Shomen ni rei!
Otagai ni rei!
Migi mai sanchin dachi!
Seiken chudan tsuki! Ichi! Ni! San!…..
Every day. Same thing. Sometimes I feel like Phil Connors. Karate training has its own ebb and flow and when your regimen goes unaltered for too long it can get stagnant and boring. But that boredom can be useful – just maybe not in the way you think.
In our culture today we are used to instant gratification; push this button – get the good feels. Don’t get any good feels? Find a new button and press it! Our games, technology, entertainment, and even our politics has trained us to value what is instant over what is enduring. And this expectation will, naturally, be imbued into any student that gets into a dogi.
A while back I wrote about some new students and how two of the three had already dropped out. Some weeks later we lost the 3rd and since then others have come and gone as well. Now clearly, they quit for a variety of unsaid reasons: because Kyokushin is a full-contact style or because they wanted something more MMA-ish or because they thought it weird that we OSU every 5.5 seconds.
But there are some who lasted long enough to get used to all that and yet still quit. And those are the ones for whom I think the tedium of training was too much. They come to the dojo hoping to learn something quickly and at the end of three weeks they don’t feel as if they can take on a random mugger. They decide that hitting the heavy bag and punching air for 50, 60, 70 reps at a time isn’t going to work. But they look at the instructor, and the senpai around them and decide that maybe the “real” stuff is after they learn the basics. So they endure…
…For a while. Three or four more weeks go by and the new student still hasn’t felt that flush of satisfaction. And more noticeably, they start to get bored with the routine: bow, warm up, stretch, kihon, kata, kumite, bow. So they quit.
This feeling of boredom isn’t limited to newbies either. I, myself, feel it as well sometimes. Sometimes I’ll find myself thinking about going for a run or lifting weights or spending my time on my heavy bag at home instead of going to the dojo where I will perform my 4 millionth mai geri or my 9 millionth seiken. And sometimes that’s just what I do.
So how is the boredom of training useful? In short, it weeds out the weak of heart. In our dojo we don’t have a lot of kids; and that isn’t because we’re a bunch of jerks. But rather, we just don’t cater the attention span of children. Eventually they all drop out. Same is said of our teenage students. We just don’t keep them. Hell, even adults drift away after a while (though the good ones always seem to make their way back). I don’t often wax poetic but if you look at it a certain way, then losing the students who cant handle the hard training, or the tedium, is akin to hammering out the weaknesses in steel. You lose a lot of material by the time you get from ore to sword, but the end product, the dojo, and by extension the style, is all the better for it.