Leo was obviously trying too hard.
He was no spring chicken, in his late forties he was trying to compete with the youngsters. He had old, long term damage to his knees and ankles, he had a bit of “middle age spread” and here he was trying to leap around as if he hadn’t started shaving……
“Leo, take it easy,” said Sensei. But this just seemed to aggravate him more.
Well, it had to happen, his face got redder, his knees more wobbly, his movements more frantic and then one of the young bucks swept both his legs and unmercifully reverse punched his heaving paunch. Leo just lay there exhausted and empty.
“Yamee!” Leo rolled over, dragged himself to his knees like a defeated man awaiting execution and when decapitating katana came, forced himself back on to his unsteady legs and bowed out with the rest of the class.
“Leo, my man, nice floor polish.,” but Leo didn’t even take his head out of his hands and respond to the “high five” offered, he just sat in the changing room looking dejected. The others eventually shrugged their shoulders to each other and left, saying to Sensei on the way out “you’d better see to Leo……”
Sensei came into the changing rooms and sat down on the bench next to him without saying anything.
“I just can’t hack it anymore,” said an emotional Leo.
“The only thing that doesn’t change is the fact that everything is always changing,” said Sensei.
“Yeah, well my time has been and gone,” said Leo bitterly.
“You’re only just over forty,” said Sensei, “nearly ten years my junior.”
“Yeah, well your genes have been kind to you, despite all my best efforts my knees and ankles are knackered, I’ve only got to look at a biscuit crumb and I put on a stone, my heart races and skips beats like a drummer on amphetamines, I’ve got an ulcer, I’m nearly deaf in one ear and I can’t see a thing without my glasses. I’ve had it man…”
“You’re drowning because you’re trying to swim against the current instead of learning how to use it to your advantage.”
“The trouble is that if you let go and go with it, it’s downhill all the way!”
“I’m talking about life being a journey across a river, you have to learn how to use your philosophy like a boat to cross it, learning how “tack” with the current to make the best crossing possible…..”
“I’ve never really thought about it like that……..”
“You have to learn to accept certain things in life and work with them, children’s karate consists of lots of fun and games, noise and movement, youths Karate consists of lots of challenges and learning social etiquette, they have too much damned energy and therefore have to expel the excess to create a balance……”
“I could do with some of that excess…….”
“And so you can get it by enjoying training with them and letting them keep you young instead of trying to be like them….”
“A subtle difference….”
“But what about my health problems?”
“It’s a subtle balance of training nutrition and rest, watch your diet closely, eat more fibrous natural foods, lay off those fizzy drinks, wines and beers, drink more weak black or green tea, decaffeinated coffee and water. Give yourself time to rest and do the things that you find relaxing, not just sleeping. Train to preserve your Ki, not to expend it.”
“I don’t understand, how can you do that?”
“Make your training more fluid, more circular, to draw the Ki back in to you and make it more vibrant. Look at your posture and breathing methods, move to conserve energy and utilise that of your opponent. Gently stretch the body and load the muscles in movement carefully and mindfully, this will protect the joints and the surrounding tissue.”
“That’s what you do! You secretive old rascal!”
“It’s never been a secret, Leo, I’ve been telling you for years, it’s just that you haven’t been listening man, you’ve always had your own agenda.”
“Any other advice that I haven’t been listening to?”
“Be happy, happiness is an internal state and be held and maintained by anyone, just remind yourself to always be in good humour, this is your natural state, your body is always striving to be in good health, listen to it and allow it to be healthy. Don’t fight against it with your vanity and your ego, that is your biggest enemy.”
“Thank you Sensei.”