Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Commitment to Training

When someone starts training in an art, they are often not sure of what it is they seek. The overt reasons, such as desire for physical safety or to get in shape, are often expressions of deeper underlying issues. Too often students quit when their superficial needs are met, allowing them to return to the previous patterns of their lives, or the challenge to go through real inner development proves too daunting.

Like all instructors in martial arts, I have experienced the coming and goings of students. I have experienced the pain of watching someone begin to grow into their potential, only to lose them at just the point where their training should really start to get interesting, to themselves, other students, and to myself as a growing martial artist. As teachers we pour ourselves into our students, often struggling to find ways to help them see what is transparent to us.

Martial arts training is a commitment to oneself, a process that is ever unfolding.
I just read the 2005 year-end greeting of Patrick Augé sensei of Yoseikan Budo Aikido, which addresses these issues better and more completely than what I can add. The following two paragraphs are an exerpt from the whole article, which I strongly urge everyone to read.

"when a student reaches the next level, he not only encourages those under him who see the possibility for them to improve, but he also contributes to the development of those above him who helped him get there. When a student abandons the school, he hurts everyone. He hurts those who helped him; they ask themselves, "What did I do wrong?"And he hurts those who are delayed in their progress because of a partner who is missing and won't share what he learned. The higher the rank and/or the more attention one has received, the greater the damage he causes by abandoning his practice."

"The same thing applies to absenteeism. When we miss classes or drop out, we often think only of our own conditions and convenience. But do we think that other students' practice might get affected due to our stalling the group upon our return to the dojo? When a student needs assistance, other students will help as part of their training if they know that that student is responsible and doesn't take that help for granted. That is why we ask students to notify their teachers of their absences and make up missed classes. Notifying one's teacher should never be regarded as a ritual or an obligation: it must be done with the mind of training oneself in acknowledging one's intentions; it's the first step toward assuming responsibility for oneself. However, dealing with all kinds of people is part of the study for teachers and students alike. It teaches us that motivation results from sustained concentration. Concentration is the ability to maintain one's attention on one object only, to the exclusion of anything that is irrelevant. Concentration is not inborn. It has to be cultivated."

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