Some New Year’s Resolutions
By George Donahue
Most lists of New Year’s resolutions are earnest expressions of
our wishes for a more perfect union of our thoughts with our actions.
These wish lists quickly become onerous weights dragging us down, rather
than useful plans or encouragements. Then we forget about them and make
the whole process a farce. Another problem with those lists is that they
too often have too many things that we need to do.
So, true to my contrarian nature, I’ve worked up a list that should
be easier to carry out than to ignore, in part because it’s mostly
stuff to stop doing. You might want to adopt one or more resolutions from
Don’t try so hard! / Do try to relax more
The harder you try to learn something as esoteric as a martial skill,
the more difficult it is to master that skill; the more you try to grab
it, the further out of your reach it is. Here is where the Taoist less-is-more
stuff really does apply.
Don’t do so many repetitions / Do try to concentrate more during
the fewer reps you perform
The more repetitions you’ve performed incorrectly or less than optimally,
the harder it is to finally get the technique right. Our rule of thumb
for untraining incorrect technique and retraining correctly is that, for
every time you’ve done something wrong or poorly, it takes ten repetitions
doing it properly just to get back to square one. If you’ve done
ten thousand high blocks incorrectly, it will take you a hundred thousand
correct repetitions just to overcome your earlier flawed training.
Don’t take training or yourself so seriously / Do try to laugh and
smile more while you’re training: lighten up and you’ll get
faster, smoother, better
The best, most productive schools I’ve seen over the years have
also been the schools with the most light-hearted atmosphere. It’s
clear that the students and teachers are having fun pursuing goals that
are no less important to them than to the adherents of the joyless pucker-your-cheeks
and squeeze-your-lips variety of training. They don’t take their
training lightly, but they train with a light heart.
Question yourself, question your kata, question your assumptions much
In fact, even question what your teachers do and say, if not aloud then
at least to yourself. You’ll quickly develop a better understanding
and, most likely, a greater appreciation of your teacher’s knowledge
and skills—if your teacher is worthy.
Break your old training routines / Try new routines
A stale routine is a worthless routine and one that might unnecessarily
sour you entirely on the training. New routines require new thinking and
new thought patterns. In addition, new routines, especially when applied
to kata, bring new insights.
Try cutting your training time in half
Some of us mistake long hours of training for good, productive training.
But what we’re really doing when we fall into the trap of “more
is better” is substituting quantify for quality. If you’re
in the habit of training three hours a day, try condensing the same amount
of activity into two hours. You’ll find that, to make it fit, you’ll
need to jettison some of the less productive work or—and this is
the real key—learn to fit everything into the shorter period by
cutting out the dead time between activities. If you’re able to
do this and you still have three hours available to you, you can then
use the third hour to incorporate new things, to try new things, to experiment
with changes to old things. Or you could go play with your children.
Don’t worry about not being perfect, but strive for perfection anyway
There is a crucial difference between worrying about our many imperfections
and striving to perfect what we can. The former is a waste of time; the
latter is always useful, even when we fall short.
I might deal with these resolutions at length individually in further
blog posts in the coming year. Then again, I’m probably going to
forget about this list even before the end of the month.
About The Author:
George Donahue has been on the board of FightingArts.com
since its inception. He is a freelance writer and editor, providing literary
and consulting services to writers, literary agents, and publishers, as
well to advertising agencies. He has worked in publishing for more than
three decades, beginning as a journal and legal editor. Among his positions
have been editorial stints at Random House; Tuttle Publishing, where he
was the executive editor, martial arts editor, and Asian Studies editor;
and Lyons Press, where he was the senior acquisitions editor and where
he established a martial arts publishing program. He is a 6th dan student
of karate and kobujutsu—as well as Yamane Ryu Bojutsu—of Shinzato
Katsuhiko in Okinawa Karatedo Shorin Ryu Kishaba Juku. He was also a student
of Kishaba Chokei and Nakamura Seigi until their deaths. He teaches Kishaba
Juku in New York and Connecticut, as well as traveling to provide seminars
and special training in karate, weapons, and self-defense. His early training
was in judo and jujutsu, primarily with Ando Shunnosuke in Tokyo. He also
studied kyujutsu (archery), sojutsu (spear), and kenjutsu (swordsmanship)
in Japan as a youth. Following his move to the US, he continued to practice
judo and jujutsu, as well as marksmanship with bow and gun, and began
the study of Matsubayashi Ryu karate in his late teens. Subsequently,
he has studied aikido and taiji and cross trained in ying jow pai kung