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Some New Year’s Resolutions

By George Donahue

Most lists of New Year’s resolutions are earnest expressions of our wishes for a more perfect union of our thoughts with our actions. These wish lists quickly become onerous weights dragging us down, rather than useful plans or encouragements. Then we forget about them and make the whole process a farce. Another problem with those lists is that they too often have too many things that we need to do.

So, true to my contrarian nature, I’ve worked up a list that should be easier to carry out than to ignore, in part because it’s mostly stuff to stop doing. You might want to adopt one or more resolutions from this list.

Don’t try so hard! / Do try to relax more
The harder you try to learn something as esoteric as a martial skill, the more difficult it is to master that skill; the more you try to grab it, the further out of your reach it is. Here is where the Taoist less-is-more stuff really does apply.

Don’t do so many repetitions / Do try to concentrate more during the fewer reps you perform
The more repetitions you’ve performed incorrectly or less than optimally, the harder it is to finally get the technique right. Our rule of thumb for untraining incorrect technique and retraining correctly is that, for every time you’ve done something wrong or poorly, it takes ten repetitions doing it properly just to get back to square one. If you’ve done ten thousand high blocks incorrectly, it will take you a hundred thousand correct repetitions just to overcome your earlier flawed training.

Don’t take training or yourself so seriously / Do try to laugh and smile more while you’re training: lighten up and you’ll get faster, smoother, better
The best, most productive schools I’ve seen over the years have also been the schools with the most light-hearted atmosphere. It’s clear that the students and teachers are having fun pursuing goals that are no less important to them than to the adherents of the joyless pucker-your-cheeks and squeeze-your-lips variety of training. They don’t take their training lightly, but they train with a light heart.

Question yourself, question your kata, question your assumptions much more
In fact, even question what your teachers do and say, if not aloud then at least to yourself. You’ll quickly develop a better understanding and, most likely, a greater appreciation of your teacher’s knowledge and skills—if your teacher is worthy.

Break your old training routines / Try new routines
A stale routine is a worthless routine and one that might unnecessarily sour you entirely on the training. New routines require new thinking and new thought patterns. In addition, new routines, especially when applied to kata, bring new insights.

Try cutting your training time in half
Some of us mistake long hours of training for good, productive training. But what we’re really doing when we fall into the trap of “more is better” is substituting quantify for quality. If you’re in the habit of training three hours a day, try condensing the same amount of activity into two hours. You’ll find that, to make it fit, you’ll need to jettison some of the less productive work or—and this is the real key—learn to fit everything into the shorter period by cutting out the dead time between activities. If you’re able to do this and you still have three hours available to you, you can then use the third hour to incorporate new things, to try new things, to experiment with changes to old things. Or you could go play with your children.

Don’t worry about not being perfect, but strive for perfection anyway
There is a crucial difference between worrying about our many imperfections and striving to perfect what we can. The former is a waste of time; the latter is always useful, even when we fall short.

I might deal with these resolutions at length individually in further blog posts in the coming year. Then again, I’m probably going to forget about this list even before the end of the month.

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About The Author:

George Donahue has been on the board of since its inception. He is a freelance writer and editor, providing literary and consulting services to writers, literary agents, and publishers, as well to advertising agencies. He has worked in publishing for more than three decades, beginning as a journal and legal editor. Among his positions have been editorial stints at Random House; Tuttle Publishing, where he was the executive editor, martial arts editor, and Asian Studies editor; and Lyons Press, where he was the senior acquisitions editor and where he established a martial arts publishing program. He is a 6th dan student of karate and kobujutsu—as well as Yamane Ryu Bojutsu—of Shinzato Katsuhiko in Okinawa Karatedo Shorin Ryu Kishaba Juku. He was also a student of Kishaba Chokei and Nakamura Seigi until their deaths. He teaches Kishaba Juku in New York and Connecticut, as well as traveling to provide seminars and special training in karate, weapons, and self-defense. His early training was in judo and jujutsu, primarily with Ando Shunnosuke in Tokyo. He also studied kyujutsu (archery), sojutsu (spear), and kenjutsu (swordsmanship) in Japan as a youth. Following his move to the US, he continued to practice judo and jujutsu, as well as marksmanship with bow and gun, and began the study of Matsubayashi Ryu karate in his late teens. Subsequently, he has studied aikido and taiji and cross trained in ying jow pai kung fu.

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