I don’t talk much about martial arts publicly for a number of reasons but it’s been a very important part of my life. Without question they have shaped who I am today, and helped me work through personal issues in the way that only blood, sweat and tears can.
Early on, scattered and unfocused I tried lots of different schools and arts until I discovered Bujinkan and poured myself into it. I spent the following the years training 2-3 times a week for hours on end, in part because I loved it and everything about it and in part because the training was incredibly convenient to where I was at the time. Later, as the convenience fell away so did my training. I felt bad, embarrassed even that I’d let that happen– which on some level only made it worse. If I didn’t go back I didn’t have to admit that I’d been gone. And more importantly, I didn’t have to face up to the fact that much of my training wasn’t, well, quite as sharp as it once had been. When you are training all the time you don’t think about if you are good or bad, because you understand it and it’s just a part of you. I knew it wasn’t a part of me anymore but I didn’t want to admit that.
Probably some similarities to going to the dentist – you can ignore things but they don’t get better on their own. Excuses and justifications are easy to come by, but you can only fool yourself for so long.
Many years ago I bailed on a trip to Japan to train at the source, with some of the best instructors in the world because I was afraid. I was afraid I didn’t have enough money saved up to take full advantage of the trip, so I cancelled it. I put objects over experience. It was a mistake, one of the larger ones I’ve ever made. For many years after that other people I trained with made the journey and when they returned I knew much I’d messed up.
I’ve been traveling to Japan regularly now since 2007, but I’ve never gone to train. It’s been in the back of my head, sometimes front and center, but I’ve decided against because I was afraid. I was afraid I’d forgotten things, that my form and balance would be off. I was afraid I wouldn’t know anyone, and wouldn’t know what to do. I was afraid I’d look, and feel like an idiot. Every trip to Japan I’ve considered going to the dojo, and decided against. And pushed it out of my head so I didn’t have to be disappointed in myself.
A few weeks ago I decided I couldn’t do that anymore and reached out to some old friends who welcomed me and encouraged me.
Last night I took a train across Tokyo as the early winds of Typhoon Wipha began to lash out and drench the city, and went to class. At the source. The storm outside was fitting.
I fumbled my way around and acted like I knew what I was doing. I’d forgotten things. My form and balance were off. I didn’t know anyone, and didn’t know what to do. I looked, and felt like an idiot.
It was everything I hoped it would be. It was awesome, and humbling, in a way only coming face to face with your fears can be. There’s something about being afraid, facing it only to find it’s just as scary as you thought it would be – worse even. But that you can still get through it. And then be able to face it again the next day, and the one following. It was everything I hoped it would be.
I got my ass kicked, physically and mentally. I knew I would– that’s why I went.
I found this on wikipedia and was fitting:
“The modern budō has no external enemy, only the internal enemy, one’s ego that must be fought.”
I can’t wait to go back.