Portrait of Dedication

I love learning about other arts and talking to practitioners of those arts, even if I never plan on participating in them.  Case in point, Kyudo, the Japanese art of archery.

My wife started taking an interest in Kyudo about 4 or 5 years ago. Unfortunately, the nearest teacher was 8 hours away. The story would end here for most people. She is not most people. Instead, she has made a series of trips to N. Florida and Georgia to start this art. Recently, she completed her first-shot weekend; that is, the first opportunity to shoot the ya (arrow) at a makawari.

In the midst of telling me of her remarkable experiences during this weekend, one story in particular caught my attention. The highest ranking Kyudoka in the Western Hemisphere is Aaron Blackwell Sensei. He also happened to be the one that my wife Lisa trained with (among others).

Turn the clock back just under 4 decades. At that time, there was no one for Blackwell Sensei to train with in the art of Kyudo. So he decided to travel to Japan for a few years to learn the art. Upon his return, he practiced Kyudo, in his backyard.


For 17 years.

I really didn’t pay much attention to the information after this as this was the story for me. 17 years of doing an ultra-detailed art by himself, in his backyard. Go to the thesaurus and type in the word “dedication” and all of the synonyms that follow are certainly applicable in this instance.

There are times when I experience frustration with my Systema training.  My teacher is 6 hours of driving away. There are no other Systema instructors in my area. I could probably come up with a couple of other gems of excuses but that is what they are – weak excuses. When I heard that story of such deep dedication, discipline and commitment, it served as a much needed reminder.

When you want something badly enough. . .when something means that much to you. . . you find ways of training, even if the means are less than ideal. Someone, somewhere was up against similar circumstances and excelled.

Someone, somewhere had greater challenges and excelled.

Someone, somewhere spent 17 years training alone because that was all that was available.

Dreams and dedication make a powerful duet.