I normally try and keep my inner zen and impart information objectively. My goal is generally to impart some wisdom through my stories and experiences, and perhaps teach a little something in the process.
But today, I’m going to hop up on my soap box for a little while and discuss an issue that weighs heavily on my soul. It began in the same way as it often does…
I walk into the dojo. The floor is cold and the hall is empty. The head instructor is setting up the required items for the evening’s class, and I stretch experimentally. I begin slowly; throwing a straight punch at a heavy bag. Then another, and another… Within moments, I start punching faster than I can keep track and am acting upon 30 years of instinct and training. I throw in the occasional kick for good measure, even though I’ve never been a fan of allowing my feet to leave the ground. I step away from the punching bag, allowing my breathing to steady. I fall into several forms followed by a number of knuckle push-ups. I stop and catch my breath, aware that several of the arriving students are watching me. I’m sweating profusely and have already done more on my own in the 15 minutes prior to the start of class than the entire student body…
It’s a sad story. One that has become more prominent in recent years. A lot of fitness and martial arts clubs have become a primarily social gathering, as opposed to a forum for proper training and development.
30 years ago when I started the martial arts, class started promptly at 6 pm and ended only at 8 pm. There were no washroom breaks, no water permitted within the dojo and the energy in the room was electric. Once you were inside, you weren’t permitted to leave the dojo until Sensei dismissed you, barring a medical emergency. Every student present knew their position. Everyone bowed; everyone kept going until the end. No one gave up. No one took it easy.
I feel that some of the genuine strength of the martial arts has become watered down. Let’s be realistic: all those awesome martial arts movies and kung fu flicks you likely watched as a kid (and perhaps still do) are based on real life martial artist who have spent their entire lives training and developing themselves. If not for the hard work of others, those awesome movies wouldn’t exist.
One good example is Bruce Lee. Even though he was an action movie star, he was also a traditional artist artist. Having trained from a young age, he developed himself and built himself to the point where he was able to surpass his teachings and even develop his own martial arts perspective in Jeet Kune Do. He was so skilled that the camera often had to be slowed in order be able to see the actual strike on film…
I use Bruce Lee as an example because he is well known inside and outside of martial arts circles. The likes of him hasn’t been seen since. But his example, as well as some others, set a precedence that effectively set the tone for my martial arts training from a young age well into my current state of being.
I’m a 40-year old man. By no means am I “old”, but I’m certainly not the spry, 21-year old green belt I was in 1999. But yet, I manage to work up more of sweat and burn more calories in 15 minutes than most of the teenage students in my current school will burn throughout the entire class. It may sound like a bit of a conceit, but it’s accurate. The change in the tide almost makes me feel as though traditional martial arts may disappear within the next generation.
It’s important to put in a maximum effort in any training you perform. It will sometimes be painful and it will be exhausting. But this is how you grow and progress. If you give it a minimum effort and basically “half ass” your workout, you may as well stay home. This applies to anything, whether you are training in the martial arts, learning a new sport of learning a new skill such as an instrument.
They say that showing up is the first step. I’ve heard this on occasion. And although I can agree that showing up is the first step, it is also the easiest. The next step becomes more difficult, as it requires the learner to put in a comparable effort for the skill they wish to learn.
So push yourself, damn it! If you don’t sweat, if you don’t feel aches and pains, if you don’t wake up the next morning barely able to walk, you’re not giving yourself the effort. And trust me, you are well worth the effort! ☯