We have all been there. The teacher is their usual excellent self. Your classmates all seem to be doing well and for reasons known or unknown, you are having a horrible class. Nothing is working and mistakes are piling up like winter snow in Alaska.
Such was the case for yours truly this past Friday. I was so happy to see my friend and “part-time” sword teacher. Class was on the heels of a beautiful Thanksgiving day and it seems like the stars were aligned for Grade A, perfect training.
Then I started to cut (tatami mats) and it all fell apart. Quickly I might add. Very quickly.
I missed a few of the first cuts. Then “clanked” a few more and soon after, I could do nothing correctly. It is like I never picked up a sword in my life. Granted I have cut only a few dozen mats or so in my brief time training in Toyama Ryu. And there is a great awareness of my skill level (or more precisely, lack of) and my experience (again, lack of would be more accurate). Musashi has nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, I did not think I was THAT bad at this point in my training.
Truth is, I am not or at least I would like to think so. Yes, I am at a beginner level. Ground level. I have some very basic skills period. Inconsistent, yes but I have made each of those cuts at least once. Not Friday however.
What I really have going for me is great desire, passion, and exceptional teachers. The future looks very bright, Friday notwithstanding.
So, what do you do when you have “one of those classes?” How do you handle the disasters? Here are a few steps that I have picked up along the 30 plus years in martial arts training.
1. Understand history. Time is a strange thing. It is very “earth-bound” and sometimes, it works against us and sometimes in our favor. Here is how to turn it in our favor.
THAT class is over. It is finished – a part of history. It can only be repeated in our minds if we so choose. As such, it is time to recognize that our past need not be a predictor of our future. We can learn from our mistakes, make the needed adjustments and experience new and improved results.
All that matters is an understanding of time and the willingness to continually improve.
2. Progress is never a straight line. Breakthroughs come after breakdowns. When this is understood, one learns to not be too upset when things go sideways.
Progress rarely if ever occurs in steady, evenly spaced increments. The old adage of 2 steps forward and 1 back is more common than not. Sure it would be great to improve 3.48% every class but life does not work that way. We learn at a pace that is perfect for us and once understood, both martial arts and life gets much, much better.
Breakthroughs come after breakdowns.
3. Relax. When we can control our breath, place our awareness in our back (by the spine) and live from this perspective, life slows down. Movement slows down and we can make the adjustments and micro-adjustments along the path. The ancient masters spent an incredible amount of time teaching and focusing on breathing. That is why they became masters.
4. Learn to laugh, particularly at yourself. Sometimes, you just have to laugh and go with the punches. You may have no idea why the class fell apart. You can fixate on it, analyze it, pick it apart it great detail . . . . or simply let it go and have a good chuckle. Even a snicker, giggle, grin or howl will do the trick. Release and go back to training with a fresh start and a new smile.
Life was never meant to be so serious.
5. Get back on the horse. You love it. It is a passion, otherwise you never would have spent so much time and so much money on the training that you have done for so many years.
There were times when you wanted to quit. You were sure you would quit. Golf, running or anything sounded better at those moments. Anything but martial arts.
But you are not a quitter. You are a seeker and seekers jump back in the game and continue to walk the path. It may not be the easiest of paths, but it is one that you have chosen to follow.
Welcome to your destiny.