I have seen or heard about it so often that I now consider it a silent but powerful part of martial arts. Yesterday during Iaido was yet another example.
My teacher, Bob Elder Sensei spoke about the challenges and difficulties he overcame when training in Japan. The teaching was not easily accessible but he found a way to consistently train with dedicated efforts. My Systema teacher, David Merrell talks about how there were no teachers around and as such, had to travel to Russia and Toronto when he was starting out in this art. I watch my wife Lisa overcome some struggles of the past 3 years to finally get things moving with the art of Kyudo. A 14 hour trip to Pensacola was one example. My own experience in Systema is a similar story — November will be my 50th trip to W. Palm to train, as there are no other teachers in my area.
Each of the aforementioned have a clear theme — A strong desire to learn and the willingness to go out of your way. It is as if the Universe is posing a a one-question test. “How badly do you want it?” She really does not care, nor even listen to your verbal answer. She only observes your behavior. The Universe is too intelligent to be fooled by words.
Over time, it does not get easier. I still travel 6 hours every month to train. The distance has not been magically shortened. Elder sensei consistently had to overcome the biases that existed in the world of Iaido. No excuses. Just dedication. David Merrell never received any free trips to Moscow.
Though the details never change, there is a huge shift internally. The rewards of going out of your way for years and years begin to mean something to the individual. The feeling of accomplishment(s) have deeper meaning because so much additional effort had to be made. Somehow the wine tastes a little sweeter.
I notice this in my classes as well. One student is a medical doctor who has his practice an hour away. He never misses class. One has a high stress management job, along with a very young daughter. He has missed a grand total of one class in 5 months. Regardless of obstacles, some find a way around, under or through them. They go out of their way.
The training is not any easier for such individuals. Mistakes are common. Frustration comes for frequent visits. The big difference is that such individuals treat their training off the mats the same as they do on the mats. Their martial art never stops just because they are not in class or wearing a gi. Learning to overcome obstacles and go out of your way is just as important to a martial artist as defending against a front kick or getting out of a headlock. The little things matter.
In fact, at some point we realize the little things are really the big things that made the difference.
Like going out of your way.