Rediscovering the “Why”: Getting Back to Your Roots

Discussion in 'Articles' started by SifuPhil, Aug 18, 2012.

  1. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    When you first discover the wonderful world of martial arts you need little motivation, little reason to throw yourself headlong into their study. It's all there: the thrill of learning, the joy of physical movement and mastering new techniques, the exotic air that surrounds everything martial-related. You don't need any cheerleaders to stand on the sidelines and give you that spark, that rah-rah kind of push in order to do your best and to live, eat and dream martial arts. This especially applies to those who begin training in their childhood years – you have no other pressing responsibilities, no job, no bills to pay. You can devote yourself 24/7 to living the dream. And a dream it is.

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    The good ol' days ...​
    The Sickness


    But as time goes on and life begins to unfold you find your schedule growing crowded. The little things you enjoyed as a child have disappeared, only to be replaced by the work-a-day concerns of grown-ups. You spend most of your day in college, or in a job; either way the amount of time you can practice is severely curtailed, and even your dreams begin to change over into more practical ones.

    The years pass, you graduate college and/or become more entrenched in your career. You might marry, even have children, and THAT will take up the lion's share of your time both before and after work. Forget weekends – that's family outing time. If you happen to be lucky enough to purchase your own house you'll also be unlucky enough to become a slave to it. There's always a leak springing-up somewhere in the pipes, always painting or repairing or upgrading to do. Practice time becomes non-existent and you no longer dream – instead, you stay awake at night dreading all the responsibilities that are now perched squarely on your shoulders.

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    Choices in adulthood are much more complex​
    There are of course exceptions to this life-path. “Single forever” might be your battle cry, whether because of simple preference or because of a long string of failed relationships. You might find yourself (as I did) divorced after years of marriage and suddenly facing a surplus of spare time. You might even decide to “do the Kwai-Chang” - wander the Earth jobless and homeless (hopefully your martial ability is of a higher level than was David Carradine's in the series).

    At the ripe old age of fifty-four years I've had my share of doubting moments, in both the professional and personal sides of the arts. There have been times I've wanted to just shuck it all and walk away. I encounter examples of my life-philosophy failing me, my body betraying me and my students becoming ghosts. I look at the 4-color ads in Black Belt for Mega Beta Powerhouse Drinks and some $99 (plus S&H) home-study course offering mastery of the latest fad and I just become sick of it all. I see the Journal of Asian Martial Arts ceasing publication and I weep. Maybe it's all just a personality disorder - in a more rational state of mind I might chalk it up to that, but I've encountered too many others suffering from the same affliction to believe it.

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    None for me, thanks - I'm full!​
    Whatever your life-style and whatever strange series of events happens to intrude upon it you can be sure that at least once or twice during the intervening years you'll lose that original spark, that immensely-powerful drive to submerge yourself within the arts. Sometimes it will just be a temporary aberration: you'll get your groove back after a few days. Other times you'll encounter a decade-long dry spell where NOTHING seems to help. You might even find yourself late one night posting pictures of your martial book collection and all your weapons on eBay with a VERY low minimum bid, just to be rid of all that garbage.


    The Cure


    You cannot force yourself to fall in love with the arts again – love cannot be forced. Likewise you cannot trick yourself into rediscovering that passion – lust, like love, cannot be faked. Instead, you might employ the Taoist technique of taking something to an extreme in order to return it to the center of balance.

    What I'm talking about here is boxing-up all your gear, stopping classes and giving up that MMA pay-per-view channel that the wife is always nagging you about. If your inner-self is telling you that you're not happy with the martial life, for whatever reason, then go along with it – give it what it wants. Shut it all down. Don't look back. Fall off the face of the martial planet.

    And then simply go about your life.

    I have done this on a few occasions and it has worked for me. There's something about a cold reboot that empties the little attic-space we call the mind and clears the way for a brand-new love affair. One day you'll find yourself busily practicing your new hobby of underwater basket-weaving and you'll happen to spot a little kid walking to karate class in his uniform, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It will be as if you've encountered the arts for the first time – you experience once again that unbounded joy of simple movement made perfect, you feel yourself flush with unassisted motivation and you suddenly find yourself remembering that you have to unpack all that gear in the garage. In fact, if you could convince the wife to park in the driveway you could make a nice little practice space in that 20'x20' area …

    Getting back to your roots in the martial arts – rediscovering why you fell in love with them in the first place – is a tricky process. If you chase the feeling, it only runs away that much faster. But if you turn your back on it and begin to immerse yourself in something new and different, you'll find those same arts scratching at your door one night, begging to come back into your life.
     
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