SPIRITUAL STRENGTH THROUGH TRAINING
By: Sukh S. Sandhu
After thinking about what I would like to write to about for this next publication, I decided not to write about any specific technique or training class, but rather in a general /broad sense of training, more specifically the strength of the spirit through training in the arts of Kobudo. The spirit of true confidence and utmost strength that all of us involved in martial arts are trying to attain.
I have trained in several martial arts since a very young age, and played several varsity sports in high school. I have lived and traveled all over the world, each with wonderful experiences. In saying that, what was it that forged my “spirit”? Looking back, I played sports for the thrill of the chase, the sportsmanship, and the team. Sports taught me about hard work, physical fitness, to win graciously, to lose with dignity, and to be a team player. But I felt as though sports never taught me about my spirit as it relates to life. I learned about never giving up and trying to be number one, but they did not give me the feeling of spiritual calmness.
Traveling around and living in different places, taught me about other cultures and values. Those experiences showed me the value of what I have now, and the appreciation of the things that we take for granted everyday. There again, I did not find that “calmness” I was searching for.
My early martial arts endeavors were not much different in the beginning. That is until I found this art called Kobudo Taijutsu( back then, ninjutsu). I have trained in this art for the last 16 years, and only in the last 3 years can I say I have been really trying to put together the pieces of my spiritual development.
I have been fortunate enough to have an excellent teacher, Manaka Sensei, to help me with this journey. Along with his encouragement, I must also, thank my fellow peers who spent countless hours sweating, bleeding, and training with me in the dojo. Shawn Havens, was also a big part of that development. Those are the things I remember as to how the forging of my spirit began. The main thing about spiritual training is that it must be built from the ground up, one step at a time, from the basic, back to the basic. Just like anything one does in life, it takes hard work, dedication, and repetition to get good at it.
Build a house and it starts with a foundation, build a car it starts with a frame, paint a picture with an empty mind. Everything we do starts at the beginning, you can’t run until you crawl. All of these things start at the basic level. Just like the basics of Taijutsu. If the foundation of a house is weak, it will crumble. If the frame on a car is not strong, it will be crushed in an accident. And if your mind is clouded the strokes of your brush will not be clean. So if your basics of Taijutsu are poor, than in a real confrontation your chances of losing are multiplied. I believe when people talk about the advanced training we do at the dojo, they maybe should look at the basics as being advanced and not all the fancy looking stuff. Now let’s see how our basics training helps strengthen our spirit.
We have all been training in the dojo and are facing off with our training partner who has a shinai raised over his/her head and is about to attack and right before they cut……we jump (out of nervousness)! Or we are doing muso dori and as we raise the elbow and then to kick….we lose our balance! We have all been there, but why? We make these errors because we are weak in our basics, which makes our spirit weak. Spirit also means confidence, and the two words are interchangeable here. Our spirit and basics go hand in hand. Look at the training partners around you, notice the folks you think are “good”, it is because they have good basics. Good basics give confidence, which transcribes into a strong spirit. A strong spirit gives you the ability to stand up when all others have backed down. Spiritual awareness lets you make the right decisions for justice. It is what sets you apart from “the average Joe”. When you can put yourself in the most uncomfortable situation that you can for yourself (a blind date or walking through a bad part of town at night) and be in total calmness, then you got it! “It” being that spiritual calmness. With “it”, you are able to make the right decisions at the right moments in that uncomfortable situation.
How do you start the path to forge your spirit? I believe there to be two ways. The first, is by drilling the basics. Like weight lifting at the gym, repetitious movement makes your muscles grow bigger and stronger. As the basics are described by The Soke of The Jinenkan, Fumio Manaka, the kihon should become natural movement for each of us. By drilling these movements over and over and understanding them, they start to become part of us. Thus, giving you confidence and spiritual strength. So this is a very important thing you must do. The second way to strengthen your spirit, is to go through hardship in your life. I am not saying that you should go out and put yourself through any unnecessary grief. Rather, when you do find yourself in a situation of grief, you make the right decisions to help overcome your problem by using your mind, body, and spirit.
I have a little saying for myself when things get tough, “Pain is just weakness leaving the body”. When you make it through the hard times you have increased your spiritual strength, Every experience we have , we label as good or bad, we should label all experiences as good and find the positive in those times. What we survive has made us stronger! My family and I have had many trying hardships through the years, but those moments have played a large role in developing my confidence in challenging life’s obstacles. Also, I drill the basics in everything I do, especially Taijutsu. So with these two elements, I feel that I am forging the strength of my spirit. I hope that when someone views me, they don’t look at the size of my biceps as my strength, but see the strength in my eyes, my heart, my inner spirit!
I hope this brief discussion on how the spirit is formed was helpful to you. By no means is this the end all, know all. I am still chasing this spiritual goal of mine as you are. You may agree with this explanation or not, that is not important. What is important is the fact that you may have decided to look at yourself and your training to see how strong your spirit is.