There are many of us who love martial arts. In times past we would be able to dedicate our lives to training.
Professional MMA fighters spend full time hours training eating the right foods taking the right supplements and maintaining the right amount of discipline to be able to keep their status as a professional fighter.
For the majority of us it’s a requirement to find a balance between our training and our responsibilities within our families and careers.
One of the easy pitfalls of this necessity are the excuses we can give ourselves when we don’t make the sacrifices needed to grow in our art.
Know that finding that balance between life’s responsibilities and training in your art is not meant to be easy.
As an artist raised by an artist I had a lot of exposure to the art world, bronze sculpture to be specific. My Dad is a stickler for details especially when it comes to anatomy.
While some elements of sculpture style can vary and are subjective the distance between a man’s eyeballs, the length between a horses ear and collar bone, these anatomical details are not subjective.
I learned at an early age that artists who had weaknesses in anatomy often hid these. One artist who couldn’t sculpt mouths or expression well always seemed to sculpt bearded and mustached men, effectively hiding the lips, chin and teeth.
Another who couldn’t quite grasp the way the bones and muscles connect the human leg to the pelvis always had his Native American figures wearing oddly placed buffalo hides.
It’s human nature to play to our strengths and avoid or hide our weaknesses. But in martial arts this is not possible. Those who have not hidden from their weaknesses will see you avoiding dealing with yours.
Also in a confrontation it’s not smart to hope you’re never pressed in the direction or into the circumstance you’ve avoided becoming skilled in.
Race horses have it easy in one respect, they have a single job. They are bred and raised and trained how to do their job.
They are expertly trained, warmed up shown when and where to start and shown when and where to finish.
A wild horse makes his own way. There is no beginning or ending so long as he’s alive. He must balance the whole of all he encounters including his place in the herd, predators etc.
Professional athletes are not so different from race horses. The martial artists situation is not so different from a wild horse.
If you are treating your martial training as though you are a race horse, in other words you train a couple times a week for a couple hours a week and then basically mill around your “stall”, you aren’t giving what’s needed to grow.
Often times, to me, my instructors have appeared almost super natural in their timing and abilities.
What seems supernatural are those things I can’t yet understand. This understanding must be earned. Even if you’re shown and it’s explained and you’re coached through a technique, without a lot of practice you won’t develop the understanding needed to apply what you’ve been exposed to.
Again think of the sport fighter or race horse, they have the luxury of applying their skills in controlled environments. The martial artist does not.
In the martial arts world there are so many titles, Guru, Master, Sensei and on and on and on. Likewise there are dizzying amounts of rankings and belt levels.
As is the case across all segments of humanity those truly worthy of their title, those truly on the pathway to excellence are rare.
If you are relying on titles or rank you are doing the equivalent of striving for the flower wreath they hang around a horses neck after he places in a race.
My personal opinion is that the only purpose ranking and titles truly have in the martial arts, are for your instructor to recognize your work. In other words your title and rank mean nothing to those who don’t know you or your instructor personally.
That said maintaining proper respect and etiquette within your martial system is a good way to be allowed to remain within your martial system.
In martial arts the individual comes first. You put yourself first. You are training for your betterment above all else. You don’t have time to waste kissing ass or playing politics. You should be busy working to make yourself better.
When you take this initiative you make yourself a valuable student. You are setting yourself apart as an individual. You are not just another Gi wearing acolyte.
Good instructors give you what you earn. If you have a good instructor but aren’t seeing benefits or results you’re probably a poor student.
Your time spent training is up to you. Balancing your schedule and responsibilities is the first hurdle and most students do not ever clear this hurdle.
You can achieve the basic belt levels in most systems without getting your business completely in order. Just know your instructor is being generous and carrying you waiting for you to remove the training wheels.
At any given time I have 10-15 or so burning questions in my head regarding things I’ve seen my instructor do or say that I don’t have the skill or insight to understand.
I train hard, put in the time, sacrifice and work to answer those questions. The beauty of Hoshin Budo is that the answering of a question leads to the knowledge necessary to ask myself the next one.
As you go along you do get what you pay for. If you have access to your instructors instructor, but haven’t been to train with them, you need to ask yourself why.
If you’ve read materials from your art and have told yourself that’s not you or that you don’t need to know that, or that you won’t ever be that skilled etc you need to ask yourself why.
As you go along you get what you’re willing to pay for. You get the skills and knowledge you are willing to sacrifice, work and pay for.
The ultimate beauty in Hoshin Budo- nothing is “priced” out of reach. If you’re willing to make the sacrifice and do the work you will get what you pay for.
None of what I’ve said has a thing to do with money, and yes you get what you are willing to pay for.
4th Dan Hoshin Budo