Guro James article in VicNews
Guro James in BC Booklook Magazine
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Take advantage of what you have
By James Eke
16 March 2015
I sometimes wonder if people think they are going to live forever.
Most people act that way.
They want to do this, they talk about that but most of the time they just waffle and procrastinate and nothing gets done.
The longer you train seriously in the martial arts the more you realize how short, fragile and impermanent life is. In terms of our training it is important to learn this lesson right from the start and it is important for a number of reasons.
The time we get to train is valuable. Think about. In your day, even if you train every day, how much of that time is spent training? How much of your day?
When I first started in the martial arts, over 30 years ago, my instructors were always telling us “don’t waste your partner’s time, stop talking and get working.” I think this was a valuable lesson. They also instilled in us the idea that our word is our bond. If we say we are going to do something you simply do it – no other options. This goes for training and for life.
Part of this idea is that when we commit to training in the martial arts we need to get the idea of almost bathing in the art. We have said we are going to do it – we then need to turn off the inner monologue and get to the work that needs to be done as we are being asked to do it.
It isn’t for us to fight the way things are done. If we want to get the benefits, simply do the work required.
Realize that your instructor isn’t there to do the work for you, they are showing you what needs to be done but it is up to you to do what has to happen – and they want you to succeed. But you need to want it too – you need to do the work.
If you knew that the martial arts were going to prepare you for the worst possible thing to happen in your life and that your life itself depended on it would it make you train any differently? Would you skip out on the same number of classes? Would you procrastinate? Or would you train with a passion and a fire knowing that today, this moment was what mattered? That giving your all and then some was not only what you needed to do but what you had to do? How would you look at your instructor and your fellow students knowing that they were helping you to pass the test of your lifetime?
The thing is, the martial arts does this and more for us. It tests us constantly. It sometimes makes us uncomfortable. It sometimes leaves us with a body that feels like it was beat up. It sometimes makes us question so many parts of our lives that we wonder why we are doing this. But it changes us – for the better.
Every time we hit the mats we get better.
Every time we miss class, don’t push ourselves, take everything for granted we miss out – we fail the test.
Your instructor and seniors are not your parents – they are facilitators, guardians and protectors of a path that has been here for us for perhaps all of human history. They know how important it is because they have been tested in more ways than you realize.
If you, after a year or two have been put through the wringer of life and martial arts think for a moment about your instructor – how long has he/she been at this? A decade? Two decades? Three decades? Imagine for a moment the things he/she has been through. Think for a moment all the struggles they have gone through. Think about all the things that they have gained and lost out on due to their dedication to the art. Now ask yourself how you have been rewarding that dedication by your own actions.
If you love the martial arts you owe some of that to the guardian of the path in your life – your instructor and the others in your club. Treat them the way they deserve.
What does that mean?
If they need your help give it – most of the time they aren’t going to ask so don’t wait for it.
Realize they probably have more on their plate than you could ever imagine – so when you give excuses look at it from their perspective. Help make their burden lighter, not heavier.
If you say (or are asked) you are going to do something don’t wait until the last moment. Do it. Remember your word is your bond.
Your school may not have your name on the front door but it is yours – treat it that way, imagine it is made of something precious and fragile and valuable.
If you know how to do something, whatever it is (fix cars, paint, organize, whatever) step up and help – the last thing you’ll probably get is asked. If you know how to change a lightbulb and you see it needs doing then do it.
There is more to training than showing up two nights a week and punching and kicking. It is a commitment to making your life and the life around you better. If you have said you are going to walk this path, then walk it with purpose and get the most you can out of it – pass the daily tests of training.
Now get out there and do it!
Train with a brain
by James Eke
16 December, 2014
I’ve been around the block…a few times. In over 30 years in the martial arts to say I’ve had and seen a few injuries would be like saying the Sahara has a few grains of sand. I’ve hurt people and I’ve been hurt — a lot.
The list of things that have happened to me runs the usual list for people who train martial arts or play high-impact sports — broken ribs, fingers, toes, popped knee, sprains, strains, black eyes, bloody noses and lips, endless shots to the groin, liver shots, concussions and well, I’ve been cut with a sword, hit with endless sticks (a few times by myself) and the list goes on. I won’t go into the things that I’ve inflicted on others.
Now, accidents — which most of these were — happen. You can’t train in the martial arts and not expect to get the occasional bruise, bonk or clonk. It goes with the territory. However, at 45 years old I now see things a little differently than I did when I was younger.
You shouldn’t get hurt training. Period.
That isn’t to say you won’t get hurt, like I said, things happen. What I’m saying is you shouldn’t get hurt. You shouldn’t bow onto the mats and expect that you could leave the training with an injury. I know there are people out there who will say that is being a bit of a hypocrite and that I’m a dreamer but listen to what I’m saying.
You train at first for yourself. It is a selfish thing. You want something and martial arts training is how you have decided to get there. But with time you start to see that you are actually training for the sake of those around you. You are there for your partner. You are there so they can learn, evolve, transform and grow. And they are there for you.
So what does that mean?
It means you have to grow up and learn to leave you ego outside. You aren’t training to crush people. You aren’t training to grow your ego. You are training to make yourself better through helping others reach that goal. It is a symbiotic relationship.
If you are there to take care of and responsibility for the health, growth and betterment of the people you train with then how on earth can people get hurt?
Injury should be the rare thing that makes you wonder what you did wrong that you were so sloppy and filled with ego that you managed to hurt the other person.
This is the same whether you are standing, grappling, using a weapon — whatever.
Injuries should really only happen at high level confrontations in the ring or on the street or in actual combat.
So why do we get hurt?
Sometimes it is ourselves. We don’t want to tap. We don’t want to listen to our instructor and keep our hands down. We had a bad day and can’t focus. And sometimes we don’t check our ego at the door and think we are proving ourselves — only thing is, when we do this we just let ourselves and our partners down.
Other times we end up working with someone who has had a bad day, has let their ego run wild, doesn’t have control or just doesn’t get it.
What I’m saying is that whether it is you or your partner, you are usually both to blame.
In the martial arts we need to learn to protect ourselves first. This means more than just protecting our neck and elbows and our jaw — it means protecting ourselves from ego and lack of compassion. We need to learn that if the person we are facing is working harder than us and we are winning the game of defence we are already on the road to winning.
The martial arts is NOT about hurting other people. It is about love and compassion and humility. It isn’t about boosting our own ego.
If you are grappling and you realize you can rip off your partner’s arm, instead of doing it, open your mouth, turn off your ego and help your partner see what they are doing wrong. If they keep doing it show them. Work with them, not against them.
Are you going to get hurt training? Yes. You will. You can’t be a grappler and not face the fact that some day you might get a cauliflower ear. You can’t be a kickboxer and not face the fact that some day you might find yourself on the mats wondering how you ended up on your backside with a pounding head and little birds flying around your head when you were kicking and punching the moment before.
But you need, as a martial artist, to get past the beginner phase where your training is all about you. You need to strive to be better, to help your training partners. To make sure that they are all healthy and strong and growing along with you and are able to keep training for a long time to come.
Train smart. Leave your ego outside. And try to have some fun. If you do this you will find everyone wanting to train with you. You will grow as a martial artist and a human by leaps and bounds, and you will find that your understanding will grow to new depths.
And after the years go by you’ll look back and think of all the friends you’ve made, all the fun you’ve had, all the things you have learned and not be going through a decades long list of all the people you have hurt and the injuries you have given to yourself for the sake of your own foolish ego.
Train hard and have fun!
by James Eke
After 33 years in the martial arts you realize that things are not the way they once were.
I can remember when I was a kid training in the martial arts, if you were late for class you’d sit, in seiza (kneeling) at the edge of the dojo waiting to be allowed to come join class. When finally you were given the nod, you’d bow and usually explain yourself why you were late, fully expecting 50 pushups and more than once I saw students who were always late left sitting there until class ended.
Things have changed. Respect shouldn’t have.
Now don’t get me wrong, we are not the strict military-like institution, nor do we want to be. We listen to rock & roll music while we train, wear t-shirts and shorts most of the time and generally have a mood of ‘good times’. This isn’t a bad thing.
But as is always repeated while we are training, a salutation to your partner is not something that is suggested. Whether it is a bow or hands in ‘gassho’ or ‘namaste’ or the ‘fist in the palm’ the salutation is a thing of reverence and respect.
Martial arts should always begin and end with respect.
As martial artists we eventually learn that there is much more to training than just showing up. It takes a special kind of person to push through the years and the decades to find the real meaning of this training we do. And let me give you a hint — it isn’t at all about punching, kicking, choking or throwing.
The martial arts is about love — profound love for all things. This love and understanding of it begins with the simple bow, grows into an knowledge of what respect actually means and feels like and expands into something beautiful.
When you train, don’t just go through the motions. When you bow to someone don’t do it as some mind-less robot. Think about what you are doing. Feel what it is the masters long gone wanted us to gain from this simple act. Understand what training means — respect is something at first forced on you and then later grows from you.
A salutation isn’t something of cult-like religious significance — it is something more. It is about training every part of you. It is about becoming a better person, making a better world and living a better life.
When you bow, realize that you are bowing to the whole universe, giving thanks for everything you’ve been given and can so easily be taken away.
Train hard and have fun!