Coming back to training for me, after thirteen years of being away from it, has been…….. interesting to put it mildly. I found myself in a weird position of being a white belt again (mentally) whilst wearing a black belt which I did not feel comfortable in. To me everything was like a half remembered song, you know the chorus but that’s about it! For the first six months I felt utterly useless, with two left feet, and wondered to myself why on earth I had even thought I could still do this! But slowly, very slowly, some of the rust started to come off and I have come to love this art all over again.
Reading Sensei Gent’s page on philosophy in the syllabus made me start thinking about that aspect of training - about why we get back up when it would be easier to stay down. He used the term perseverance, and it is true. It is a huge part of who we are or we wouldn’t have come back to the dojo after the first lesson. On reflection I want to throw two more words in there as well: Patience and Courage. To me, these three words describe so much about being a beginner.
Patience: In learning the skills, in letting your body move with the best economy of motion. In the angles, in the distances, and in timing when it is required. If it takes a baby two years to learn to walk, three to four years to run and jump, should it really be any different for us with the many layers, subtleties and sheer amount of knowledge that is in Ninjutsu?
Perseverance: Picking your self up time and time again. Figuring out what went wrong and trying a different approach. It is through perseverance that mountains are climbed and ideas become reality. Keep trying. It just may be that the next attempt will be the one that works perfectly.
Courage: Facing your own demons as well as an opponent who is taller, stronger or more technically skilled than you are. If he is taller so what, it just means he will be easier to throw because you are already under his centre of balance. If he is stronger how do you use that strength to your advantage? More skilled, keep out of range as appropriate and learn from watching them as even the most skilled martial artist have a weak spot, it maybe almost impossible to see but it will be there.
You could also look at it this way:
Patience gives you the framework to build perseverance, which in time helps build up courage. And you certainly need courage to be patient.
Every time I enter the dojo, patience, perseverance and courage are the words I say to myself. Every time I don’t understand a technique (or the subtleties within), when I’m dealing with my own fears and anger, these are the words I say. One day I know I will be able to remember the song and be able to share it.
Sensei Donna Altena