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  • The Real Power Of What We Do
    I assume most of us using this platform have developed some type of martial arts background. We all have our own reasons for beginning this journey but I believe the majority would have to admit we started training to learn how to fight. If you stay in the game long enough, your ego gives way to a deeper purpose for the many hours (and injuries) accumulated from continuing along your chosen path. And though we may question ourselves at times (at least I do) as to why we keep training, if we're lucky we get a reminder of how much of an impact we have on others.

    That happened to me yesterday.

    After class, one of my students pulled me aside and admitted that when he started training with us over two and half years ago, he had a serious drug problem. Like a lot of people who come to our small dojo, he underestimated the physicality of what we do (aikibudo). He was uncoordinated, couldn't perform the simplest ukemi or footwork. He threw up a lot (we have a puke bucket just for that.) He was often frustrated and dejected after class, noting that he could not understand why this so difficult because other physical pursuits were typically easy for him. While I knew he initially had a poor diet, I had no idea he had dependency issues.

    But he kept coming. Week after week, he kept coming. Slowly but surely, his technique improved as did his demeanor and physical appearance. He trained despite minor injuries. He learned how to deal with the elements - our dojo is not heated or air conditioned. He learned how to handle discomfort. Most importantly, he learned and continues to learn how to mitigate his ego.

    We talk a lot about the impact good budo training has on the ego. By the way, the origin of the word "budo" may be Japanese but the meaning goes across the board. Anyway, I think most of us can agree that a poorly developed ego leads to all kinds of life issues. Drug and alcohol abuse, relationship problems, money problems...war. It all has to do with ego.

    In developed countries like ours, the majority of the population seeks comfort in various ways and thus feed their egos. Few people seek the discomfort of serious training in any form. Perhaps this is what the founders of our respective arts had in mind when they brought their knowledge to the world.

    Most of us can knock people down in some way, shape or form. We spend years toughening our bodies, perfecting our technique. Sooner or later the physical aspect of training gives way to a deeper purpose. We may train ourselves and others in some form of combat, but physical skill has limits. The potential impact we have on others is limitless.
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      • 1
      David Cochran Very well said. To your point about ego; I have been blessed to practice under a full Korean Grand Master who is 84 years old now. His Master was Wong Gi (look it up). One of his many accolades was being an Instructor in the South Korean army. So in the nexus, ego never came into the equation. It was a need to survive. Today's society has no comprehension of this need. Much less the mental complexities associated to it. It is great to hear someone truly talk in terms of the Martial Spirit. Keep it up.
      • 1
      Micheline Gravel Thank you all for posting.
      • 1
      S.P. Dave, you wrote "Most of us can knock people down" but what you have done goes way beyond that: you have built someone up.
      • 1
      Edward Thank you for sharing. Yes, ego is a detriment in a lot of venues in life. The spiritual and mental aspect of the arts is what makes me coming back to continue to learn, train and teach...
      • 1
      Karin Fourie Thank you for a really good article Dave. Also Bill for your insightful comments. I am currently at that place where I'm trying to figure out why I keep on going to the dojo. I have a very full schedule juggling work and studying (studying again when you're in your fifties is not fun at all). Some evenings I'm so tired that I really can't face the 25 mile drive to the dojo and thus I haven't been there for the past month. It feels like part of me is missing. I have suddenly realised that I am focusing on my thoughts and inner self and am on a journey of self-discovery, all triggered by my guilty feelings of not training.

      I suspect when I'm done, I would have moved past my original reasons to take up karate again after thirty years, which was to obtain my black belt. I have done so last year and have since been looking for motivation to keep on training. I hope to find my motivation in becoming a better person with less issues than I currently think I have
        • 1
        Dave Magliano Hi Karin. Thank you for your kind words. The fact that you are searching already places you in a different category than most people who start Monday just to make it to Friday. Good luck on your journey.
        • 1
        Bill Emmes Hi Karin,

        As we get older, life seems to push many more obstacles in our way as work and home life can take up so much of our time. Being tired at the end of the day is a typical and shared feeling, especially as we get older. However, it appears that you are seeing that inner self and the guilt of not training is really a longing to learn more about yourself and be around the people that make you feel so good about yourself.

        As you progress, regardless of how long it takes or periods of absence, you will feel the issues which you think are holding you back disappear and be replaced with motivation and a strong spirit to participate with your friends at class and also allowing yourself some time to distress and feel good about yourself.

        The dread feeling of picking yourself up and going is quickly diminished once you start to get fired up at class. For me, the initial warm up and stretching clears my mind and one we start the class. my mind is entirely focused in what we are doing. As tired as I am, this is what I call my "me" time. And I need this more than anything.

        Stay strong and believe in yourself and have fun with your training. The end truly justify the means in this case!
          • 1
          Karin Fourie Thank you Bill. I do believe I will come out stronger in the end. I just don't enjoy going through this part. Hopefully it won't last too long
      • 1
      Bill Emmes Hi Dave,

      This is a really a good article and a serious point that you have written. The timeline you describe is spot on. We all start with the idea of learning how to fight and protect ourselves. During the course of our training we are taught so many things aside from the physical and eventually, we find ourselves learning more about ourselves and a deeper inner awakening takes place.

      Early in our training we get frustrated with the inability to perform as good as others or what we expect from ourselves. But our instructors teach us that time and patience, along with continued practice, will allow us to eventually do these techniques equally well and execute them just fine. During our continued training, we are taught that our efforts to do well and try hard on everything we do and not to cherry pick the things we want to do well on is key to development in our training. This becomes the cornerstone of our discipline as we tend to carry this practice/philosophy into our everyday life.

      In this timeline, confidence begins to grow as patience and attention to details continue to permeate in everything we do. We find ourselves more accepting to the facts of frustration and learn how to deal with it and adjust our approach to practice, appreciating the lack of understanding by working harder to better understand and overcome these difficulties. We learn our own short comings and find ways to overcome them and work around them. This strength is an absolute result of the good Budo training and tends to find its way outside the Dojo into our everyday lives.

      What is not so easily seen is the transformation it can have on students over the years they are practicing. Normally, in conversation, you find out that some students have had a particularly hard time juggling their personal life and practice in the martial arts. The reasons can scale well beyond our comprehension and observation during class time as we strive to teach and mold solid martial arts "practices" at every class.
      Yet, at some point, you see either yourself or each instructor working with the class or one-on-one with a student spending more time instilling confidence along with all the philosophical reasoning of the art/techniques and not really the brutal aspects of fighting. In other words, the passing on of the inner awakening is infused with the routine class material, unseen or unaware.

      I honestly think the impact that this training has, certainly does go well beyond the physical as I see not only in myself, but in other students. The level of respect that is shown towards each other coupled with the eagerness to help train and make the next student better than you, demonstrates the impact our training has had on others who have grown past their own egos and personal difficulties. Plus, you may see this in the positive growth a student has achieved in their everyday life. It could be any milestone of achievement they attain to improve themselves by applying what they practice/learn in the Dojo.

      Most people look at this as the discipline martial arts has on people and that the hard core physical training, similar to a boot camp style does to mold people into shape and be good martial artists. What is not so apparent in the true understanding of what a complete martial artist is and can be? Techniques are endless. The ability to be a tough fighter is not the core competency of our training unless you are looking to be an open competitive fighter. Even then, a weak ego has no place in this training as it is the first link to defeat.

      No…the real power of what we do is far beyond that. To me, this is the reason why some students will remain in the arts for a lifetime as it has become more than a practice to them; it is their lifestyle, their belief, their religion. It becomes the core competency of everything they do inside and outside the dojo. Our ego is developed to a higher level of understanding and not one of instant gratification or toughness. It has become infused with deeper understandings, appreciation, trust, and confidence, respect loyalty to ourselves and others…and so much more!

      Great Article! Thank you for sharing.

        • 1
        Dave Magliano Thank you for such an insightful reply, Bill. You express this concept far better than I do. We should train together some time.
          • 1
          Bill Emmes Hi Dave, Thank you for sharing this article and your thoughts as this is something that strikes at the core of what we do and what it means to others when we share and teach our arts. Way too many people have this misconception of a martial artists being some sort of tough guy/gal that wants to fight an has something to prove. Based on everything I have read in this thread form all the great folks who have contributed their comments, I can see that this philosophy of teaching others and instilling such positive attitudes is the center point of what we do and a serious sense of pride of who we are. I would be honored to train with you sir!
      • 1
      ChuckD That reminds me of a saying I once heard "It is easier to have the tallest building in town if you tear down all the other buildings" Sometimes we need a reminder that helping others ultimately helps us all.

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