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Old 06-07-2008, 08:40 AM   #1
"Trying"
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Mental Toughness

I'm in the process of owning up to the core problem with my training:
fear and lack of physical conditioning.

I've also come to the realization these are not separate problems. They feed off each other in a constant loop. That being said, the one I need more help with is the mental toughness.

So... how the HELL do you get comfortable with uncomfortable things? How do you jump in the deep end? How do you not get paralyzed by fear or embarassment?

The one thing I've figured up is show up. No matter what, I gotta end up in the dojo. Things will NOT improve if i'm not there. That being said, when I'm the dojo, I end up hiding: just working with beginners, working with the people who don't challenge me, etc. I need to fix this, but I don't know how.

And BTW, "just choose to" is a non-answer, right up there with 'don't get hit' and 'just throw him'. If your answer is 'you need to figure out what works for you,' tell me what worked for you. I apologize for the frustration, but I'm finding it difficult to 'just' decide, and it is hard to look for advice and find platitudes.
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Old 06-08-2008, 04:28 PM   #2
Joe McParland
 
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Re: Mental Toughness

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I'm in the process of owning up to the core problem with my training:
fear and lack of physical conditioning.

I've also come to the realization these are not separate problems. They feed off each other in a constant loop. That being said, the one I need more help with is the mental toughness.

So... how the HELL do you get comfortable with uncomfortable things? How do you jump in the deep end? How do you not get paralyzed by fear or embarassment?

The one thing I've figured up is show up. No matter what, I gotta end up in the dojo. Things will NOT improve if i'm not there. That being said, when I'm the dojo, I end up hiding: just working with beginners, working with the people who don't challenge me, etc. I need to fix this, but I don't know how.

And BTW, "just choose to" is a non-answer, right up there with 'don't get hit' and 'just throw him'. If your answer is 'you need to figure out what works for you,' tell me what worked for you. I apologize for the frustration, but I'm finding it difficult to 'just' decide, and it is hard to look for advice and find platitudes.
"I look at myself sitting in my easy chair and yell out loud, "Get off your ass!" but look: I'm still in my chair. I yell louder; still there. I can reason with and plead with my ass, but it ignores me, just sitting there. How do I get up? I'm concerned that my ass is fat, having sat here for so long, and I have fallen on it once or twice over the years when not in my easy chair. What should I do? And please, no one tell me to just get up!"

Barring any serious obstacles, neither the choice nor the will to get up and get going to practice can come from anywhere but you.

Physical conditioning comes from, well, physical conditioning, and confidence comes from a line of successes in trying things that may have once been outside your level and experience. Many practice aikido specifically to work on mind-body integration---connecting your will to do it (the "just choose to do it") with the actual doing it, so to speak---and the people most likely to offer support in your reaching your objectives will be your instructors and fellow practitioners once you get to know them. But that requires getting in there and opening up to them in the first place.

So, is there really anything standing between you and your practice except for the thoughts you hold between your own two ears?
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Old 06-08-2008, 06:20 PM   #3
"Trying"
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Re: Mental Toughness

Quote:
Joe McParland wrote: View Post
So, is there really anything standing between you and your practice except for the thoughts you hold between your own two ears?
I thought I was pretty clear I was asking about <i>how</i> to deal with the obstacles between my ears. I don't think dealing with fear is a particularly unusual experience, nor do I think that failing to manage it is unusual. You, however, seem to suggest asking how to deal with frustrations is inapropriate. You deny mental obstacles deserve any consideration. Obviously, I don't agree.

I completely agree with you when you say that improvment requires getting in there and opening up to them in the first place. But getting in and opening up are not automatic.

I suspect you and I are just going to disagree on this, considering the deep contemplation of my ass in your first paragraph
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Old 06-08-2008, 06:57 PM   #4
Joe McParland
 
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Re: Mental Toughness

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I thought I was pretty clear I was asking about <i>how</i> to deal with the obstacles between my ears. I don't think dealing with fear is a particularly unusual experience, nor do I think that failing to manage it is unusual. You, however, seem to suggest asking how to deal with frustrations is inapropriate. You deny mental obstacles deserve any consideration. Obviously, I don't agree.

I completely agree with you when you say that improvment requires getting in there and opening up to them in the first place. But getting in and opening up are not automatic.

I suspect you and I are just going to disagree on this, considering the deep contemplation of my ass in your first paragraph
Hahaha! Actually, I was contemplating my own ass that probably should have gotten up and gone to practice today. I looked around and saw it in my easy chair---there you go

Still, I think the example is apt. The way to get out of a chair is to stand up. The way to get out of bed in the morning is to get out of bed. When you're pouring a cup of tea and it's about to overflow, you don't question how to stop pouring; you stop pouring. The way to get to go to practice is to go to practice.

Mental obstacles are very real, of course---they're what are keeping you from getting to practice. However, mental obstacles are also very much not real. There is no thought that is going to leap out of the ceiling panels and attack you like Kato after Inspector Clouseau in a Pink Panther movie! No thought is going to grab your jo staff and crack your kneecaps as you reach for the dojo door.

Now, there are issues like clinical depression that can really off-balance a person---talk to a pro about such things---but otherwise thoughts are just thoughts. Recognize them for what they are and move along smartly! Walk right through them like the phantoms they are!

BTW, I'm a big proponent of combining aikido studies with zen studies. Both deal in some way with getting past thought as an obstacle.

Best regards!

-Joe
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Old 06-08-2008, 08:19 PM   #5
Jonathan
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Re: Mental Toughness

A wise man once said, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." You want to get tougher? Begin by ceasing to tell yourself that you're weak, or that you can't be tougher. You want to get up and get going? Stop saying to yourself that you can't. An Olympic gold medalist doesn't become one by contemplating failure and fear. Long before they succeed they are saying to themselves, "I can do it. I can win."

The billions spent by companies each year on advertising do so on the basis of the understanding that we all become conformed to our focus. So what are you letting your mind focus on when it comes to training? If your preoccupation is with the discomfort of training, then obviously your going to view training in a negative light, in accordance with this preoccupation. I'm not saying never acknowledge discomfort; its perfectly alright to say, "Ugh! That hurt!" when it does. But dwelling on that thought, allowing it to expand in your thinking will only bring an increased aversion to similar experiences, which is a problem if such experiences are a necessary part of progress in training. Instead, focus on the development of skill and strength that discomfort in training imparts.

Just my two cents...

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 06-08-2008, 08:58 PM   #6
Erick Mead
 
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Re: Mental Toughness

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I'm in the process of owning up to the core problem with my training:
fear and lack of physical conditioning..... And BTW, "just choose to" is a non-answer, right up there with 'don't get hit' and 'just throw him'. If your answer is 'you need to figure out what works for you,' tell me what worked for you. I apologize for the frustration, but I'm finding it difficult to 'just' decide, and it is hard to look for advice and find platitudes.
If you are having a hard time doing one thing -- do the opposite. Let somebody hit you. Really, move aggrsssively into the strike, not to throw -- just to get hit. Get hit a lot. Then you will know where the break point between being hit and not being hit really is. Then -- live there. The rest will take care of itself.

Similarly, if you are having a hard time throwing don't throw him, just commit to be standing where he wants to stand -- always, every time. If he wants to be in a place to do something -- meet him arriving there. Get good at this, and throwing is an afterthought. If he is in your way, realize he is not an obstacle -- he is just standing in your spot, so walk though him to get to it. The when you have this down, realize that everything done from a further distance is still moving him out of your spot, just from farther away.

Last edited by Erick Mead : 06-08-2008 at 09:01 PM.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
一隻狗可久里馬房但他也不是馬的.
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Old 06-09-2008, 03:59 AM   #7
"Jeep"
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Re: Mental Toughness

You must realise though that if you want to be really good you also need to train with people that take you out of your comfort zone. So keep that in mind when you go training. You are doing the right thing by acknowledging your fear, and once you work though the reasons or lack of reasons for that fear you should be ok. Mentally I think we all go through stages like that its over something or other so its pretty normal. It will pass i sure.

Perhaps you should start by setting yourself smaller goals so something like tonight I will train with Mr X next week Mr Y etc...
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Old 06-09-2008, 12:01 PM   #8
"*** *** ***"
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Re: Mental Toughness

Learn to push yourself physically, and the mental stuff will follow. Set small goals for yourself. If you normally walk, force yourself to jog a small part of the distance, and every day push yourself to jog a little bit further. Eventually you'll see that you can do it despite yourself.
At the dojo, wait until class is over and you're already exhausted and find a trusted aikidoka that *will* push you to your limit. Always keep in mind that you have the ultimate control over your situation. You can ask your partner to slow down or stop any time you need to. That's the beauty of the dojo: it's a laboratory where we can test our own limitations with the safety net of being able to stop the experiment at any time. Also, don't indulge yourself in negative thoughts. If you are working on irimi-nage, don't think to yourself "Oh I always mess this up!" as you're about to do the technique. Allow your body to do what it already knows how.
Finally, and this is probably the toughest advice to put into action, is to put trust in your fellow aikidoka and your sensei. Trust that they are not there to make fun of you and if you make a mistake or get exhausted and can't push yourself any further that they are not going to judge you for it. In my experience Aikido people are often sincere, good-hearted people that will help you if you let them.
You asked for specifics, and this is exactly what I am continually working on.
Ganbatte!
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Old 06-09-2008, 12:09 PM   #9
SeiserL
 
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Re: Mental Toughness

IMHO, mental toughness comes from mental discipline. Control the visions/voices in your head.

Focus your internal eyes on what you want (skill acquisition for example), see the only path is through the training, tell yourself to do it, relax, breathe, and enjoy yourself.

You might just find that if you stop avoiding it, you just might enjoy it.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 06-09-2008, 01:18 PM   #10
SteveTrinkle
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Re: Mental Toughness

I'm a fan of Dr. Morita's approach to such problems. "Trying to control the emotional self willfully by manipulative attempts is like trying to choose a number on a thrown die or to push back the water of the Kamo River upstream. Certainly, they end up aggravating their agony and feeling unbearable pain because of their failure in manipulating the emotions.

—Shoma Morita, M.D.
...... At first glance, it sounds a bit like "just do it," but there's more to Morita Therapy. Anyway, that's my thought. I'm always scared and nervous before training, but now I'm just more used to scared and nervous. Works for me and I don't ever miss training. ..... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morita_therapy

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Old 06-09-2008, 06:10 PM   #11
"still scared"
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Red face Re: Mental Toughness

I can relate to your situation. When I started Aikido I was terribly afraid - of messing up, looking stupid, being an inconvienience to anyone, rolling, falling, talking outloud, asking someone to train with me...... you name it. I still have moments of fear but it is much better now.
First thing to do - talk to your Sensei, tell him (or her) how you are feeling. Maybe he can suggest a senior student who will work with you one on one then you don't have to worry about who you are going to train with.
Socialize with your Dojo mates, once you get to know and trust them, you won't feel like they are judging you. I have found that most people who do Aikido are caring and compassionate.
One of the biggest things to do is tell everyone that you are terrified!!!! Once it is out there, it is not so embarrassing.
Most of all Keep Showing Up!! The more you are around your Aikido mates, the more comfortable you will feel.
Best wishes.
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Old 06-09-2008, 06:16 PM   #12
"still scared"
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Red face Re: Mental Toughness

PS. read this... http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/lseiser/2005_02.html

(and anything else you can find that Lynn writes.)

There is one on Courage that is excellent.
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Old 06-10-2008, 10:54 AM   #13
Tharis
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Re: Mental Toughness

There are two schools of thought on this one. One says that you should jump in head first, overcoming your blocks by sheer force for of will.

The other says you should slow down and work on very, very simple, safe things until you're comfortable with them, and ease yourself into it.

For me, I think the latter has been more productive, though I know strong proponents of both pedagogies.
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Old 06-10-2008, 01:36 PM   #14
SeiserL
 
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Re: Mental Toughness

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
(and anything else you can find that Lynn writes.)
Not him.
Please no, not him.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 06-11-2008, 01:30 AM   #15
dalen7
 
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Re: Mental Toughness

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
And BTW, "just choose to" is a non-answer, right up there with 'don't get hit' and 'just throw him'. If your answer is 'you need to figure out what works for you,' tell me what worked for you. I apologize for the frustration, but I'm finding it difficult to 'just' decide, and it is hard to look for advice and find platitudes.
O.k.
Then dont "just choose too".
Instead try to accept what is.

Are you stuck, cant 'progress'?
Take a look and feel and watch the situation. Dont resist - it is as it is.

Resisting wont change anything, as Im sure you already can tell.

You may find as you become more aware and accepting of where you are now, not sitting in judgement, as it were, that you will 'progress'.

But in reality there is nothing to get to...everything in the future is a thought happening now. The future only exist in your head and not in the present.

I know its stating the obvious, the present is all you have - and to some they would say they are not happy about it.
But if your not ready to choose something different than at least realize that if you are stuck in the mud, that complaining does nothing to actively get you out of the mud.

So the word choice gets thrown around a lot like other words, but it really is a pointer that goes beyond itself. The reason it doesnt work is because we havent made the connection to the word someone else has, and they do not have the adequate vocabulary in which to describe what they mean.

However this is not necessary either - as feeling goes a long way...and as time goes you realize that what people say is that which you already knew anyway...it just had to be awakened, as it were.

Best to you...

dAlen

dAlen [day•lynn]
dum spiro spero - {While I have breathe - I have hope}

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Old 06-11-2008, 11:25 AM   #16
Aikibu
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Re: Mental Toughness

Look man

Forget the mumbo jumbo and all the pep talks just be honest with yourself and your Sensei and train... What you need to "roll through" your fear is right there on the tatami...

I could give you a hundred personal anecdotes of all the fear I have walked through and how Aikido helped with that but thats the point right?

The fact you're still showing up to class and talking about your fears leads me to believe you're going to "roll" through it just fine.

William Hazen
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Old 06-11-2008, 12:25 PM   #17
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Re: Mental Toughness

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
So... how the HELL do you get comfortable with uncomfortable things?
I only know one way of accomplishing this. Do what you are uncomfortable doing more often and regularly. Before you know it they will become second nature.
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Old 06-13-2008, 03:55 PM   #18
"still scared"
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Re: Mental Toughness

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Not him.
Please no, not him.
LOL!!!!!!!
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Old 06-13-2008, 04:51 PM   #19
bkedelen
 
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Re: Mental Toughness

If you wish to pursue physical conditioning, I suggest you join your nearest crossfit gym. I have never heard of an aikido dojo which alone provides adequate or even minimal physical fitness. Since physical fitness is a critical element of any athletic pursuit, your aikido will benefit from the addition of a modern strength and conditioning program.
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Old 06-13-2008, 07:34 PM   #20
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: Mental Toughness

-People do courageous things while they are afraid. That IS what makes it courageous.

Jennifer Paige Smith
Confluence Aikido Systems
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Old 06-14-2008, 12:08 AM   #21
Keith Larman
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Re: Mental Toughness

There are no tricks to it.

There are no shortcuts.

There are no inspirational words that will magically make it happen.

Quote:
And BTW, "just choose to" is a non-answer, right up there with 'don't get hit' and 'just throw him'. If your answer is 'you need to figure out what works for you,' tell me what worked for you. I apologize for the frustration, but I'm finding it difficult to 'just' decide, and it is hard to look for advice and find platitudes.
Tough. Sometimes the only real answer isn't the one you want.

Do it. Or give up. Because that is what it all boils down to.

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Old 06-15-2008, 03:17 PM   #22
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: Mental Toughness

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
There are no tricks to it.

There are no shortcuts.

There are no inspirational words that will magically make it happen.

Tough. Sometimes the only real answer isn't the one you want.

Do it. Or give up. Because that is what it all boils down to.
Indeed. And really, there is no giving up on the core issues you're running into because they are at the core of you. Unless you're willing to give up on yourself .

Jennifer Paige Smith
Confluence Aikido Systems
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Old 06-15-2008, 04:59 PM   #23
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Re: Mental Toughness

Quote:
Erick Mead wrote: View Post
If you are having a hard time doing one thing -- do the opposite. Let somebody hit you. Really, move aggrsssively into the strike, not to throw -- just to get hit. Get hit a lot. Then you will know where the break point between being hit and not being hit really is.
Exposure lends itself to familiarity, which lends itself to wisdom, which lends itself to reconciling our fears. I think this is a simple technique (as simple as these types of things can be) that one can use early on in one's training - to kick-start things, so as to be able to keep them going, etc.

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/metsuke.html

After exposure, one needs to quest for a truer reconciliation with fear, a more ultimate wisdom - a reconciliation with our ego attachment. Still, in the beginning, best to use your fears - to not see them as obstacles but as guideposts, pointing out the direction you are to head.

dmv

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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Old 06-15-2008, 06:52 PM   #24
"Trying"
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Re: Mental Toughness

Thanks.
Things are a bit better. Several posts here helped.
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Old 06-16-2008, 04:23 PM   #25
"Good luck in training"
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Re: Mental Toughness

I do believe there is a link between mental toughness and physical toughness. I think there are a few things you can do on your own that will translate into the dojo too. I don't know what your personal training is like, but I would start doing some sort of exercise at home. I would recomend saburi with a very large bokuto and sumo shiko (leg stomps). If you're not familiar with sumo shiko you should be able to find some video online. It's a lot harder then it looks. Either way I would work out in such a way that challenges you. If you've reached 500 cuts with a sword (or 100, or 50 what ever your limit is) push yourself to get 5 more cuts in. If you drop the sword oh well no one is around to watch. If someone does see you drop it from fatigue let them know you were working out until failure, what can they say? You're a hard a** who works til you drop. Nothing to be embarrassed about there (even if you only did 503 cuts... they don't know that) Unless you have some sort of medical problem you probably won't die (if you do die sorry for the bad advice ). Same thing with what ever you do, one extra push up per set, or ten extra sumo shiko, what ever. This will give you a number of small victories to build on. For my shodan test in Daito-ryu we had to do 100 ukemi in a row with someone throwing us. we worked our way up to it gradually. At our test when we did it we all felt very good.

Cut out sweets and bad foods for you. Eat a lot of protein and veggies and whole grains (unless you're on a special diet). You are what you eat, so if you eat cream puffs you'll be a cream puff (I'l admit I'm a cream puff sometimes... okay most of the time... okay I'm more of a cookie or donut but whatever...I eat a lot of good food too).

As silly as this sounds kiai-ing into a pillow can help, too. Or you can go into the woods and do it. either way kiai is great for building yourself up.

I don't know how you carry yourself either, but if you slouch or have bad posture try sitting and standing straighter. This will project an air of confidence even if you don't have any. Getting into the less physical side, sometimes (most times for me anyway) if you act like you should be there or you know what your doing people will take you more seriously. I don't mean become a paper tiger, or a know it all jerk with no clue. The first time I met Kondo sensei we had to do all of the first 30 kata in front of him, While I was crapping myself on the inside because we really didn't know the kata very well, we did the best we could and went 100% with each kata. I think if one of us missed the technique we may have actually knocked each other out. It didn't matter that we didn't know what we were doing, I'd like to think the reason sensei took interest in us was because we were willing to go 100%.

Work out with the largest most experienced person in the dojo. Look at it this way, if you get thrown by the biggest dude there, no one would expect anything different. Then when you throw the big dude take some pride in the fact you threw the big dude. If you work out with the newbies and small people and get tossed around what is that doing for your ego? I've found I'm more likely to get hurt by a newbie anyway... stay with the more experienced people because they're less likely to hurt you (or they should be anyway).

Also talk to your sensei and let him/her know your issues, maybe in private. You don't have to word it exactly like you did here. Tell them you need help with gradual challenges in your training. Maybe let them know the class is moving too fast or slow for you.

Keiko should be tanren, forging the body. Burn off the dross. If you have a lot of dross it will take longer to get to the pure iron or gold or whatever you're made of (cream puffs? or maybe Oreos like me?), but keep working at it.

Your head is in the right direction keep showing up. You've found your weaknesses now go to the dojo and get rid of them.

Best regards,

Chris Covington
Daito-ryu aikijujutsu
Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu kenjutsu
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