One thing I really like about Karate, and this is something I have definitely taken as a part of my teaching style is “Story telling”. I used to love listening to some of the stories about the old Karate Ka (practionners) and their training. I would read books about the old masters and some of the tales of their training and challenges. I also used to love some of the responses I would get when I asked a my instructor questions. The responses would sometimes confuse me or lead me to ask more questions.. but either way I loved them. I titled this blog as one of these responses. Let me tell you the story!
I was in Okinawa, Japan and it was the first time I had traveled so far and I was alone.. I was 20 years old and ready to take on the world! For this trip, I had so many questions… I truly thought I was going to learn the most secret techniques that I had been desperately wanting to learn since I had started training in martial arts. I had romanticized martial arts and I was convinced that there was secret moves that were only taught to a select few etc.. and I was going to be the foreigner that learned them (I know.. too many movies!)
I had been in Japan about a month at that time, and the first thing I figured out was that it was pretty hard to learn anything with such a huge language barrier… (but that’s a different story). So I had to rely on his bad English and my non existent Japanese to try and communicate. Then it happened! Another student showed up to class one day… he introduced himself clearly and I realized he spoke fluent English! I was pumped. Do you know what it’s like to not communicate with people for an extended amount of time (that’s another story! LOL) This guy was now my official translator.
After class one night, Sensei opened up the group to questions and I thought… now is my chance!
My first question, was.. How often should I hit the Makiwara? (*Makiwara is a wooden post) His answer was simple… he replied: “every day”. I then asked if I should be concerned about long term damage to my hand. He just looked at me kinda weird… so I referred to one of the senior student in the class who was most likely in his late fifties and asked how long he had been hitting the Makiwara. He replied years… so I asked if his hands ever hurt? He looked at me… seemed to think for a little while (in retrospect, I am not sure if he was simply processing the question) and he responded: “It only hurts when I stop”. This was one of those situations where I don’t think he really answered my question but I loved the answer. Actually, let me rephrase that.. I did not think he answered the question at the time.. but now as I think back, maybe he did.. because if I take too many days off training, I generally believe my body weakens.
So my next question was of course (a reflection of my impatient nature at the time) and I am kinda embarrassed by the question 20 years later… but I asked how long do I need to train in order to master Karate?
His answer: “Train every day like eating”
I looked at my friend (hoping there would be some follow up to that statement).. there was none, so I asked what Sensei meant by that?
He repeated the answer “Train every day like eating” The interpreter followed up by saying don’t be concerned with mastering Karate, just train everyday and like age, it will come.
I mention this story today as we recently did a podcast about plateaus.. if you missed it (here is a link to the podcast). I wanted to tell that story, but as in most of my discussions, I got side tracked and forgot… In training, we experience a lot of highs and lows … and the highs and lows will be different for each one of us.. We love the highs, but the lows are unavoidable.. Don’t be concerned with training only for the next high, or don’t be concerned about the occasional low in training, because your answer / journey lies in Training every day liking eating.
As I reflect on this… for me, its about simply enjoying the daily training or journey. Focus on the positives, vs the negatives. Know that true mastery may never come.. and that’s OK, because it’s the chase, or the journey that I love!
See you on the mats