Sometimes those ‘special’ sessions just seem happen spontaneously, more so with the senior classes..
Sweat was running down the walls, everyone moved as one and the communal spirit was that of determination. This felt like a club in the true sense of the word, our mentor was giving the call and we moved in harmony to it. The senior class had all trained together for a minimum of 5 years and some as many as 30. We knew each other better than our own families; we had struggled, sweat and bled together in the cause of self improvement for an age.
Sensei could feel the camaraderie between us and used it, although his body aged, the resonance in his soul could be heard in the timbre of his voice. He knew the inhabitant of every gi here better than we knew ourselves. He had worked with each of us individually through the various stages of our development and had therefore developed a personal relationship with each of us, put together in the class it was like one magical entity had evolved and responded to the voice of the mentor.
“C’mon guys, get in to your legs, soften to access the muscles and get it right down into the feet then loosen to drive it up from the feet, manipulate it from the waist, vibrate the hips and link it to the wrists to expel the energy through the hands…. That’s better, now focus your intention, use your peripheral vision… perceive rather than look…. Make your eyes ‘sticky’ to detect everything that moves or has intention and allow the brain to process it naturally….. good….. keep it going…”
A language that would mean nothing unless you were an experienced martial arts practitioner, sensei’s voice carried that encouraging tone that he knew from experience would keep us ‘in the zone’ – working in harmony with him and everyone else there.
“Stay with it guys”, sensei could tell we were tiring and wanted just that little bit more “ as the body tires, make the mind stronger, it’s only temporary pain and is not damaging the body, in this case, pain is weakness leaving the body, keep with it…” He knew that we all would, determination carried us forward and still kept us in that magical zone.
I stopped and looked around, men and women of all ages, shapes and sizes, many in their 40’s and 50’s, mothers, fathers and grandparents, bank managers to bricklayers all working together in harmony, people that if you saw them at work or in the street would appear completely normal and yet here in the dojo worked with expertise and grace that was amazing.
The bond between them was forged over years of hard work together, friendships formed out of the furnace of mentored pressure and the determination to shed the chrysalis of fear that limits the lives of the majority. The will to face challenges head on and conquer their fears placed them into a senior grade black belt club of similarly intentioned, exceptional people.
“Yamee!” Sensei knew they had done enough and now was the time to talk.
“Sit down.” Draped in towels and track gear they all sat and carefully stretched. Knowing their own bodies through long experience, each one knew exactly was required to cool down effectively and stop the stiffness that resulted from not cooling down properly.
“What would you say was the biggest secret in the martial arts?” They all looked thoughtful.
“That power comes from softness” said one.
“Many people certainly seem to find that one difficult…” mused sensei.
“Control of your own and your opponent’s balance….”
“Another excellent thought”, said sensei.
“C’mon sensei, you must have something in mind here…” said one student who knew that sensei was leading up to something.
“Yeah c’mon sensei, what’s the biggest secret in the martial arts…. Tell us….”
Everyone leaned forward in anticipation to hear what sensei had to say…
Sensei played up to the moment and leaned forward, “it’s simple” he whispered and then paused…
“That’s it….. it’s simple…”
“Can you explain that?”
“Our approach to the martial arts and life itself is simple, when it becomes complex we have to slow down, step back and find the simplicity.”
“I don’t see that, look at how complex our teachings are!”
“But they’re not. They only become too complex if you try to go too fast, if you are absorbing at your natural rate they are simple and obvious. Don’t forget we’re talking about a lifetime study here. Anything that appears complicated is only made up of simple layers and always relates back to our 8 principles.”
“That’s true, the only people who get frustrated at complexity are those who want to learn too fast, you can only absorb the ideas at a natural pace and the faster you try to learn the worse it gets”, said one of the ‘old timers’, “the paradox is that those who learn fastest are the ones that don’t try too hard…
Most senior martial artists who make what they teach sound complex are ‘packaging’ it for marketing reasons. Once you bypass all the BS you find that it still relates back to the same ideas and principles.”
“Exactly”, said sensei. “The secret is that we have to keep it simple. We have to keep that simple, happy, engaged approach to life, to be sensitive to the natural pace of everything and be able to time our approach to it. The absorption of our teachings happens at a natural pace, if we enjoy the training, being with our friends and be happy with the process, we will learn at the fastest pace because we aren’t putting anything in the way of learning.
Allow life to unfold at a natural pace and be simply engaged and happy with it, let things go when it’s their time and don’t try to hoard or keep that which is unnatural and you’ll always be happy.
Keep it simple, and press your ‘happy button’ every day. It’s not difficult.”