I just read Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book “Outliers.” In it he says that studies of mastery in every discipline, from playing musical instruments to chess, sports and even computer programming, point to one number over and over. Ten thousand hours. Mastery is not as much the result of inborn talent as it is practice and persistence. I saw Ray Bradbury, the famous science fiction author, speak once. He said, “If you want to be a writer, write a million words!” My friend and martial arts mentor Robert Bryner would say you’ve got to do each technique a thousand times.
Robert Bryner also said, “The book of excuses is thick.” There are always reasons to give up. In over 30 years of training I’ve gone through many major life events – high school with sports, music, AP classes and Boy Scouts, the distraction of girlfriends, undergrad, doctorate, new businesses, marriage, divorce, financial challenges, injuries, children. We all have an ongoing list of excuses we can draw from. The choice you make is not whether or not you have an excuse, but whether to indulge yourself and use the excuse. Robert Bryner is in his mid-sixties, has 8 year old twin daughters and has lost several of his toes to diabetes. He continues to train 7 days a week!
I’ve gone through periods of time where I have lost interest in training – and continued to train. I’ve gone through periods when I had doubts about my training. I’ve had my feelings hurt by my teachers and other students. I’ve had psycho practice partners that were out to injure me. I’ve had injuries. I’ve faced my own laziness. Ultimately the path of bushido asks you to become bigger than all that – bigger than your injury, your pain, your self-doubt, your busy-ness, your laziness or whatever would otherwise take you off the path. You take action in spite of yourself. Never ask yourself, “Do I feel like training?” If you only follow your feelings about things you are being no better than a single celled amoeba which can also follow what is comfortable. This attitude can’t help but take over your whole life then.
Injury is not a reason to not train. Rather, you do mitori geiko (observation training). You put on your gi, get on the mat, do the parts you can and sit seiza during classes until you are better. If you have an injury to your knee of foot you can sit on a bench. Even if you’re nursing a strain you can do this some form of training.
Whatever your reasons for starting Aikido, you wanted to make something more of yourself. Never forget that. Set your expectations high. Push ahead harder than you are pushed.
~Philip Greenwood, Sensei