Dojo Visitor


There are times when you’re talking to someone and you suddenly realise that they aren’t listening to a word you’re saying.  They are only waiting for an opportunity to speak.

The guy had come in for a free ‘guest’ training session and actually worked quite hard.  The only problem was that he hadn’t heard a word of the instruction given to him.   The words ‘using a sledgehammer to crush a grape’ sprang to mind – everything he did was simply full of effort with surprisingly poor results

He had cruised over to sensei after the session and started to discuss the session with him, as sensei patiently tried to discuss how we used skill to access power this guy was blatantly not listening to a word but was just waiting for an opportunity to speak.

As soon as the space occurred, he was in.

“The training was good, but I like it to be a little more ‘regimented’, it’s good to be pushed.  I feel it develops a strong spirit.”  Sensei was bemused.

“Actually, I feel that it’s the contrary, beginners need to be taught how to train and how much effort is required, it’s important that the student finds it within himself to find the drive and balance required to hone his skills.  After all, the instructor can’t follow the student around providing the ‘drive’ all of his life; it needs to come from within.”

The student then started to list all the clubs he had trained at and all the instructors he had trained with, an impressive list, but strange that he was so heavy and clumsy in his approach to improving his martial arts skill.

“Yeah but there’s nothing as good as a really heavy ‘sweat’ session, you know you’ve really worked when  your karategi is soaked right through at the end of a session.”

“It depends if you’ve learned anything, sweating can be done in your own time and can mean energy expended uselessly.  You’ve travelled extensively and visited a lot of good instructors, do you feel that learned anything? ”

“Oh yeah, I know what they all do and many of them are exceptionally good!”

“But how good are you?”

He started to list names again.  “I’ve trained with……..”

“Yes I know all that, but what have YOU learned? What skills do YOU have?  Listing names means nothing, travelling around different clubs can actually be counter productive.”

“I can’t see that.  If I’ve been to all the best instructors, I must have been exposed to the best.”

“Do you think that you have any idea of my system by having trained here tonight?”

“Yes I do.”

“Well I can tell you that you don’t, ask the instructors around me that have put in the time and effort.  You’d have to do over 20 years of regular of training to even begin to understand.  I’ve had many people train with me for a short period and think they understand, but they don’t.  I’ve had students attend courses and then write books from their notes – the contents are wrong and their arrogance about my teachings unbelievable.  I’ve had instructors train here for a few short few years and then pass comment on the system saying that it lacks certain factors, where in fact, they just never found them because they hadn’t put in the time or were simply incapable of understanding what they were taught.

I watched you tonight, you put in a lot of effort but lack any real skill.  You didn’t listen to what the Instructor was saying to you and didn’t try to apply any of the instruction given, you could have been anywhere training tonight and it wouldn’t have made any difference, you would have carried on the same.

“I was training hard and thoroughly enjoyed myself.”

“Yes, but you have trained in a lot of different places under the guidance of many good instructors.  Unfortunately, you don’t appear to have gained much from it.  You have possibly repeated the same or a similar training session at each place and despite exposure to all these people, gained nothing.  You also don’t appear to have stuck to any system long enough to have pierced the outer shell of any of the teachings.”

“I still train at my home club, because the basics are strong there.  I think that strong basics are the main requirement of any good karateka.”

“When you say ‘basics’ you are talking about the marching up and down movements in the dojo that you seem to want to punish your self with.  ‘Basics’ here refers to the principles that underlie all movements in the martial arts.  If you could pay attention to those, your skill level would improve in whatever you did.”

“Why are you saying all this to me?  I’ve come and trained and been respectful.”

“No you haven’t.  You exercised and wasted space in my dojo, whoever trains here gets honest instruction from me.  You approached me at the end of the lesson and started this conversation giving me your views, so I’m responding in the most honest way I know how.  What I have said to you are not platitudes, but the truth as I see it.

Would you like me to say that everything was fine and that it was good that you trained with all these people and that you are skilful as a result?  That as long as you sweat in a training session it must be a good?  Because if I did, I’d be lying.”

“No sensei, I wouldn’t want you to lie.  I think maybe I find your honesty quite shocking, but on reflection no one else has been that way with me.  Perhaps I need to go away and reflect on what you’ve said and start listening to any instruction I receive a bit more attentively.

Thank you for your honesty.

Our visitor left a bit dazed, but maybe sensei had managed to alter the course of his training in his own inimitable style….

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