The Road to Budo Longevity: Balance

Why are you training? Fitness? Self-defense? Want to get stronger? All theses reasons are valid and will be different for everyone, in fact they probably continue to change as you go further down the path and you continue to grow and develop. The most important questions you need to ask yourself are simple, do you enjoy it and are you happy?

There are times in your training when you can really notice improvement, thing start coming together and your experience is largely a rewarding and fun one.

Conversely you can go through periods where you feel like your level plateaus, nothing seems to be going right, you may get injured and you end up frustrated. Self-doubt creeps into your mind and you think of reasons why you are even here after a busy day at work, when the other alternatives of how you could spend your free time seem so much more fun and attractive.
One of the most important lessons in the martial arts is that it reveals our character as we build it. It has the capacity to develop fortitude and character traits you may never have know you possessed but as the old saying goes “there is no elevator to success”. You do need to make constant and intelligent effort.

When it comes to peoples attendance, dreams of training, lack of training I have heard probably every reason under the sun, I have even used some of them myself so I have an intimate understanding of where people are coming from.

This is where the first concept of balance comes in. Can you afford to pack up your life, move to Japan and study a budo full-time? For the serious student who is young, single and has aspirations of perhaps teaching one day and having their own dojo, this is certainly an admirable path but for the majority of people who have a career and mortgage, kids and other commitments, this is simply impossible.

I have met many people who have had that goal, went to Japan and burnt out as the reality of what they were embarking on didn’t match the dream. Why? Because it’s a hard road. Injuries, time away from family, living in an environment far different from your own take their toll on both your body and mind after a while. The main reason, seems to be fairly conclusive, it was no longer fun or enjoyable any more.

I can attest to this, the Senshusei (Yoshinkan Aikido Instructors) course that I completed in 1998 was tough and hard and horrible at times. Many people who have completed this course stop Aikido all together on completion which I always thought strange. They forgot their initial reason for doing it which was to develop a strong technical foundation in Yoshinkan Aikido in a relatively short period of time, (1 year) with the aim of returning to their own countries and to assist in disseminating Yoshinkan Aikido.

Was the course fun and enjoyable? Hardly! Rewarding? Absolutely, perhaps not initially but from the perspective on the lessons learnt by having them “beaten” into your body so they are automatic but more importantly, developing a mind set that I hope has permeated into all areas in life.

For a young man, it was an ideal and necessary environment and I thrived on it but could I do it now? No way! Honestly the thought of training 20 hrs a week now I am older and hopefully wiser doesn’t appeal to me whatsoever anymore. I am very glad I was able to do it when I was younger but now I have other things in my life that are of a higher priority. As life changes and other commitments come into your life, you need to be more realistic on how you can actually spend your time and how much you can devote to certain things.

In my opinion, a minimum of training 2-3 times a week is recommended. If you’re a beginner, use that as a realistic schedule to improve and make the most out of your training. As we improve and get better, the quality of training time as opposed to the quantity becomes more important.
In all dojos, you see people who come in and are there for every class for 6 months and improve quickly, these people often burn out too quickly and end up quitting despite their gung -ho attitude and initial tireless commitment. Try and pace yourself, not everyone can or even wants to train at that intensity and if they end up quitting, what was the point of starting anyway? It is crucial to remember that learning and studying martial arts is a marathon and not a sprint. Take time to enjoy the level your at but don’t get complacent. You need to be constantly making goals and setting realistic targets. In the most obvious form, that is why gradings are so important. They are a barometer of your level and also highlight areas that may weak which is crucial for any kind of advancement.

There are certain times however, that you need to make adjustments and devote a certain amount of times for things that needs to take precedent. At our dojo at the moment, there are a number of people who are training really hard to take the Shodan (black belt ) and other high level black belt tests in Japan in April and they are training almost everyday. I instilled in them the importance and seriousness of what they are doing, what and who they represent and the stress involved testing under a 10th dan! They are all stepping up and their progress already is considerable. Another member is at the very same level but just had a baby. Is it realistic for him to be training every night while he has a baby at home? Of course not! But when the time is right, he will do it.

If you have been away from training don’t let the stress or anxiety of returning delay your decision. Make realistic goals and just turn up. On a physiological level, anxiety and stress can wreak havoc with the health of not only your body but your mind as well. Training is meant to be fun and enjoyable, remember that. Other goal and aspirations can come later
Aim for all round balance, in the dojo, at work and in life and remember not to just give time to the things that are required of you but to but make time for things that are important to you. Smile and enjoy yourself! Osu!