My path. Your Path.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
This is the last verse of his poem ‘The Road not Taken’ and is one of my favorites as it’s fairly descriptive of my life and my chosen path of Martial Arts. Without re-gurgitating all of the common martial arts maxims that we’ve heard time and time again, I will get right to the core of this subject. Hard roads take tough men and women, or they make tough men and women. The weak will not make it. They’ll stop, they’ll rest and then they’ll quit, or they will detour when the path becomes too treacherous for them. The weak will always take the easy way. That’s the way it has always been, and that’s the way it always will be.
My path may look appealing to some, and that is what attracts them.That is, I have experienced an extraordinary and rare martial arts life up to this day. Due to my service in the United States Air Force, and the introduction of a friend, I met my Sensei and have been taught, not as another foreigner, but as a son. My teacher has not held back anything to me in his teaching, and now after 25+ years as a student of Takamiyagi Sensei, I am beginning to understand a little more. For the record, I have no natural ability or talent regarding martial arts, in fact, I was never athletic or physically gifted in my youth; quite the contrary, I have always been on the slow end of the learning curve, and this is the primary reason that drove me to achieve the skill that I possess at this point in my life. That is, I am aware that I’m not naturally gifted, so I made it a point decades ago to train longer and harder than my dojo-mates. This was not due to impatience or ego, it was simply necessary for me to keep up with the rest of the class. Now, a few decades later, that habit is cemented into my subconscious, and I still feel it necessary to train harder and longer, and I have set the bar extremely high for my students and anyone with whom I share the dojo floor. I have found that now, in middle age, I have extremely low tolerance for those who do not exert maximum effort; this includes (recently) those with natural talent, but no desire to exert themselves beyond a comfortable level. As a life-long martial artist, I am passionate about the mind and body benefits of traditional training, and I find it difficult to associate with those at the black belt level that don’t share my passion.
So, is it wrong for others to train part time, or only when they feel like it’s convenient? No, because some training is better than no training at all; that is their path.
Some are interested in training for a short while, or until they achieve a specific rank. They have a short and straight path.
Some only train in order to achieve rank, recognition, awards, and personal accolades. They travel a well-lit path lined with well-wishers.
Some train hard, they train well, and they train the same way they have always trained, with no interest in learning anything new, or different. They travel a narrow path wearing blinders.
Some train for improved health, personal discipline, or because they are curious. They travel a personal experience path.
A very small percentage of martial arts practitioners train for the sake of personal improvement, sacrifice, and passion for all that envelopes the Budo. Joy, pain, sacrifice, the irreplaceable feeling of personal achievement, daily improvements in tiny increments, injuries, recoveries, learning personal limitations and smashing them – all this and so much more. This small percentage of Budo-ka are dedicated, open-minded, humble, and always ready to learn more. A Big Ego is rare, and humility is the standard. This is my path, and I’m happy to share it with anyone and everyone who will join.