By Sara Aoyama
Having had the advantage of watching my son train
in karate for a few years before I myself started,
I did not take the advent of my own training lightly.
I could see that commitment was very important in
the dojo, whether it be commitment to training everyday
or just once a week.
I put some thought into how I could do that. Commitment
is not something I've ever been very good at. But
I've learned something about the learning process
First of all, I know that being a beginner is a lot
of fun. It's frustrating, sure, but when you start
from ground zero anything is an accomplishment, and
anything is more than what you have. Mastering a new
skill is a natural high of its own and each block,
strike, or kick no matter how poorly done is something
entirely new. This is a time when learning can be
quick, stimulating and rewarding.
I think we all realize that we often come to a plateau,
or a wall, or a road-block in our learning progress.
But what we don't often realize is that learning is
continuing even when we seem to be making no progress
at all. It can be frustrating if you don't realize
that, and it is a point where many people give up
or wrongly believe that they have come as far as they
can. Or they think that they don't have what it takes
to break through that wall.
Well, the tune "Mama told me there'd be days
like this...." pops into my head right about
here. And, I also learned something about playing
the believing game. This is where you start operating
on faith. But sometimes even faith isn't enough to
keep me going.
So I decided to always operate on auto-pilot when
it came to my training. For me this means that unless
I am ill, or unless there is an event that I absolutely
must attend, that I go to the dojo if it is a training
time. I decided that if I ever gave myself the option
not to train, that I probably wouldn't. It would be
too easy to look at my watch and think, "Hmm.
Do I want to go to karate tonight? I kind of have
a headache, and there's a good movie on tv."
Or, "I could really use that time to catch up
on work." There is no end to reasons I could
think up. So, I never get started, and I never think
about if I am in the mood or what else I could be
doing. I just go. This is really kind of a lazy way
out since it involves little thought or energy. But,
the important thing is that it keeps me going through
just about anything. So far! It might not be the way
to approach training for everyone, but for a beginner
who may often face discouragement after that initial
spurt of learning, perhaps it is a good way to train.
In the process I have been pleased to learn that
auto-pilot not only gets me to the dojo and keeps
me training, but it helps me surpass those hurdles
that seem insurmountable along the way. Progress may
be slow at times, but it can be sometimes surprising
-- those times when unexpectentely you find you are
able to accomplish with ease that which for so long
was a struggle. And then after time when you look
at new students you also suddenly realize how far
you have really come. But, the greatest reward is
the training itself, the benefit I get from it day
to day and the silent satisfaction gained from knowing
that I have continued on the path on which I set forth.
About the author:
Sara Aoyama is a 1974 graduate of the University
of Kansas, majoring in Japanese Language and Literature.
She spent over twelve years living in Japan where
she dabbled in a number of other Arts such as Ikebana
(flower arranging), Cooking, and Shamisen. While living
in Kyoto, she was able to see many hidden aspects
of Japanese society. Currently she lives in Brattleboro,
Vermont where she started training in Shorin-ryu Karate
at the Brattleboro School of Budo in May, 1998 after
watching her son train for three years. She works
asa free-lances as a Japanese-Englishtranslator. Most
recently, she is the translator of "The Art
of Lying" by Kazuo Sakai, MD.
Previous "Beginner's Mind" columns:
To Your Body"
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