"Framework for Life"
When Sukh Sensei (dojo cho for the Dayton Jinenkan dojo) asked several of his students to write articles for his site, I was surprised that he included me. I have been training so very irregularly for the past several years (irregular is a bit generous!), that no training insight of mine can possibly have any impact on even the newest of Jinenkan members. But Sukh is my long time friend and current teacher, so not making the attempt was not an option.
Though I have not been physically present in the dojo for some time, I continue thinking of myself as a student of our art – what I have received from Unsui Sensei, Shawn Havens, and now Sukh continues to inform how I live. In that sense, I have been continuously under their tutelage since moving to Dayton in 1987. Not a day goes by that I don’t imagine the feel of rolling, or receiving a punch. I find myself spontaneously flexing my knees to get lower when I am startled. I enjoy practicing the Go Gyo no Kata after the kids are in bed. But none of this qualifies as Training – I am less likely to survive a physical confrontation today than I was 5 years ago. Telling myself anything else is a canard.
So has my physical training hiatus cost me everything that my earlier efforts had garnered? No doubt, it has cost me much – but not everything. As I go through each day, it is much like anyone else’s: I get the kids to school or the sitter, I put in a full day at work, I try to be a good husband, dad, friend, etc., the same as most other folks we all know. Prior to training, much of how I comported myself seemed pretty haphazard. I went through my days guessing how to get the kinds of effects that I wanted, and was often confused or frustrated with the results.
Since beginning training with Shawn almost 15 years ago, I still get frustrated with the way things can turn out, I still say dorky things, and I am certainly not everything that I had hoped I would when I began. But my time spent in serious training has given me a framework that I can use to structure what I do, and guide my expectations as to outcome. At work, I look to position myself with the greatest base of stability in order to apply or receive pressure. When trading in the markets I try to apply one of the first things that Shawn told me: "First rule – don’t get hit. Second rule – whack ‘em as hard as you can." (You can see what a job he had teaching me, if he had to spell that out!)
To my shame, I am not the nicest, or most sensitive, of fellows, but the polite habits that we learn in the dojo to help each other out while learning potentially dangerous things have helped me be a better husband. My wife’s patience is often tried by things that I say, or do. How much more, though, if I didn’t have those very concrete examples in considering the impact of actions on others that my training friends have provided? When I have to discipline my children, I have the clarity of mind to look for points of leverage, instead of a simply spanking and hollering; I liken this to finding a training partner’s balance when practicing grappling technique.
Again, none of this helps out if I find myself defending my health or my family from an attacker. How much better could I have been right now had I not lapsed in training? There’s no way to know. But I do know that I continue to be awed when I see Sensei in action. I am proud to see my friends continue to grow and improve their understanding of our art. And I know that, so long as we have friends and teachers like Unsui Sensei, Shawn Havens, Sukh Sandhu, and many others, we all have the opportunity to continue to hone our physical skills, and to make our entire lives better!