Showing posts from July, 2013

What does the "path" look like?

If you study any modern Japanese martial art, you are no doubt familiar with the concept of "do." It's most often translated as "way" or "path," which makes for a very handy and versatile metaphor for the long, wonderful journey that is budo.

If, then, the study of a martial art (or really anything) can be likened to a path, what does that path actually look like? To me, it takes on different forms as you progress.

A paved street
When you first start your study of an art, and for some time afterward, the path will probably look like a paved street. That road has been paved by the many who have come before you, who have traveled this exact path a hundred thousand times. It's a solid foundation, and it's objective is firm.

There are all kinds of signs and maps to help you along your way, to guide you in the right direction, also designed by those who arrived long before you. Failure to follow that guidance will likely get you lost very quickly.

Handling Burn Out Part 3

So, I've talked a bit about my experiences with "burn out", particularly why it tends to happen, and what to do when it does happen. The last dimension of the topic I wanted to touch on was:
How do you prevent burn out from happening?Well, in a word: relax, man.

Pace yourself
As tempting as it may be when you're really into your art, I would advise not going to every single class and every clinic, like I did. Pace yourself, champ. Budo is, as they say, a marathon not a sprint.

There are people who exist as living exceptions to that, of course; there will always be those rare few who seem destined to do this stuff as their primary purpose in life, but you need to brutally honest with yourself whether or not that's you. And for many, that may take years to figure out.

Avoid major life events
Okay, I'm kidding. Obviously, you can't avoid major life events, expected or not. So to that end, you might as well just accept that they will come and they will derail y…

Tenkan vs Tenkai

A question came up the other today about the difference between the words "tenkan" and "tenkai" which I think gets confused at times. As far as I understand it...

Tenkan 転換 breaks down as:
転 suddenly, quickly
換 change, alter, substitute
and together 転換 as convert or divert

You might think of it as changing direction suddenly, or diverting uke's energy. In aikido, it refers to a turning movement (tenkan ashi), usually 180 degrees:

Tenkai 転回, however, breaks down like this:
転 suddenly, quickly
回 turn, rotate, revolve
and together 転回 as revolution or rotation

In much of the aikido world, it refers to a form of movement, what we commonly call a "hip switch", where you turn 180 degrees but without moving our feet (we do it in the Walking Kata, but there it's called "ude goshi gaeshi" or arm-hip reversal, which frankly is probably more clear):

Both tenkan and tenkai are part of what's called tai sabaki or methods of moving the body.

So, what…

Handling Burn Out Part 2

Most of us, at some point in our training, will encounter some level of "burn out." In may case, it may even happen a number of times.

The other day, I wrote out some thoughts on what could possibly cause it (at least as far as I'm concerned). Today, I thought I'd offer a few thoughts on what has helped me deal with it.
What do you do when burn out happens?This may sound crazy, but let it.

Whenever you get hurt or sick, your body has ways of telling you something is wrong. Whether it be pain signals or fatigue, your body is trying to tell you to slow down, that something just ain't right. In fact, I came across a study once that showed arthritis can be directly caused by—not just exacerbated by, caused by—severe anxiety and depression. The brain is essentially crying out for help any way it can!

So feeling burned out is probably your body's way of saying, Hey, something ain't right. Or, for the more poetically inclined, life it out of balance, your yin a…

Handling Burn Out

It doesn't seem to matter how intensely interested a person is in studying his or her martial art of choice, all of us, at some point or another, come face to face with burn out.

Now, "burning out" can range anywhere from a small sort of fizzle—in which your interest dips, or your body is just plain worn out so you take a brief vacation for a week or two—all the way to a complete and utter implosion, where you give up entirely on the art and never set foot in a dojo again.

I myself, have gone through several burn outs, so you might say I'm something of an authority on the subject. Fortunately, in each case, the burn out was never so bad as to prevent me from returning. I took months, even years off, but (so far) have always come back.

So what is "burn out" exactly? Why does it happen? What do we do when it happens? How do we prevent it from happening?

Over the years, I've developed a few ideas, and this post is the first of three on the subject.

Why doe…