Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Shame Factor

(thanks for the inspiration IDP)

Great class on Friday and some great conversation, too.  Getting good at anything takes work, a lot of work.  At the beginning, everything feels so difficult and in Filipino Martial Arts the learning curve is particularly steep.  Because we learn so much and it feels so diverse, each new movement requires a lot of repetition to absorb and sometimes we feel we are hardly making any progress at all.

It made me think a lot about what I would call "The Shame Factor".  In fact, I am sure I could write a book just about that and its unique place in Japanese society.  However, when it comes to martial arts training this is one of the biggest traps new students fall into.

Especially if they have had a bit of training elsewhere, or think of themselves as reasonably fit/athletic, students imagine their transition into the FMA should be pretty smooth.  Grab the sticks and go, right?  Many of them are shocked when seemingly basic movements are very difficult for them to grasp.  There are so many details in each action, and so much happening at once that it can feel a bit overwhelming.

Then the shame sets in.

We start to tell ourselves that it shouldn't be this hard; that we should be learning FASTER or doing BETTER or not making the same mistakes so often.  This is rooted in ego and the feelings of shame.

The reality is that FMA, like piano or tennis or golf or math or chemistry or contract law or software engineering, has a completely different expression compared to anything else, even other martial arts.  Not only do we have a brand new vocabulary (which may include Tagalog or Bahasa or Hakka words, and I add in Japanese terms as well) but the body has a different language too.  To "move" like an FMA practitioner is not easy at all, despite how easy the KM Guros make it look.  At the beginning it is truly frustrating.

To get good, really good, at something we must set our ego aside, accept that we do not know and allow ourselves to move past any feelings of shame.  Only then can we freely invest the time and energy needed to master something.  Every Guro in KM has gone through this and it was not easy for any of us.  It will not be easy for you, either.  It will, however, be worth it.

Every minute you spend with the sticks makes them more a part of you.  Every step of footwork you do helps you own the movement a little more.  Before long, the muscle memory sets in and you can free your mind to focus on strategy and environment rather than trying to command your arms and legs to do the movements themselves.

O-Sensei (founder of modern Aikido Ueshiba Morihei) is famously quoted as saying "whenever I move, that is aikido".  Of course he was not born like this, and it took decades of practice for his movement to become so instinctive.  If he had given in to shame at the beginning, the story would have ended very differently, and tens of thousands of us would have missed out...

So, when you enter the dojo take your shoes off and leave them outside.
Take your ego off, too, and leave it outside as well, right next to any feelings of shame or self-consciousness.  You can pick them up when you leave after class (well maybe just the shoes).

Trust your training and each other.  You will get there if you stick with it.  I promise.

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