Too bad I actually fail that men…
A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook titled, “5 Little-Known Secrets to Utterly Successful Karate-ka” which briefly talks about some of the things that some of the most successful Karate-ka go through to reach whatever level of success they want to achieve. I think that the article itself touches on some very good points about what it takes to be the best in Karate. What I got from it was that the great Karate-ka are willing to examine themselves and not too prideful to go back to the basics to improve on the advanced techniques and not rely on natural talent. Quite naturally, I applied all of this to Kendo and even thought about how I approach what I feel is success in Kendo.
One thing that I can definitely understand is that, whatever we are seeking, we would love to find that small piece of information, that familiar grouping of words, that magically gives us all of the answers. Of course, we all quickly realize that life just doesn’t' work that way. I am most certainly guilty of that myself. In the search of improving my quality of life, I would hope that there is an easy way to achieve my goals, despite that never really happening. In terms of Kendo, I really want to be able to apply very effective seme and take advantage of those results. I read books, read websites, watched videos and seeked advice from fellow Kendo-ka in the hopes that I would find that deus-ex-machina. In the end, I just better understood what seme means, but it wasn’t information to directly apply to my everyday practice to quickly apply said information.Well, I most certainly got more acquainted with what seme is, but I was no closer to finding the answer to my question of HOW I should perform it. At the same time, I knew that, in the back of my mind, that I would not be able to find that answer just by asking a few questions, watching a few videos and reading a few books. In order to be more effective in seme, I need to put in years of trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t for my style of Kendo. I can listen to and employ various forms of advice, but I would still need to see how that works and, if it does, spend lots of time working on it to even feel like its working.
As much as I want to improve on my applications of seme, I still need to be able to employ the basics well enough to be effective in it. Unfortunately, it does involve lots of work with things as simple as working on my kamae. Everything from the footwork to where most of our strength comes from provides that foundation that allows us to effectively employ those advanced waza that we love so much. Even after I have done Kendo for 50 years, I can’t forget about the things that got me to where I will be at that point. In our minds, we want to do all the fun stuff like harai-waza, suriage-waza, or even hiki-waza, but we can’t forget about doing simple things like holding a shinai to perform them correctly.
I did mention earlier that my quest for finding out how I can better employ stuff like seme only resulted in me finding out more about what seme is. Regardless of that, we should be willing to search for the information that we seek. It could be through books, videos or talking to sensei and sempai, but there is the difficult task of finding out more about what we are trying to do. One thing that really helps is that, the people that we are getting advice from are either currently dealing with the struggle, or has at least learned how to deal with it. Getting advice from people who have “been there” makes the advice seem more useful. However, despite getting that information, the next thing is to be able to use the information in real-world applications.
I mentioned earlier that my quest for information about seme didn’t really answer any of my questions about how to perform seme well. That doesn’t mean that my search was fruitless. I was able to learn more information about what it is. Another point that was brought up in the article is that we must be willing to seek out information and learn from the best. Getting information from those that have gone through similar struggles can help get a grasp on what’s going one.
The most important thing that I got from the article is that we must really love what we are doing. It seems obvious, but in the daily routine of our lives, it’s very simple to just go through the motions because it’s what we are used to. However, if progress is to be made, we must really be able to examine ourselves and find out what’s REALLY important in our lives. If Kendo is one of them, we must be able to learn from our victories and defeats and work through those moments that are so frustrating that we just want to quit (I’ll admit that I had that feeling once a few years back). Working on Kendo can be very draining, painful and exhausting, but we must WANT to work through the troubles.
One very important fact is that, in the end, success is relative. Everyone has their own opinions on what the goals of Kendo should be. The most important thing is that we must be willing to do whatever we can to reach whatever goal we set out to achieve, whether it’s to get that next rank, get a gold medal at a tournament or just hit men better than you did last week. One thing that I think we all can agree on is that, whatever path we choose, there really is no easy route to reach our destination.