When Last We Met I Was the Master
In my teen years I studied Ninjutsu for four years, and while I am sure that I griped about going from time to time – I was a teenager after all – it was a formative experience for me. As I advanced in my training I also took on a teaching role with the kids classes. I was a mediocre student and I was a good teacher. I faced the same struggles as the other students and made lots of mistakes so it was easy for me to spot them and help others to make the necessary corrections to their techniques.
My serious training came to an end the day I broke my collarbone in a bicycle crash. I wasn’t able to do any significant physical activity with my left arm for a year while the bone healed. I continued going to the class for a little while, but since I couldn’t really do anything I ultimately decided to quit and focus on other activities. It was the right decision at the time and I don’t regret it. I have, however, long missed the discipline and what I was learning.
In university I did a semester of Judo so that I could get back in to martial arts training. I sucked at Judo. It was too much like high school wrestling for me and I sucked at high school wrestling. It was not the right thing for me. I don’t think I even finished out the semester. We now live within walking distance of an Aikido dojo. There are many similarities in style between Ninjutsu and Aikido and I have often thought about joining, and this week I finally did.
Benefits of Martial Arts
We signed our seven year old up for Aikido classes a few months ago in the hopes that it would have some of the same benefits for her as I gained from Ninjutsu. I learned control over my own body, mental discipline, breathing and most importantly – control over my temper that ‘friends’ at school were able to trigger without much effort. As I have written about previously, my daughter has challenges controlling and managing her emotions and as a result is prone to epic tantrums. It is too early to see any significant benefits for her, but she is improving her jumping skills as you can see above.
Now I am the Learner
I attended my first class last night. Actually I did a double class because I participated in the kids’ class with my daughter and then did the adult class after. Starting with a two hour class with two warm ups was hard and yet I survived. I won’t be able to move for the next two days though…
I have long thought that I probably have the muscle memory to return to martial arts and be able to do most of the things I trained to do more than half a lifetime ago. In my first two hours of classes I discovered that the muscle memory is even stronger than I expected. I also discovered that in spite of all the work I have done at the gym over the years – my ab muscles still suck.
I’ve spent three months watching her class and silently, and sometimes not silently, critiquing the classes and techniques, all the while reminding myself that it is not the same art that I studied and it is not the same sensei. In my class I was reminded of this more directly. As a former instructor I have often found myself thinking about how I would teach some of the techniques and it isn’t always the same as how these classes are taught.It is a challenge to stop being a master and find the humility become a learner again. Click To Tweet
My biggest challenge in this class will be to suppress my previous training. It has been more than 20 years since I last did any serious training. In my mind I have retained the abilities to perform the techniques and concepts I learned as a teen. This class is my reality check. I am no longer an expert – if I ever was in the first place. I know that I view my previous training through rose-coloured glasses. Now that I have found my new martial arts home I have to take off the glasses and remind myself to forget what I think I know and accept instruction. I have to be a rookie, because I am. I have to keep an open mind if I hope to learn and grow.
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