I’ve had the good fortune to spend over 20 years training in a traditional martial art called Nanzen Kai Karate. It was a small school in Staten Island NY. Although the training was difficult, I loved it.
The funny thing is I thought I was joining the school to refine my fighting skills, and yet it turned out to be so much more. I can honestly say that this practice altered my mind and body and spirit in truly profound ways.
My first day of training
As fate would have it, my very first day of training was with Kaicho Kashimoto himself and no other students but me. That was my first introduction to his life altering philosophy.
I distinctly remember that he said to me, ” When you come here to train, don’t compete against anyone but yourself. Don’t challenge anyone. Challenge yourself.” I’d trained in martial arts in the past, with several prominent instructors in the New York area but had never heard that idea articulated in that way. I was hooked from that very first class.
One of the school rules was that you were not allowed to talk or ask questions. If you didn’t understand a technique after it was demonstrated, you were to simply observe and try to learn by sight. Kashimoto called it “stealing information.” It was your responsibility to gather that information.
There was a lot on emphasis placed on personal responsibility . For instance, it was not allowed to lean on the school walls. That would indicate that you were weak and needed support outside of yourself.
If, during a sparring match your opponent fell on the floor, you were not to extend your hand to offer help in picking them up. That was viewed as an insult to the person on the ground indicating that they were unable to get up without your help.
The power of journals
Kashimoto demanded that we kept records of our training. He called it our history. Earning a black belt took about four to five years of consistent training. When you were asked to prepare for your black belt ceremony, you were also asked to prepare your history on paper. That history was a written summary of the years of training.
For me it was a cross between a resume and an essay. Not only were you to articulate your training over the years, you must also detail the promotions you attended, as well as the lessons you learned from your training. That included the fighting skills developed, but also the philosophy and how it applied to everyday life.
To this day, I still have journals from my training days. I was so into it that I would write down my training regiment after every class I attended. Minute by minute. I still write in my journal regularly. I find that it helps me organize my thinking.
In ending this post I will encourage you to find a good mentor for your goals. Mentors help you see things you won’t necessarily see on your own. A good mentor will shorten your learning curve considerably. A great mentor will provide life lessons that will potentially alter your life. I am truly grateful to have had Tamon Kashimoto enter my life when he did.
Find your mentor. And remember, it’s your time to shine.