View Single Post
Old 06-21-2009, 07:14 AM   #11
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 3,059
Re: Training when you can't train (injured newbie)?

Linda Eskin wrote: View Post
Don't worry about me drowning in information. I know exactly what you're talking about, but I'm just "coming up to speed," sorta. In my work I typically get thrown into deep ends all the time, and it's fun to assymilate as much information and knowledge as quickly as I can. Not so I'll be any kind of expert, but enough that I can understand what people are talking about, know what to watch for, perceive subtleties I might've missed, and so on. I won't keep up at this rate, but while I've got the downtime (I can't ride or do gardening, either, right now) I might as well indulge my brain.
I don't think Dean is talking about "drowning in information"; I'm pretty sure he's talking about a different kind of drowning. What he says is excellent advice and it's worth heeding. There is something of a tendency for new students to want to eat drink breathe and sleep aikido (and it's not just aikido; you see this in every other style too). A year later, most of the students who couldn't get enough aikido at month two are no longer training. There are a lot of reasons why people quit training, but I think that the jump-in-the-deep-end approach has a few specific dangers that lead to a high turnover rate. In no particular order:

1. Injury. Injuries can happen to anyone, but they're more likely to happen to those who take every possible opportunity to train -- especially remembering that very few new students are in ideal conditioning for the rigors of aikido training. Constant training, training in aikido to the exclusion of other forms of exercise, adding aikido onto a schedule that doesn't allow time for adequate sleep, improper diet -- all of these are going to get in the way of developing good aikido conditioning, and that in turn will increase the chance of injury. And then, once injured -- and it could be a trivial injury -- the same drive to train train train that set you up for injury in the first place, will interfere with your ability to heal. When a student who was carried on a big wave of initial enthusiasm encounters an injury, he/she will up against the fact that dealing with an injury requires a completely different mindset. These students always want to know "how long?" and "how do I FIX IT" and "okay, so how much training can I do?" When the answers to the first two questions come back, "indefinite," and "you don't," and the only safe "training" doesn't fulfill what the student is really looking for (i.e., full participation in class and the social aspect of dojo life), many students get discouraged and quit.

2. Life.
Everyone has one, but a lot of enthusiastic new aikidoka put theirs on hold to train four, five, six days a week. Over time, this simply isn't sustainable without making some major sacrifices in other areas of your life -- sacrifices that most people can't make, and that even more people shouldn't make. We all have to schedule our training on top of work and family responsibilities, and training frequently may not be possible without shorting those responsibilities. Some people are able to make accommodations that make frequent training possible, but I suspect the most successful ones do this gradually and carefully. Also, when making sacrifices in other areas of your life for aikido, the sacrifices have to be yours to make. Deciding not to watch television for two hours a night is a sacrifice that you can decide to make. Deciding to show up at work exhausted and ineffective because your two hours of training a day are coming out of your sleep schedule is not.

3. Expecting too much from aikido. A lot of newbies get very star-eyed about aikido because it seems to be doing all kinds of wonderful things for them. Well, it does do wonderful things, and for many people in a modern industrialized society, it can provide something that's been missing in their lives. It's a form of exercise, and we humans feel a lot better, physically and mentally, when we're exercising on a regular basis. It's social, done in company with others, as opposed to many solitary pastimes like television-watching or computer games. It's active engagement rather than passive entertainment. For many people, it gives them their first experience of persevering at a voluntary activity and gaining a degree of accomplishment. These things aren't really all that amazing; it's just that they're so absent from the standard sedentary desk-job watch-the-TV existence that many newcomers believe that there's something magical and unique about aikido, because it was in aikido that they experienced these cool things. The problem is that they then expect their aikido experience to be a constant stream of epiphanies and life-changing moments, isn't. Or they expect aikido to start having magical effects on their life in other ways. Either way, when they're not getting a big rush of wonderful new discovery every week, a lot of people start to lose interest.

So, I think Dean's point was a good one. Of course, an enthusiastic newcomer can't imagine burning out, but then, neither could many enthusiastic newcomers who came before. Then they hit one of these pitfalls, or many some other pitfall that I haven't thought of. I don't think that you can just say to yourself, "Be less enthusiastic!" and solve the problem that way, but I think it's well to be aware of the dangers of overenthusiasm in your own life. Don't try to train every evening, even though it might seem like fun now. Be aware of how training is affecting the rest of your life, and be prepared to make adjustments. Don't abandon your old pre-aikido friends because you're too busy -- and don't become a missionary and try to drag them all into the dojo, either. Reflect on the good things that aikido is bringing to your life. Be a little analytical about them, ask why they're happening, ask how you can find them in other areas of your life: not by "training constantly", because all of life is not aikido, but by seeing the rest of your life in a new way that aikido has shown you. And, as far as the injury goes, learn to set aside the questions "how long?" and "how do I FIX IT" and "okay, so how much training can I do?" The only questions that really make sense are, "How am I doing today?" and "What do I need today?", and you need to ask those of your own body.
  Reply With Quote