Thoughts on maintaining health pt. 2
By Myoken Dojo, May 27 2015 12:31PM
Transferred from previous web site
Originally posted June 16 2014
In his blog “Shugyo” http://iaidojodotraining.blogspot.co.uk/2013_03_21_archive.html Andy Watson says:
“Looking after your own health is an important and instrumental part of one’s martial arts training – isn’t it? I don’t believe that in martial arts the student should rely on their teacher to tell them how to look after themselves in terms of health.”
[Shugyo, but the way, is an excellent blog, and I recommend it to all iaido students, and I would encourage Andy to begin writing more]
… but on this point I have a different opinion. Now, to be clear, I am talking about my dojo, not open seminars, and I am talking about serious students, not everyone who walks in the door.
In my opinion (and it is only an opinion) I believe that what I should be doing in the dojo is helping people who want to be my student to emulate what I do. That means to help them to get somewhere close to where I’m at now, and I think the only way I can do that is to make them do what I did for myself that led me to where I am. This has to be tailored to some extent to individual needs, which in turn is often shaped by the student’s individual commitment. But rather than drift away from the point by qualifying it with various real world situations, let’s look for a moment at a perfect case.
In this case the student is totally committed and will do all that he is asked. He learns with moderate speed and is available for all events he is recommended to attend. So I begin showing him how I learned the basics and gradually teach kata and improve his techniques. I make him work hard when the training is required and relax at other times. Of course, he is not me and what he needs will from time to time be different, and I am not my teacher so what I am able to show is not the same, but for all intents and purposes I am showing him, as best I can, the path I took to get where I am and he is following. With enough training he will get there.
There is however another parameter that needs to be considered: time. The time we have in which to achieve our technical and performance optimum is determined by two things:
1. The day we start
2. The time when our body can no longer cope with what we are asking it to do
The first of these is out of our control, the day we started is fixed. But the second is to some extent within our control. By looking after our health (again see Andy’s blog for what this means, rather than me repeat it here) we can to some extent extend the time we have to train.
So going back to my ideal student, if he is in good health, fit, active and is concerned to maximise his life expectancy and his ability to train for maximum years, then I have nothing to worry about. But if the student has a poor diet and is overweight and unfit, or due to work conditions, or other exercise regimes and ignorance does no stretching so his muscles are hard and unhealthy and inflexible, or he smokes heavily so that his breath control is virtually zero and blood circulation problems maybe causing foot and hand deterioration, in each case the students’ potential to learn what they have asked me to teach them is limited by these factors, then I believe it is my place to advise how their progress is being hampered by their self-destructive choices.
My personal experience informs my method of teaching. As I have mentioned before, in 2005 I had a back injury that left me unable to walk for a few months and unable to train for nearly a year. The path back to health has been a long one. I chose to avoid the NHS poison or knife method of fixing it and went to an osteopath then later for remedial sports deep tissue massage. Over that time I have spent in excess of £5,000 on treatments, but am now in reasonably good physical shape. A lower back weakness remains that is being dealt with now, but I can do all kata now except Tanashita. It has been a long and painful process. At times I have been close to giving up, but encouragement from family and friends have kept me going and now, I think, I am again making progress.
So when I’m in the dojo and I see a student who can barely breathe due to smoking, or can hardly stand or kneel due to excess body weight, or who cannot move through certain not too difficult positions due to body stiffness and inflexibility – students who are not old in the scheme of things (50s early 60s) and who are wanting to progress to higher grades, maybe 5 dan, 6 dan – should I not tell them what they need to make the progress they desire? Or should I wait till they are shocked into action by a serious soft tissue injury like I had, or they are diagnosed with cancer, or they have a heart attack, or need repeated surgery? If I have any compassion for these people I would not want them to suffer these serious consequences, and so should I not talk to them about it? Or do they need the shock in order to wake them up?
If the art is to progress into a next generation we need those who are going to be that next generation to be fit and able long enough that they can in turn pass it on. I feel it is my responsibility to try and help make that possible.