I once had a dream that I was in karate class, and I was standing in the front with everyone else watching me. The Sensei kept telling me to do things that were not martial arts, things like singing and dancing, and juggling. I remember thinking “I hate you all!”, but I kept doing whatever was asked of me.
I believe I’ve gotten as much as I have out of martial arts training because I’ve tried to fully commit to the process. I came into it open to learning whatever I could, without letting my own preconceived notions of it, and of myself, get in the way. It is actually very freeing to truly let go, and give myself over to something. I don’t question the value of the things I am asked to do, I just try to do them to the best of my ability. Not that there aren’t things I don’t want to do sometimes, I just try to not let what I want get in the way of my training.
As far as the things I am expected to do even though no one but me knows if I am or not, that is the true test of commitment. I always do my best to comply, just as I would if everyone were watching me. The only person I would really be hurting by not doing them is myself, but it would also be very disrespectful to think that I don’t have to do what everyone else does. Besides, I know that very few things can really be hidden from our teachers, they see a lot more than you think they do.
You can’t be a true martial artist by partially committing, or only doing what you want to do. There is a method to the madness, and a reason for the rules, even if you don’t understand or agree. Yes, it’s possible to half-ass it and still advance in rank, but where is that really getting you? You have to “cast about the search earnestly” to get the full rewards. If you don’t learn how to keep your ego quiet, you will never hear everything that Budo is trying to tell you.
“Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do ‘yes’ or karate do ‘no.’ You karate do ‘guess so,’ [makes squish gesture] just like grape. Understand?” – Mr. Miyagi