Those who have read my blog for a while know that, for the past several years, I have been trying to find ways to improve my level of physical fitness. While there may be many who think it strange, even insulting, to think of a martial arts instructor being in less than peak physical condition, the fact remains that teaching a martial art is not the same as training in it. I know that my aikido skills have improved since I began teaching–my fitness levels, on the other hand, have remained stagnant.

About eight months ago, I was talking to a student who was a big advocate of a couple of workout systems–namely the P90X and Insanity programs. I won’t explain these workouts here. It’s enough to say that the former is an intense workout program focusing on resistance training, while the latter is an even more intense program focusing on cardio. These workouts are known to be hard, but I have faced tougher challenges. with discipline and focus, I completed a round of each program, with good results.

But this post isn’t about my results.

You see, after I started these workouts, I began to meet people–friends, acquaintances–who also have tried these workouts. Time and again, these people told me how they had tried the workouts, but stopped after a few days because it was too hard. Or that they were doing the workouts, but only once every few days or so. At first, I smiled politely as I listened. But as the number of people i met started to increase, I decided I had to be honest as well.

These excuses, these statements of “It’s too hard” or “I only do it now and then” are nonsense. ridiculous nonsense.

You see, what aikido has taught me is that you can do anything. But to do anything, you first have to have an honest assessment of yourself, and a willingness to accept that assessment. Too often, I think people are deluded into a false sense of their own capabilities. Then, when something comes along that shatters this delusion, they can’t handle it. I see this often on the mat. Strong guys who have difficulty acknowledging the limits of their strength; flexible people who are baffled as to why their speed and agility fail them. Those who do well on the mat are those who find their limits and embrace them, who see them not as blows to their egos but waypoints on the paths to self-improvement. to quote an ultra-marathoner I heard interviewed the other day: the ego is what makes you quit; the soul is what makes you strive. Good training, good living, requires that you shed your ego, find your limits and lose, so that your soul can flourish.

This idea is difficult enough to explain to someone on the mat–you can imagine how hard it is to convey to someone who really is just looking to lose a few pounds. But I have decided to try. Now, when I meet someone who says they can’t do P90X, I still listen politely. But then I look them straight in the eye and tell them there is nothing in these workouts that they cannot do; they simply need to acknowledge that their self-image doesn’t match their reality. And as long as you can acknowledge this, you are not only okay–you are truly on the path to making your life better.

2 thoughts on “Acknowledge

  1. Hi Dave-san,

    I realized that I had an issue with my conditioning years ago. As instructors, we come to realize the trap we seemed to be snared in. Teaching requires a substantial amount of mat time which takes away from training time. I solved the problem by joining the local YMCA and workout there 3 times a week. Nick Nichols joins me on most mornings. Of course at my age that’s all I need.

    Your comments on the mental side of this issue were right on target if one”s life expectations are to be realized. Biblical implications need mentioning here: “All things in moderation.” Air is necessary to live but “too much air can kill.” Too much food, too much exercise and too much water. All these things can kill or maim.

    We can do many thing when the will-power is set in motion however – Logic is what’s called for here.

  2. Aknowlege one’s limits to achieve anything? Seems paradoxical to me…how about assessing one’s possibilities to know how much we can go too far? Martial arts are idealistic by nature,always challenging the artist to improve himself by observation effort and thinking.Training seems to be a system of trials and errors and learning from one’s mistakes rather than deciding from the start to remain within the limits of one’s possibilities…Might be that risk is in the logic of martial arts training…

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