My last post introduced Bruce, the third degree Shotokan black belt who is now training with us at the Refinery. He's from Iran and he just moved to the states a few weeks ago. Being a Shotokan guy, he trained at a traditional school for a long time before coming here. He told me that he spent five years just working on basic blocks and stances before his sensei actually taught him how to fight.
Talk about patience!
Anyway, our class last night was very heavy on sparring. It was the most intense night I've had in my training so far. Not only was it incredibly fun and fast-paced, but I also feel like I learned a lot. There's such a big mental factor to sparring that people who don't practice martial arts probably don't see. Watching Bruce and Sensei spar each other was very interesting. There were long periods of time where they just stared at each other--neither one of them attacking. When they did attack, their moves were precise and calculated...and were countered almost immediately by the other person! Very interesting.
The injuries were all minor. Everybody took a groin-shot last night. Everybody jammed toes and fingers. I took a knife-hand to the back of the neck, which put me on the ground. I thought I was alright for a minute, but then my vision went blurry and I got dizzy and fell over. Within about five to ten minutes, after checking me out, Bruce said, "Ahhh, you're fine!" And he helped me up, saying, "That's martial arts!".
It's funny that he said that because there are so many things about martial arts that you could apply that phrase to. Injury is one thing. With a room full of people practicing dangerous techniques, you're bound to get hurt sometimes. Luckily, the body is very resilient and most of the time injuries are minor. They just hurt a lot. That's martial arts.
Another thing is being mentally and physically tired. Last night, by the time our third hour began, I felt like I was going to fall over (that's about the time that the adrenaline from sparring wore off). Instead of leaving, though, I stayed and continued to train despite the fatigue. Sometimes we have to do things when we're tired. That's martial arts.
One more thing that I'll mention that we can apply Bruce's phrase to is feeling that our technique isn't where it should be and that it needs to be improved. Most of the time when I feel that way it's because I haven't been able to apply something that Sensei has taught me, or because I've been severely beaten in sparring. I hate to admit to this, but I am competitive and I can be a sore loser. I try not to be too prideful because that's not what martial arts is about, but I always feel like I should do better when someone completely destroys me in sparring. It humbles me and makes me try harder to improve. It helps, however, to remember that there will always be someone who is stronger/faster/more experienced than I am. And because they are stronger/faster/more experienced, there are countless invaluable things I can learn from them. That's martial arts.
There are a lot of situations in training that can be uncomfortable or just downright painful. I can see how pain, fatigue, and occasional feelings of inadequacy might really turn people off to an activity, but I think it says a lot about the martial artist's character and spirit that he continues to train despite these things; that he is able to look past the pain of the temporary toward his goal of constant improvement. Meeting that goal is worth the cost. Lots of things in life are that way. Sometimes we just have to push through the pain and adversity and continue to get back up.
That's not just martial arts. That's life.