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A Drop in the Bucket

“Each class is just another drop in the bucket”

-Sensei Chris

So this column is supposed to be about training martial arts. Not the how of it, but the why. And also when, because when training goes well it feeds into more training, more classes, more thinking about martial arts, more Jackie Chan movies, more gossiping at the coffee shop with senseis and when it’s not going so well, when the training is hard and sporadic or inflames old injuries, you’d accept just about any excuse not to go to train and spend the night feeling bad about not going.

Since it’s my column, I get to write about whatever I want and so I’ve decided to write about the drops that go into the bucket. “To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the highest skill,” said Sun Tzu, “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill.” And yet we spend so much time in the dojo training fighting techniques that it’s easy to stand baffled in Chapters, reading Sun Tzu, and wonder why the heck we study at all. Any martial artist who says they’ve never thought about the paradoxes of peaceful mind and deadly technique is probably fibbing.

So, as I haven’t been training long, I won’t be offering advice for training. Here’s a list of some of the things I’m going to talk about:

1. Personal experience. I can’t speak for others, I only know my own experience in training and even that I haven’t really understood. And so I don’t want anyone to read what I’m writing and think man, I train way more than she does. The fact is you probably do. I’m a lazy martial artist. I also don’t want anyone to think, I could never train like that because training is a deeply personal thing and everyone trains the way the suits them. And anyway, just because I’ve put it on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. I could be lying to you.

1(b). Please, therefore, humour me when I make broad-ranging generalizations. And please don’t email me to point out that I’ve contradicted myself, saying in one entry that my horse stance was weak and in another that it’s my favourite most earth-shakingly powerful stance in the world. Some days some techniques feel better than others and there’s nothing I can do about that at present.

2. Training and not training. The way I train is pretty haphazard. Sometimes I train every day, sais in the evening and kata in the morning and push ups for lunch. Most of the time I train because of conditions entirely unrelated to martial arts (ie, it’s getting light out longer, I ate too much chocolate, I had a dream in which I was a ninja and it was cool). Sometimes I train, sometimes I don’t.

For the record, and so no one is upset later, there will probably be a whole lot more about not training because I think a lot about why I don’t train when I skip a class (which I do. Often.).
3. Other.

So, this month, my training has involved Wa Ki Ryu and Qi Gong classes (I mean formal classes here – I’m actually attending again) and a lot of kata in the basement of my work place.

The kata in the basement thing started off when one of my co-workers had the brilliant idea to hang a punching bag from one of the beams down there. Now there’s a ping pong table, punching bag, a breaking board that’s mangled almost beyond use and enough space for Heian Nidan. Even though there’s all that space, I wouldn’t normally be training down there but I was listening to a podcast of 24Fighting Chickens where Rob Redmond was talking about practicing one kata a week to help keep the katas discrete in your mind. As someone who, almost without fail, goes into Yamashishi Nidan halfway through Heian Sandan, heck, I thought, what have I got to lose?

So I’ve been doing three kata sessions a day, one before each meal. Or thereabouts. Actually it’s not as regimented as it sounds. But I am doing more kata, which can only be a good thing.

This week the kata I picked was Heian Yondan, which, incidentally, was the kata I wanted to learn most when I was taking Shotokan.
The problem with this is that I’m almost always going to pick the katas I know best and like best to study. It’s only when I’m working in the dojo or with a sensei that I’m likely to really focus on cleaning up the katas that challenge me.

Still, I wouldn’t write off the 24FC suggested kata simplifier. The other day when I was playing around I found the sequence of moves in Heian Yondan came out almost accidentally, which was a nice change from the usual feeling of panic when I’m called on to do the kata.

Categories: Drop in the Bucket
  1. thr33n0r
    March 29, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Good column. It’s time we all came out of the closet with the ‘training guilt’ we all feel from time to time!

  2. tamarasheehan
    March 31, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Thanks for the props. Training guilt is a big part of my training so it’s nice to hear other people have the same.

  1. March 27, 2008 at 3:23 pm

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