Friday, March 07, 2008

Where Do I Go From Here?

We all go through peaks and valleys in our training. It could happen any time, for example after a big event such as a rank test or demo. It could even happen simply because it's been too long without a big event. We question our training, ourselves, and the point of it all. We want some validation or proof of progress, and without it we doubt our abilities. What to do about that?
Yoshinkan is especially hard to measure, since we have very rigid structure and lack of "points" or "rounds" or other methods which are easy to count. It is very different from boxing or Judo or other "sport" arts, and even from karate with its many kata and competition fighting.
Yoshinkan training is really about learning to control your own body. Of course, by exploring our bodies and learning what unbalances them, we learn to unbalance our attackers. By learning what makes us strong, we learn to take strength away from our attackers.
The Yoshinkan techniques are all specifically designed to introduce students to the core principles and help show examples of how to apply these principles in certain circumstances so we can master the body movements.
Specifically we have to learn balance, power, smoothness, focus, centering, sinking, extension, relaxation, contact, distance and breathing. These are universal and done in every single technique. Together, we study Ikkajo, Nikajo, Sankajo, Yonkajo, and the throws and Osae against all the common attacks and angles to program specific responses. We train these until we achieve muscle memory and can do them without thinking about them.
The goal is to learn to do the techniques correctly as easily and naturally as walking down the street. It is only then that we can stop thinking and free our minds to extend our energy outward. Properly done, Yoshinkan becomes a kind of "Moving Zen" when we remove outside distractions and no longer think about ourselves or our partners.
When we have reasonable success with this already difficult challenge, we must seek consistency - so that we keep a high energy level and relaxed state simultaneously whenever we are on the mats. That becomes a benefit we can take with us outside the dojo as well, which will help us live our lives vibrantly and cope with daily stress, as well as enriching our human relationships and promoting our overall mental and physical health.
There is so much to do and learn, I hope your training never gets boring. Training plateaus occur, as do peaks and valleys. Resist complacency. Take a deep breath, take your time, but keep moving forward. I promise you will get there. Let's go together.

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