train in the martial arts that I would be able to learn all there is to learn. Shortly before Master Funakoshi died he commented that he was just now getting the concept of punching. He was ninety years of age at the time and had been training well over seventy years. There is always more to learn.

Returning to kata practice (yes a jujutsuka studies Shotokan Kata, wonder why?) it is necessary to slow down and reexamine the movements and the transitions where many techniques are hidden. It is also important to train until the body understands and that requires studying and perfecting the correct alignment. [Along with all the other principles that govern our arts.] It is also necessary to examine the mindset required of a martial artist. It never ceases to amuse me when I watch some students of the martial arts and how they perceive themselves as "God's Gift". In the days of the Samurai, I have read, that they would do 10,000 draws of their sword and a 1000 cuts. Every day. My how we have fooled ourselves. We think that we can attend two forty-five minute classes per week and in twelve months test for black belt. I teach my students that before they can claim to know a technique they must do it 5000 times. To understand that, read "The Talent Code". Sorry I don't recall the author's name but you can Google it for more information. It has to do with "deep practice" and the formulation of the myelin sheath that covers our nerves.

Recommitting to your training requires more than donning your gi or dobak and heading to the dojo. It requires an in depth examination of your goals, mindset, and a commitment for excellence. Mastery does not come easy. The martial arts are truly a harsh taskmaster. There is pain involved. After all we do not do this for fun though we may have some fun during our training. Never quit. This applies not only to doing your techniques but in combat as well. A martial artist must also have the mindset of a survivor. A phrase I heard when studying Shotokan was: "What do you do if your opponent hits you in the mouth? Swallow your teeth and keep fighting!" In Master Funakoshi's book, "Karate Do, My way of Life" he states that sometimes you just have to swallow your tears and use your head as a mallet. You do not quit just because you are tire or injured. You stop fighting only when the threat is no longer there.

In my younger days we would have an annual practice on New Year's Day. We would recommit to our training by selecting a kata and doing it 100 consecutive times without a break. Take Empi as an example. That's 3700 techniques in an hour and a half. Butt kicker! But it helped us redefine our purpose in training and to commit to another year of training. There is value in pushing yourself beyond your perceived limits of physical endurance. It helps to develop commitment, not only to your training but also to the commitment of delivering your techniques in combat.

Never quit, push and extend your limits. Above all:



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