So, last night I was watching an episode of South Park, where Stan’s dad developed an alcohol addiction. One of the things that came up was Stan telling his dad that he didn’t need AA, or miracles, he just needed “the disciprin”, which Stan had been taught by his martial arts instructor.
This put me in mind of my own training, and finally got me to set this blog up properly, and sit down and write a post.
I train a few different martial arts (4, at this current moment in time) and it takes up an awful lot of my time. To continue at a level I’m satisfied with in all of my training, I put in an awful lot of time and effort – all told, I train anywhere between 5 and 6 days a week, and sometimes twice in the same day (usually twice Saturday and Sunday). It’s a demanding schedule that can be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting, taxing, and elating. In addition, I spend almost all of my free time (and holidays from work) travelling to seminars abroad and around Ireland. It’s a big time commitment, and a not insignificant financial outlay too. And, I suppose, if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t keep doing it (and I’m sure many who know me have wondered why I continue to put all of my time into it).
I guess the answer to that is that I love it. The bruises and bumps that come with the territory don’t sting as much when you’re enjoying what you’re doing. I am hungry for new knowledge, and I am committed to succeeding in what I do. I want to reach the top and then push higher. The early mornings, the late nights, the hours of travel – I love all of it.
Well, I love almost all of it, because there is an undeniable factor to any martial arts training that I just can’t love, because I find it so utterly tiresome. That is “politics”. This phrase is ubiquitous in the martial arts world, and despite best efforts, appears to be completely unavoidable. It seems that no matter where you go, and no matter what you do, you’ll get caught up in it. It’s a genuine shame, but it really does seem like the higher you fly, the more people want to catch you. If you travel to other clubs, other countries, and you excel, you draw attention to yourself. And inevitably, with that attention comes the bad as well as the good. On the one hand, people will praise your skill, your dedication, your heart. And on the other hand, they’ll condemn you for belonging to the “wrong” club, for wearing the “wrong” suit, for training the “wrong” art. And over time, I’ve come to the conclusion that you simply can’t win when it comes to martial politics.
As a girl, I’ve always felt that I needed to try twice as hard when I’m training, to prove to those around me (particularly bigger men around me) that I am a legitimate martial artist. I don’t ask for special treatment because I’m a girl – I don’t want anyone to treat me like I’m made of china. I’ve gotten where I am today by taking a long long journey, turning my mind and my body into something that can take those punches, survive those throws, and then get back up again afterwards. And when someone says that I am good at what I do, I never, ever, want that to include the “for a girl” caveat.
I don’t regret trying hard to prove myself, because it has helped to shape the martial artist that I am today. I’ll continue to work hard, and continue to push myself to be better, harder, faster, stronger, and everything else that comes with the territory. One thing I do regret, occasionally, is the politics.
When it comes right down to it, I really just want to train. I want to learn, I want to be a good student, and I want to train. I don’t want the training I do on one day to impact the training I do another day. I don’t want the colour of my suit or the patch on my arm to dictate how my training session will go. When I travel to other clubs, other countries, etc. I do my very best to “empty my cup” – to enter into the club and do it their way, rather than slavishly sticking to what I know. I come to learn, not to tell you how we do it in <insert martial art here>. I endeavour to always be polite, respectful, and a quick and eager learner.
Please, let me fill my cup with what you know, not what you hate.