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Auto-pilot

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 itself.

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.


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