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Home > Columns > "The Grindstone" > June, 2006 - Perseverance, Perspiration, Pain, Pleasure, Progress and Persnickety Physicality

Perseverance, Perspiration, Pain, Pleasure, Progress and Persnickety Physicality by "The Grindstone"

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This column was written by Michael Collins

Been training with much greater consistency lately, and I've begun to slowly understand some stuff about myself.

In the past, my M.O. has been to train well for a period, kind of get in a groove, get feeling really good, start to actually develop some stuff on an understanding level, and begin to feel like I have a shot at actually beginning to develop some true depth as an Aikidoist (I avoid the term Aikidoka, I understand there is some cultural baggage that comes with the suffix "ka"). Then, some one of life's little "burps" will come along, and my training regimen gets changed, or more accurately, I have an excuse to not train for a few days or weeks, and I get completely sideways, and it can be literally weeks, months, or years before I get back on track in a really meaningful way. This is a pattern I've been able to see for some years, and yet, I've not ever been able to functionally break the cycle.

I have a back that occasionally makes a weakling out of me, I have knees that don't much care for the exceptional duty my appetites have required them to stand up to, I have a body that weighs probably 40-50% more than it really should, and my poor little lungs can't ever seem to keep up with any serious demand. All that combines to make training back from any little break painful, difficult and mentally exhausting (it takes a lot of mental strength to push a cranky, weak body to get to its' limits).

As soon as my body balks, my tiny little mind takes over, and decides that I'm: Too old, too fat, too lazy, genetically inferior, unathletic, unmotivated, unwilling to evolve, some other stuff I can't even remember just now, because I'm not in the throes of my own mental doo-doo at this moment. So I set myself up for these pain-in-the-butt cycles of expectations and failures, interspersed with periods of sane, healthy training and growth.

So, now I have a different set of priorities, a new set of responsibilities, and I've begun to learn something: My body is "Rainman". It does not like any changes to its' routine, and it bitches and moans, and quits, it freaks out, screams, jumps up and down, and needs to be soothed into again falling back into its' easy groove. Once there, it becomes very comfortable, even begins to like small exertions against its' limits; any extended rest, and mental breaks in the daily routine, and my physical side just can't deal.

Now, I have to be there pretty near every day, and I try to hang out and try to train, even when it's not my night to teach. I have had some problems with my knee(s) since I started the new dojo, so I don't train every class, but I do train in every class I teach, and I try to train in the classes my fellow instructors teach, so that like it or not, I am on the mat and suited up at least 4 nights a week most weeks, and often several times more. I have discovered that while my mind makes a lot of rationalizations and excuses why I shouldn't suit up and train at all, if I just do it anyway, unless I'm just too tired, I benefit physically. My knees very much like to train, even if not very well, and gradually, they are healing; my mind is able, after some physical change for the better, to accept that I don't need to be 100% to be training, I only need to be 100% of what I have available in a given day.

My teacher is a man who has such a physical practice, that I have made the mistake of comparing myself to what I see now, and what I've been told about him, and I never, ever find myself comparing favorably. But that, I now am beginning to see is just a waste of my mental energy. What I need to be comparing is, myself now to who I was, and how I moved 5 or 10 years ago, and not only on a physical level. I am aging, that is just a fact of life, no matter how much I dislike that fact. I can either use that fact as an excuse to quit, and back away from my training, or I can accept the fact exactly as it is, without any overlays of expectation, and train, every day, as best as I am able. I owe it to myself to rest when I need, train with whatever I brung with me each day, and simply persevere through times when pain makes me modify my training. My own worst enemy has always been my own expectations of what I "should" be. Nobody can live up to such an expectation, and falling always short of what I think I should be is a practice of self-destruction I can better live without.

What brings pleasure in this art changes for me from period to period. At first it was the gathering of new knowledge, then it was the physicality of just the doing of this stuff, and the social aspects of the training and after the training. Lately, I find myself taking great pleasure in the really good friendships, and the crap I keep uncovering about/for myself. I am convinced that the process of sticking with something, which uncovers so much "stuff" about myself, is the practice I've been thinking I was missing in my life and my Aikido.

So, at the end of the day, I guess my Rainman body and my whiny, critical mind are 2 of my most intimate training partners, instead of the nemesiseseses (nemisi?) I've long thought they were. One day soon, I hope to train with them vigorously and with great aplomb. Till then, I'll just be the old fat guy who gets up slow, but seems to keep doing it forever.

Come join us at Aikido Santa Clara. You ain't likely to learn anything, but you'll probably have fun.

-- Michael Collins

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