Sunday, March 24, 2013

A more leisurely walk down the path

     Sometimes a change in view makes an old path into a new one...

     As I reach the midpoint to my 43rd birthday I find that I need to make some changes to continue training in the arts... and I am not speaking only on whether I can make I full split (not since '95), run 1 1/2 miles under 8:30 mins (got my Thunderbolt grade on the USAF PT test in '87) or break 3" of Douglas Fir board with a punch (most definitely use a saw for this nowadays).  It is easy to get discouraged when you look back at things you were able to easily do even a decade ago, never mind twenty plus years... the competitive nature of many people who practice martial arts (even those who state "we do not compete" or "we aim at self development") means that it takes a lot of work to let go of who we were and accept what we are in the present and what we can do with our future. This encompasses not only the physical aspects of our training, but the place our practice holds in the totality of our lives: how it affects our finances, our work/leisure time, our relationships with our family, friends, coworkers and fellow students, etc.  

     So first and foremost: what does martial arts training do for me right now? I emphasize the "now" as it is here that it should benefit me, not what it did for me in the past or what motivation I had  for spending hours upon hours in the dojo. Knowing what I was able to do because of my training back then is a good visualization aid I guess, but it should not replace what I need from it now.  Back in the days where I did security for a living the defensive skills and enhanced physical fitness were a literal necessity, but my more sedate life at this time does not require spending the inordinate amount of time and effort it did then. I work at night in a technical job so I am rarely out when folks tend to get in trouble; I have two young boys at home that take most of my time between helping them with homework or carting them around for karate, basketball, etc. I have a daughter and older son that visit me on the weekends so I tend to stay close to home, and a wife that works either Saturday or Sunday during the month... you get the idea. A pretty normal suburban middle income family with a house, two weeks' vacation and random short getaways or nights out without the kids for the wife and me.  Not a lot of time for lengthy training schedules or long seminar weekends, but these are the results of my choices... and the choices you make own you. 

    Back to the question, what do I get out of training right now?  I think the most important thing is that I do something I LOVE, even if it is for a couple of hours a week. I could join a gym if all I wanted was fitness, or run or jog, join a zumba class... but I would not find them fulfilling in the way martial arts training does. The study of martial arts is not only a physical but a mental and emotional venture into parts of one's self you don't get to explore in many other disciplines. There are great views along the path, along with deep chasms and black pits where no one in their sane mind would want to wander into... but that is all part of the journey.  As I find it more difficult to perform some physical acts I work my mind around the problems, looking for a better or more efficient way to accomplish a goal with a different approach.  If I can't kick as high as I did as a teenager no matter how much I stretch a change of targeting is needed; low kicks and sweeps become my focus. Jab not as fast? Work on deceptive footwork and feinting to make an opponent come to me, rather than me hunting for them. Looking at everything like a chess game, played in four dimensions and with blood & bone the pieces to be moved...

     I'd like to leave you now with a quote by the "Iron Butterfly", Chang Tung Sheng of Shuai Jiao:
 "Understand the nature of change. It is the secret to fighting, and to life and death."

     Live, grow and change.  Take your time, just don't stop.




  1. As always - very insightful and pertinent! Good work Jo!

    1. Thanks Dan, I think many people reaching middle age have unrealistic expectations about their training prospect for the future; we should learn to adapt our arts to our bodies as we find new ways to grow.

  2. A very perceptive post. At my age, I know exactly what you are saying. The beauty of a martial 'art' lies in the depths of wisdom and knowledge it enables one to reveal in oneself. It also offers hope, in that as much as some areas become more difficult, the benefits of the simple and direct become more obvious and still attainable. Not many things in life give, and then keep on giving, and offer a continuing challenge to keep you seeking.

    The greatest enemy was always your own weaknesses, but in the end, Master Ummon the Zen monk was correct, it comes down to - "If you are sitting, just sit - but don't wobble!" Perfection is to be sought in the simplest of action or non-action, and we can still keep after this, at any age.

  3. It is one great thing martial art can adapt to our own changes. And it remains enjoyable, as well. But not everyone realizes that. Congrats, Jo!

  4. Nice website! Thank you for sharing your insights.

    Same here...I continue to practice because it is something I love to do. When I had an ACL injury, the main reason I opted for surgery was to return to training.

    1. Thanks Michele! The other day my wife was berating me because I went to class Tuesday after having spent the weekend in a seminar getting thrown around and having fun :-) Even after having a broken hand once which required six months before I could come close to making a fist I just couldn't say it's enough. Some things are just too hard to give up, for any reason.

  5. Hopefully this will give you more spirit in your martial arts journey
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