“Sorry, I’m not at my best. We had to leave home at half five this morning in order to come to this course.” These were the words spoken to me after a fellow jitsuka failed to block a relatively slow punch of mine and contact was made. It was a struggle for me not to reply with, “so what?”
Rewind 12 months. I was studying at University and on Mondays (one of our training days for Jiu Jitsu) lectures didn’t finish until 6pm, which was also the start time for training. This left me with some choices.
- Miss training. Actually, that wasn’t an option.
- Leave my lecture early. Difficult, it was a subject I loved and one I wanted to do well in exams.
- Leave lectures on time, hop on my push bike, peddle madly up to the sports centre and arrive at training ten minutes late.
So option 3 it was. Now depending on who was teaching my late arrival either saw a sarcastic bellow of, “turn up whenever you want, why don’t you?!” or being curtly told to do a number of push ups and join in when these were done. Neither were appealing, but I accepted it as my lot.
About five weeks into this I was asked for the reasons for my consistent lateness. My explanation drew a nod, a small smile and no change in the response to my late arrival. (Thankfully the lecture series finished after eight weeks, so my days of mad cycling followed by push-ups soon ceased.)
My point is this. It didn’t matter why I was late. No one cared for the reason, they just wanted me to get on the mat and get training as fast as possible, because I had chosen to invest my time learning a martial art, not making excuses. My work background is such that is rare you voice reasons for why you are having a down day, people need you to do the essential job which you are expected to carry out. So taking this mentality onto the mats was an easy step for me.
In Japanese Martial Arts, when you rei [bow] into the dojo, it is seen as putting aside your daily concerns and focusing your thoughts only on your training. The outside world has ceased to be relevant, time spent in the dojo is precious and should be utilised to the full.
So it was rather a bitter shock when I realised I might not have been voicing the thoughts similar to that of my fellow jitsuka of whom I mentioned at the start, but there were times when I was thinking them. And thinking them at times when my teachers were trying to show me how techniques were done. This is disrespectful to those that have given up their time to teach, and it’s disrespectful to myself when I should be taking every opportunity to learn. Just because I haven’t said my excuses out loud doesn’t make me special, if anything it makes me a smug hypocrite for saying, “so what,” to those who have confessed to mental distractions.
Yes, we all have them. Days when traffic has been bad, when nothing went right at work, when everything just niggles. We happily escape to the dojo in order to recover, yet sometimes we forget that final bit – rei at the door, leave the troubles outside and concentrate solely on training.