Tuesday, December 31, 2013
A New Years Message for 2014
There is something about this time of the year that, culturally, gives us pause for reflection on the year(s) past. For most, we make resolutions about how we will live our lives going forward – what "new" decisions we will make and what "new" actions we will take – in the New Year. As 2013 draws to a close, most in our culture participate in this ritual.
Ironically, studies show that the majority of people, by week 8 of the New Year, have given up in their efforts to lose weight, exercise, stop smoking, manage money, reduce debt, etc. Some have repeated this process so often without success that they enter it expecting to fail - or, even worse, have stopped trying to improve themselves altogether…
In my role as a teacher at the Midwest Academy, I sometimes humbly assist in mentoring students with changes they wish to make in various areas of their lives that are separate from the training floor. However, the lessons from training always become force multipliers in their personal success. As such, I often use the analogy of performing a throwing technique when solicited for guidance: When teaching classes on nage (“throws”), beginning level students tend to see the initial-contact between tori (the one that performs the “technique”) and uke (the one that receives the “technique”), and then see the end-contact point when the throw is completed. What transpires in between the 'initial-contact' and 'end-contact' is what requires study, training, and practice. It is elusive to their eyes primarily because all of the facets of success are not yet understood by their mind – as a result, beginners tend to “impose” their “will” through the process of doing “too much”. Too much strength. Too much movement. Too much of effort. At times they may be successful in producing the desired outcome (the throw) through the incorrect process (too much strength, movement, effort, etc), but it is, ultimately, the proverbial attempt to “put a square peg into a round hole” – it is inefficient and therefore unsustainable.
Since we have had so much success using this analogy to mentor ourselves and others, and since it is the traditional time of the year when so many people make resolutions, we are sharing our thoughts here in hopes of facilitating someone's future success. The concept of tsukuri is particular to martial arts generally, and those that include throws within their curriculum specifically. The concept includes the creation of space/spatial-distance which your training partner/opponent is forced to fill with their movement as a consequence of the limitations of human kinesiology and movement laws. Since tsukuri is purposefully created, the filling of that space provides a predictable opportunity to gain an advantage through synergy; an opportunity that tori can exploit. We say that this opportunity has synergy since it is the result of the combined movements of tori and uki in contrast to forces working antagonistically. Tsukuri allows for the technique to be both effective and efficient – it becomes a sustainable skill in that, when correctly performed, works all the time and every time in a repeatable and predictable manner.
One of the benefits of long term martial arts training is that concepts such as tsukuri become intuitive to the practitioner. Skilled exponents of the arts, without being conscious of it, extrapolate concepts such as tsukuri into all aspects of their “regular life”. Oftentimes these internalized concepts influence their decision making process in ways that are difficult for them to articulate to the uninitiated, but nonetheless contribute to the soundness and success of their decisions and actions. For them effectiveness must be married with efficiency - and the result is a sustainable and repeatable solution or process.
Returning again to thoughts of the New Year, the staff at the Midwest Academy offers this discussion from the perspective of our own life, training, and teaching experiences. Our staff and students are encouraged to continually seek out opportunities for personal growth and to make quality of life changes that are good for themselves, good for others, and serve the greater good. In order to operate at that level, each of us is required to do the following: look for tsukuri – focus on what you will gain by the new decisions and actions such that the “space” for the old decisions and actions is removed. If your resolution requires an investment of time, look at the totality of your time to determine where you can create efficiencies in order to create tsukuri – a space of time – for you to invest into your new decisions and actions. Focus on how the old decisions and actions are holding you back and how the new decisions and actions will empower you - those dual focus points will go a long way to creating both synergy and personal momentum.
Finally remember that success is predicated on recovering from and learning from numerous previous failures – every time we perform a repetition of a given technique, there is something we can learn from it that will help us in the next repetition. As long as we keep working at it with an eye towards both efficiency and effectiveness, we will continue to improve in a way that is sustainable. The advent of the New Year is a great reason to make new decisions and take new actions, however, if you are not immediately successful, get right back at it; do not wait for the next New Year, next month, next week, next day, or even next minute! If you make that alone part of your core values, you cannot fail. It is what makes great teachers. It makes great technicians. It creates good health. It creates financial abundance. It is the cornerstone of an approach that improves the total quality of one’s life.
“Some who has mastered an art reveals it in their every action.” –Hagakure –
Happy New Year! May you be unstoppable in 2014!
- The Academy Staff -