036) Progress in Your Training-> Walls that become portals: Week of May 25, 2009

I always go through a period of intense self-reflection after each training period with Ushiro Sensei.  Comments from some of the attendees and from some of my students echo my own reflections.  We work hard to reach some measure of success in our martial arts training.  We struggle when we approach certain levels of achievement.  We feel as though we are banging into walls and we are so close but cannot seem to get to that next level.  We persist and try working “different angles” to reach that peak that is within our sights, yet these walls seem to remain in our way.  We can get angry, frustrated, depressed about our seeming inability to make that last “push” to the top.

One day, without any advanced notice, the wall is not there any more.  Instead, that wall has transformed into a portal leading us to new heights of ability.  We revel in this achievement and work even harder to take this milestone and integrate it into all aspects of our martial arts training.  This work is joyful and does not seem to tire us.  Without warning, we seem to be working again towards some next level of achievement.  It is like we are climbing a mountain all over again.  This process repeats itself endlessly.  I guess that this pattern could be something that we can get use to over time.

Some of my students have commented that coming to train with me makes them feel as though what they had done before was not good enough or even useful for that matter.  This is the same experience that I always seem to walk away from when I train with Ushiro Sensei.  I have been with Imaizumi Sensei for so long, that this “disconnect” from where I am and where he is seems to be a more manageable, yet endless process.  One high ranking karateka e-mailed me and stated that after the Ushiro Sensei seminar, he felt as though the last twenty years of training had been wasted!

We would always like to believe that our progress in martial arts should take this measurable, stepwise progression upwards.  Yet there are always these moments of what seems like an immense distance between where we are and where we see some other people in the martial arts world.  It would be easy to become discouraged and take an easy path away from these “troubling” realizations.  There will always be people who far better than us and even far worse than us.  Instead of seeing a chasm, we should see a possibility of what we can attain.  We simply need to continue on the path of growth in our martial arts training.  We will always encounter these walls that do not budge for us.  We will always be amazed how these walls transform into portals.  We need most of all a good teacher and patience to allow our growth to become self-evident to us.  We should never stop trying to be like those teachers whom we see as sitting in places that we hope to one day inhabit.

Marc Abrams Sensei

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