After Kendo Practice Thoughts: The Simple Things are the Toughest to Learn

My first shiai.
My first shiai. (Photo credit: A sensei visiting from Hong Kong)

It has been twenty-two months since I took up Kendo. In that time, I have been on a total of about 4 months of hiatus. Considering that our club’s regular training is only once a week, I would say that I have not journeyed far enough from my path as a beginner.

Yesterday after keiko, our sensei had some words to say to us. It is rare for our sensei to indulge in long talks like that. Apart from the language barrier that makes it hard for him sometimes to articulate what he wants to say, he is really a man of few words. In the almost two years of training with him, I observed that he is one of those martial arts teachers (and sport coaches) who can teach a lot of invaluable lessons for those who persevere enough to dig deep beneath the surface. Most times, it is not about what they say but what they do.

I first met sensei during the second day of the newly-formed club’s practice. I was with the two other students who were there the first day. One thing I learned then was he likes pushing students past their limits. And it has never changed. Last night, it seemed like he felt the need to remind us of that once again — in words. He reminded us that Kendo is more than a sport. He said that it requires a lot of self-discipline and always giving our best regardless of how tired we feel.

It has been said that the simplest things are the hardest to learn. I could not agree more. In Kendo’s context, there are things beginners are taught early on. Some of them seem simple enough, but they could be quite a challenge to sustain.

I have been feeling demotivated in kendo for months now. But I held on because I love it and I really want to learn it. A few weeks back, I decided to review the things expected of me as a kendoka. I challenged myself to keep doing them regardless of circumstances outside my control. It may not be easy most of the time. But I find it fulfilling to do these things, especially on days when I do not feel like doing them:

  • Clean the dojo floor – I have to be honest that it can be frustrating to see that not many people do this despite repeated reminders from our officers. Initially, it was supposed to be the beginners’ (read: youngest batches) job. But a recent memo from club officers stated that everyone should do it. I have only recently read said memo. Even before that though, I already promised to myself that I would make it a part of my pre-practice routine. And I have been delivering on that promise since. (I found a thumbtack while cleaning the dojo floor yesterday.)
  • Practice footwork before training starts – Sensei first issued this instruction about two months after the club was formed. He told us to try arriving at least 30 minutes before keiko starts so we could do this. As the club membership grew, he has been repeating the same instruction over and over again. But only a few actually do it without anyone prompting them. I understand why anyone would want to avoid it. It can get really tedious. I am not even good in kendo yet but I find it boring and painful most of the time. But knowing that I am not good served as motivation for me to keep doing it. I told myself that maybe someday, something good will come out of it. For me, it has been one of the challenges I have to overcome even before keiko starts. This is one of the things I made sure to follow since that time sensei told us to do it.
  • Aim for beautiful kendo – This is one thing that sensei said that really stuck to me. It is what I want as well. I find it helpful to keep it in mind. I use it as a guide on how to approach my training. It is not a pleasant feeling to be struck in practice or in shiai (match). It can be tempting to keep blocking (without the intention of doing a counter-strike), tilt my head to avoid being hit, or do things that would compromise proper form and technique. So every training, I challenge myself to receive every hit straight on. I know I suck at matches. But I would like to think that getting into that shiai-jo with the goal of playing beautiful kendo is worth the pain of losing.
  • Push – Sensei’s training can be brutal. I may not look forward to it, but I appreciate its true value. There have been occasions in the past that I took a rest even before the official break has been called. To be fair, those were times that I really cannot seem to carry on anymore. Each time, it felt like I let myself and sensei down. It was not a good feeling. I decided to try not doing it anymore. Lately, there have been times when it seemed like I was about to faint. But I chose to carry on. Surviving that feels like a reward in itself.

I would like to share some excerpts from an article written by one of the celebrities I admire. His writings are among the reasons why I’m a fan. I enjoy reading about his thoughts on travel, food, and Brazilian jiu jitsu. Here are some of the things he shared in a blog post that resonate with me:

As I say at the top of this episode, as I tape my fingers (in the forlorn hope that it might mitigate the osteoarthritis and Heberden’s nodes associated with grip fighting), I will never be a black belt. I will never successfully compete against similarly ranked opponents half my age, I will never be great at Brazilian jiu jitsu. There is an urgency to my training because I’m sure as shit not getting any younger, or more flexible. I’m certainly not getting any faster. And as I head down the highway on my jiu jitsu journey, the likelihood of the wheels coming off the car grows stronger every day.

But I am determined to suck less at this jiu jitsu thing every day if I can.

I do it because it’s hard. Because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And because it never ends. Every day presents me with a series of problems that I spend the rest of the day thinking about how I might solve — or at least chip away at. Next day same. And the day after that. ~ SWEEP THE LEG, JOHNNY! by Anthony Bourdain

I am still in the earliest stages of my kendo journey. I am still far from being good at my level. I do not know what my future in this martial art will be. But to borrow Anthony Bourdain’s words: I am determined to suck less at this kendo thing every day if I can.

Keep the Bar Raised

Competence and likeability are hallmarks of great leaders. I have no illusions of being a great leader. I do not even want to lead. Only someone who does not know or understand me would assume that I would want to take on a leadership role. If I found myself in that position in the past, it was often because of necessity. I stepped up when I had to, but I did not seek to be in that role. I may be confident about my competence. But I know myself enough to realize that I am not easy to like. I come on too strong for some people who do not know me. I speak my mind and tell it like it is which not many appreciate, especially from a woman. Men displaying similar traits are often perceived as assertive or commanding while women are labeled as bitches or bossy.

I have no trouble accepting whatever people throw my way. But I cannot lower the bar just to be likeable. This is a real challenge in groups where the measure of being a good member seems to be a person’s capacity to be like everyone else. I see the value of getting along with everyone. But not at the expense of putting indirect or unspoken pressure on others who may live by their own standards.

I have been trying to reign in my outspokenness given my current environment. I have made major adjustments and swallowed my pride in several occasions – far too many for me to count. All these so I could continue practicing Kendo. There are times though that I come to the brink of giving up. Because I find it hard to be myself without being misunderstood.

People have different reasons for practicing a sport or martial art. I have trained in different sports and martial arts over the years with the following motivation:

  • To have fun (read: experience the joy found in playing a sport)
  • To constantly challenge myself
  • To get out of my comfort zone
  • To learn the life-lessons sport offers
  • To develop discipline and cultivate an athlete’s mindset
  • To earn the trust and respect of people I look up to (i.e. the athletes who exemplify the traits I admire, coaches, trainers, sport administrators, etc.)
  • To find role models to emulate
  • To build friendships with people I meet along the way

It is a continuous process for me regardless of whatever field of sport or martial arts I choose to practice. Training for me is a sacred time. I do not want to lose focus by talking unnecessarily. Unfortunately, some people seem to take it as arrogance. Superficial perceptions get tiring sometimes, especially when I opt not to defend myself anymore.

Kendo is all about respect. I have to admit though that it is not easy for me feel genuine respect for people who do not even show respect. I am still trying to understand it in kendo’s context. I think it is easy to give it to anyone including those who disrespect us. But the ones who inspire deep respect in me are those whose words and actions are aligned.

I learned that some members in our club misconstrued some of my behaviors during training as disinterest. They think I do not care about junior members’ welfare and progress because of my hesitation to correct or give feedback. But nothing could be farther from the truth. I care too much.

The reasons I choose to stay quiet and refrain from correcting anyone could be all or any of these:

  • I have been burned by some junior members before. Some can be quite selective on who they choose to listen to. And I did not seem to be in that list. I do not want to repeat the experience.
  • I observe attitude and behaviors towards training first before doing what I think is appropriate
  • I choose not to give feedback or teach anyone who displays unwillingness to listen. For me, it is not about accepting what I say. What is more important is the ability to listen.
  • I do not like teaching anyone anything that I cannot even do correctly
  • I prefer to let my actions speak in training

It is not easy to train when expectations put a lot of pressure for me to lower the bar. It is like being inadvertently forced into making a choice to let go of my personal standards just to be more likeable. I can make compromises, but not at the expense of the things I uphold. So in a time when I feel demotivated yet again in kendo, I remind myself to remember this: Keep the bar raised.

March Highlights – Inspired. Reconnected. Empowered.

I welcomed March, which also happened to be Women’s Month, with a simple goal of doing something, no matter how small, for the women in sports advocacy. Somehow, along the way, small milestones just piled up. I couldn’t think of a better way to end it than how it did – being with like-minded people who inspired and re-energized me to dream and do more.

March 6 – Davao Kendo Club’s 1st Women’s Shiai/Tournament

(Photo credit: Jesh Juson)
(Photo credit: Jesh Juson)

March 8 – Women in Rowing PH featured in our IF’s website and International Women’s Day video

Screenshot from the World Rowing website
Screenshot from the World Rowing website

March 28-30 – IMPULSE Seminar: Empowerment of women in sports in the Philippines

(Photo credit: Krizanne Ty)
(Photo credit: Krizanne Ty)

Looking forward to more collaborations with all the inspiring women and men around me.

Keiko in Semi-Darkness and the Joy Found in Not Giving Up

Kendo practice is always a challenge even on the best days. But yesterday’s keiko stretched me past my limits more than I could count. It was my first practice after two weeks of resting and recovering from the recurring pains from an old knee injury and sore Achilles heels. I would have to say that it was also one of the best training I had in a long while. Not because I felt good and did things right. But because I came across the toughest walls I had to scale to survive the almost three hours of keiko.

Keiko in Semi-Darkness

The twice daily rotating 3-hour long power outages have been a source of suffering for many of us here in Mindanao. And things are expected to get worse as the country enters its “summer” months. The scheduled blackouts though have only affected us briefly before during keiko. And I think it was towards the end of practice. Yesterday was the first time that we started training in semi-darkness. There was only one source of light. I was told that the rest of the fluorescent light bulbs were not connected to the facility’s generator. It was also somewhat suffocating since we could not use the electric fans that usually offer some relief from the heat and humidity. Even at 6:00PM, it was still hot. While there were windows in the dojo, almost all of them were blocked by tree trunks, shrubs, and many other things that keep the fresh air from flowing in.

We trained in these conditions for about two hours before power came back. And we somehow ended up continuing practice without plugging in the electric fans. I think this was one of the reasons why it was tougher for me yesterday. There were times that I found it hard to breathe. I just kept repeating this mantra in my head that I could do it. That I must never give up no matter what even if my body is telling me otherwise.

Getting Assigned to Take the Lead

Before keiko started, one of my kouhais told me that he was asked by our club manager/president to take the lead. Both our club manager/president and the vice-president were in Hong Kong to take the 1Dan exam (which they both passed) last Friday.

So I was surprised when during mawari geiko our sensei approached my kouhai when he started giving instructions. He told him that I will be taking the lead on the motodachi side. I was not supposed to move from my spot during the rotation. I had to quickly prepare myself mentally and physically for the responsibility. Even as one of the senior members of the group, it is rare for me to be assigned responsibility at anything in training. I was not used to it. It added to the things that I had to deal with during the grueling session. For me, it meant that I really should not stop at any point or take a rest even if I feel like I could no longer carry on since I had to set an example.

Emptying My Mind During Jigeiko with Sensei

If there is one thing many of us in bogu class shares, it would probably be that feeling of dread before jigeiko with Lim-sensei. I even noticed that some members opt to line up for jigeiko with Kazu-senpai – our other 3Dan instructor. I used to do it myself before I go to Lim sensei. But last month I started to challenge myself to do jigeiko with sensei right off the bat. I figured that it was the only way to overcome the dread and improve myself no matter how little each time.

All of us were already tired by the time we have to do jigeiko. Kazu senpai was not around so everyone had no choice but to do it with sensei. I was not expecting much from myself at this point. I just did my usual mental self-talk telling myself that I can do it. I also decided to empty my mind going in. I just wanted to do whatever I have to do without thinking much about it. I do not know what happened, but it was one of the best jigeiko I had with sensei in a long while.

Yesterday’s keiko made me think about what Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee, said about Olympism:

Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of a good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.

I would have to agree once again that indeed there is joy found in effort regardless of how much pain and suffering you have to put up with in the process.

Losing 4 Kilograms in 7 Weeks

My love for food surpasses my desire for a lot of things in life. So it is not a surprise for me that I am a bit ambivalent when it comes to losing weight. Over the years, I have gained over 14kg (30.86lbs) of extra weight. I have had brief moments when I wanted to shed some extra pounds. But the attempts did not last long for lack of commitment and motivation.

About 7 weeks ago though, I had this sudden thought of trying to lose weight again. I’ve been having a tough time in kendo. I felt sluggish most of the time. And I have long been having a hard time developing my stamina. My body felt too heavy.

A men's single scull (M1x) athlete after training during the 2008 Asian Olympic Qualifying in Shanghai.
A men’s single scull (M1x) athlete carrying his roughly 14kg racing shell after training during the 2008 Asian Olympic Qualifying in Shanghai.

I imagine my weight as this 14kg rowing racing shell that I am carrying around all the time. This mental image somehow puts my weight problem in perspective. I may not be able to get rid of the weight at one go like single scullers do as soon as they put down the boat. But I could at least try to do it slowly until I reach my weight goal.

I started my new weight loss journey on January 7, 2016. But it was slow going at first. I was stuck to my starting weight for about 2 weeks. I guess my heart was not really into it. Things changed soon after I began experiencing pain from my old knee injury. This happened around the same time that both my Achilles heels were sore after my kendo training. I realized then that I had to take losing weight more seriously if I want to avoid aggravating the problems.

The recurring pains I had on my knee and Achilles heels prompted me to take a break from kendo again. I needed time to rest and recover. So I was not optimistic that I would be able to lose much weight when I had to stop training for some time. I had no particular weight loss plan in mind. I just decided to reactivate a MyFitnessPal account that has been dormant for over a year now. I tried to stick with the 1200-calorie diet every day. I enjoyed the same foods I did before but I was more conscious about portion control. I avoided eating out. But I did not say no to dinner meet-ups with friends. I am happy to say that in those 7 weeks, I have dined out (and ate a lot!)  with friends in at least 4 different occasions. Despite the indulgences, I have somehow managed to make better food choices. It was not easy given the temptations.

I guess concerns about old and potentially new injuries triggered my motivation to lose weight. The no-pressure weight loss strategy also helped me to shed 4kgs (8.82lbs) in a span of 7 weeks. That may not sound much. But given my lack of exercise while on break from kendo, I’ll have to say that losing that much is already a big win for me. I cannot wait to go back to training soon, especially since I think I am now on a weight loss plateau. One thing is for sure though, I am now fired up to reach my target weight.

A Fresh Start

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

I feel refreshed and lighter practicing kendo after shedding all that unnecessary baggage I’ve unwittingly carried in the past.

My sole focus now is to improve because:

  • I’m back to zero. Really. It’s like I’ve had to learn everything again from scratch.
  • My stamina is at record low.
  • My basics are pathetic.
  • My tenouchi/shibori seems non-existent.
  • My timing is off — by a lot.
  • My footwork, especially my fumikomi-ashi is laughable and just wrong in so many ways.
  • My zanshin isn’t as near as it was before.
  • And even my kiai is not as it used to be.

Given all these, I spent most of the time relearning everything. It was a tall order since there were new techniques and drills I had to learn as well. So when one of the kouhais who leads the group now (apart from our club manager) asked me for feedback after practice, I told him that I can’t give any because I’ve been focused on how to improve my own kendo. I also felt that I had no business discussing someone’s mistakes when I’m doing a lot of things wrong myself.

During uchikomi-geiko my kouhai partner asked me if she was doing the technique right and to teach her how to do it correctly. I told her that it’s my first time to do it as well so I might end up teaching her the wrong thing(s). Besides, in an environment where many are just too eager to teach that even newbies have no qualms about teaching just about everyone, one less person doing it shouldn’t matter much.

I’m not saying I won’t share feedback or correct a partner if needed.  But I will not do it haphazardly. Because if my goal is to help someone improve, I have to be more conscious of what to impart. I don’t know if that would be taken as selfishness on my part. But I think it would be more selfish to teach anyone something that I can’t even do right. The best people to do that would be the senseis or senpais who are teaching us, especially if it’s during keiko. I think I’d be of more help improving my kendo and setting an example by how I approach every practice.

The 5 Stages of Agony in Kendo Practice After 8 Weeks of Absence

1. Denial

I’m not coming back.
I’m just here to see if I still have it in me.
This pain is nothing.

2. Anger

Why am I doing this?!?!
I already left, didn’t I?!?! So what the hell am I doing here?!?!
OMG, I hate myself for doing this!!!
When is this torture going to end?!?!

3. Bargaining

Oh God, Buddha, the Universe! Please make this agony stop. I promise to practice more after this.

4. Depression

I really suck at this.
I feel so sad for being bad at this.

5. Acceptance

Things will only get better from here. I know it will. I may have to start back at zero. But rock bottom isn’t that bad. Because there’s no other way but up.

Kendo Musings: A Personal Lesson on Fortitude

I finally came back to Kendo training after a month-long hiatus. While the absence served as a setback in my progress since I started, it gave me the clarity I needed to push on.

I am even more convinced now that Kendo is a highly-individualized journey. I have done individual sports in the past, but this is the first time that I often find myself floundering. But despite this seemingly inherent nature of the sport/martial art, I still believe that there are certain things that should be embraced as a team or group. Because at the end of the day, no one progresses in Kendo alone. Everyone has to train with different partners at some point, even during the beginners’ stage.

I consider this phase in my training as a test of fortitude while swimming against a strong current of ambiguity. One of the challenges of the club is that there are only three people, excluding our sensei, who have visited a  more established dojo to train. The rest of the group do not have much exposure on the dynamics of clubs with several higher-ranked kendoka. While watching online videos to learn more between practices helps, actual interaction with experienced practitioners is vastly different.

Part of the reasons I distanced myself from training for a while is to broaden my perspective. I can be unabashedly intense, especially in doing things I am passionate about. And I have often been misunderstood because of that. I felt like I have to scale down (if that is even possible) or at least be more subtle about it.

The time away from training helped me recalibrate my expectations. I decided to let go of the things I cannot control and focus on my own progress. I feel more refreshed coming back to training last Saturday. Most of my concerns are still there. But I managed to stay in what I usually imagine as a force field — where nothing penetrates unless I allow it.

Kendo has been teaching me a lot including the tenacity to face the odds. Because as things stand, there are still issues I have to deal with to carry on:

Latecomers

“It is not polite to be late for practice” and other variations of it is really just a reminder on the importance of punctuality in Kendo. It is one of the pillars of etiquette taught early on. I always find it sad that after all these months of training, there are still many who cannot seem to abide by it. But I also know that there are times when it may be beyond their control. I do not know where the club stands on this as it does not seem to be much of an issue.

My take now::: Putting this on my “things I can’t control so live with it bucket”.

Cleaning the dojo floors with rags before practice

This is a policy that has not been implemented after a few tries. I am ambivalent about this given my lack of experience of how it is done in other dojos. But from a safety perspective, I think it makes a lot of sense to clean the floors first to remove anything that might injure our feet during training.

My take now::: Putting this on my “things I can’t control so live with it bucket”.

Checking of shinai before training

This has become a new issue for me because of what I have observed during last training. I noticed at least three kendoka wielding shinais showing some signs of problems. And it seemed to me like none of them were even aware of it. I may be able to let go of a lot of things, but I always draw a line when it comes to safety. I am trying to be careful to avoid accidents and injuring myself and others in training. I would like to think that I am training with people who are considerate of others’ safety.

My take now::: Putting this on my “please share a friendly reminder bucket”.

Not using shibori thus delivering or receiving painful head strikes

Imagine receiving painful blows at least a hundred times during training which leaves your head feeling bruised each time. You would probably wonder what the head gear is for. That was how it went for me during training. I was the first one in our club to raise this issue months ago. I am not claiming to be good at shibori at any point. Since we are all beginners, I am guessing I am also guilty of delivering poorly controlled strikes. The only difference is that no one gave me any feedback to help me correct my mistake.

It was a safety issue so I could not just keep quiet about it, especially after I noticed how different our instructor’s strikes were. I have also personally experienced being repeatedly struck by a visiting 6th Dan sensei. His strikes were nothing like the heavy blows I get during regular practices. It was then that I realized that a strike to the head (men) should not be painful if done properly. I was finally able to muster the courage to ask our club manager about it. Some efforts have been made to correct it. But they have not been sustained so the problem mostly persists.

My take now::: Putting this on my “I’ve done what I could and there is not much I can do but be cautiously optimistic about it bucket”

Folding of kendo-gi and hakama after practice

This is one of those things we were told to do but only a few actually follow. I was not initially happy about it since it meant I could not leave immediately after training which often ends late. But I think of it as part of training that I need to do. Sadly, it is a view that not everyone seems to share. And it is a bit hard for me to understand why those who have time to stay longer and chat could not seem to find the time to do this. Still, I would rather focus on those who are actually doing it. Those are the people I might learn something from.

My take now::: Putting this on my “things I can’t control so live with it bucket”.

When the Going Gets Tough, Keep Going

medal

Lately, I have been engrossed in some self-inflicted dramas. I somehow overlooked the fact that I am not a powerless victim incapable of controlling the things that I can. Whatever issues I may have can only be summed up into any of these: 1) things I can change and 2) things beyond my control. For instance, there are no outside factors I can blame if I am overweight and unfit. I only have to point a finger to my own laziness and lack of self-discipline to know where the buck stops.

On the upside, I know that I have it in me to improve things. I may no longer be a competitive athlete, but I have learned a few things from being one to get through life. If there are things I learned from all the years of training for flag and country, they would be these:

Embrace fear

The demands and expectations from competitive athletes being trained to represent their country are high. I imagine the training of elite athletes as not much different from military training sans the guns, artillery, and occasional (and secret) hazing that some unlucky plebes get. Routines are a given. But it is not the kind of routine where you can predict what is going to happen every single time. Instead, you learn to face your fears over and over again.

Life as an athlete is filled with surprises as well as intense levels of hardships and pains. I have experienced constant dread not knowing what kind of new challenge lies ahead. I remember early mornings when my teammate and I, often the earliest birds, wait at the track oval for our land training – the first workout of the day. I remember the feeling of anticipation mingled with apprehension of what awaits us.

As I watched the sky lighten up as the sun rises, the only thing I could do then was to muster the courage to taken on whatever it is that comes my way. Because the only thing my teammates and I are sure of is that we cannot really know what our so-called training routines have in store for us. Our coaches and trainers had the knack of surpassing our expectations in raising the proverbial bar that we were expected to hurdle. I have learned to expect the unexpected and just put myself out there like there will be no tomorrow.

Do not expect an easy life

There is no such thing as “easy” days in training. There are only less hellish days. Just when you have thought you got it all together, something is bound to come up to prove you wrong. I have learned to rely on willpower to get through the toughest conditions. And I realized that happiness is not about breezing through life. It is about going through hell and coming out a much better person from it. The seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years spent in training can change you in more ways you can imagine.

You get what you give

Anyone can cheat during training. But the ones who do ultimately end up on the losing end. The less you give of yourself into the hours of grueling training, the less chances you get in breaking your personal best(s).

In a team sport, it is a great disservice to the team when you slack off. We have often been told that the strength of the team is it’s weakest (wo)man. Slacking off means you are not improving with the others. You become a burden to those who are trying their best to secure a win for the team.

The trouble with mediocrity is that it could become a habit. One day adds up to the many other days. And the more you indulge in it, the easier it becomes to accept it. In sport and in life, you get what you give. If you demand excellence from yourself, you’re more likely to get excellent results.

The rules are simple

The way professional and amateur athletes play nowadays is much different than before. Advancements in sports technology, nutrition, and other aspects of competitive training have changed how games are played. There is nothing wrong in optimizing available resources to ensure peak performance as long as they are legal and within the sports’ standards.

But beyond the innovative training programs, high-tech equipment, and well-chosen nutritional supplements, the simple rules still apply such as:

Get the right amount of sleep – Lights off at 9:00PM and wake up at 5:00AM. These are among the rules we lived by at the athletes’ dorm. And I can really say that I tend to perform much better when I get enough sleep.

Eat right – Eating right is important for optimum performance. It is still the most effective way to maintain, lose, or gain weight and fuel performance.

Choose the proper way to train – There are many elements in a good training program. A well-designed and sport-specific program, qualified coaches and trainers to handle the training, and the support from sports nutritionists, psychologists, physiotherapists, and more all contribute to achieving peak performance. Knowing what is good for you and your body helps. And that includes making good decisions based on what is right for you.

Make time for mental/psychological preparations – The demands of playing a sport is not just physical. There is a lot of mental and psychological element going on. Visualization and mental training through positive suggestions are some of the techniques I have learned from two sports psychologists who have greatly influenced me.

Opt for a healthy lifestyle – Healthy living makes it easier for the mind and body to step up when the going gets tough.

Not everyone gets to win the gold and step on the podium or the world stage of sports. But everyone can live as champions in everyday life. These are the things that I need to remind myself to crawl out of the rut that I seem to have fallen into.

Taking a Step Back to Figure Out How to Move Forward

I saw this coming as early as the last two months of last year. And by “this” I mean this hiatus from Kendo training. I am hoping that a month should be enough for me to put things in perspective. The commitment is still  there albeit shaken by growing discontent.

Putting a name to the feeling that has been weighing me down for the past months is a wake up call on my part. Dissatisfied is far from what I imagine myself would feel in my Kendo journey. If there are words I want to live by in Kendo they would be all or any of these: Challenged. Committed. Self-disciplined. Self-motivated. Tenacious.

But what I feel now matters in the long run. For this reason, I am taking a step back to figure out how I should move forward. Because giving up is not what I have in mind. I need to address this if I want to grow in this martial art. But I cannot effectively do that if I continue to let this feeling of discontent fester. Taking some time away from training gives me an opportunity to reflect on things including the reasons why I started out in the first place.

In the two weeks (i.e. two training days since our club trains once a week) I have been away, I realized that it is the gap between expectation and reality that has been dragging me down. Obviously, it is my problem. But I believe that the root causes are valid. I will just have to find that delicate balance between setting realistic expectations given my current environment and being a catalyst for whatever small changes or improvements we can make. This is not an easy feat given what I have experienced over the past months. But I am willing to give it a try. At the very least, I could persevere regardless of what is happening around me or how others choose to approach their training.

But if there are things I really want to learn in Kendo it would be the following:

  • Learn, embrace, and practice reigi and reiho
  • “Master” the basics (read: strive to be better at them every training)
  • Never let prevailing conditions drag me down
  • Do not let other people’s beliefs and behaviors hinder me from my goals
  • And take pleasure in the simple joys like being able to fold my hakama a little bit faster than I used to.

folded hakama