Off days, injuries, bad moods; we all have them at some point. There are mornings we would rather turn off the alarm and go back to sleep than get up and face the day, days when we feel like a truck hit us, afternoons when we feel like we could do with a nap (but don’t have the luxury of being able to have one), nights when we are sick and can’t sleep. And of course, there are times when we perhaps have an inner debate about whether we should exercise or go to training.
In my experience I have found that exercise and or training generally makes things better; makes you forget your troubles, even if temporarily. So, on days when I am tired or hurting for some reason, for me, it’s a matter of “pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile” as the song goes, (or, in reality: pack up your troubles in your karate bag and leave them at the dojo door for a couple of hours……perhaps even forget them after training altogether – result!). I figure even if I watch half the time and train half the time, I am still doing better than if I were sitting at home on the couch feeling sorry for myself (and wishing I were at class!).
In the bigger picture though, fighting at your best is not as important as being able to fight at your worst. When it comes to self defence, an attacker isn’t necessarily going to pick on you when you have your A-game on. In all reality, if you are going to get attacked, it’s likely to happen on a bad day. And if you can’t immediately switch on your A game, then your bad day may get a whole lot worse! Being able to fake your A-game might be enough, but to really convince someone else you are not worth messing with, let’s face it, you probably need to be convinced of this yourself.
Realistically, how you feel is more a mental thing than a physiological one. I have niggling musculoskeletal issues and various hang-ups acquired along the journey of life. I can’t tell you the last time that I woke up and I did a body scan only to discover I was feeling 100% fit, well and healthy. I am not complaining, but it is what it is! I also can’t tell you the last time I let it bother me for more than a second, because fundamentally it comes down to this: (1) I am awake, (2) I am breathing, (3) I am aware, (4) I can control my body, and, most importantly, (5) I can control my mind.
If I acknowledge every small ache or pain or emotional hurt, and let it invade concious thought, where would I be? I tell you where…..still in bed. And what room would I have for other concious thought then? Not enough to be on my A-game that is for sure.
Fortunately mother nature gives us incentive and a push in the right direction. In a training sense there are the endorphins (aka happy hormones) produced with physical activity, that start swimming around in your blood and making you feel really good and forget the pain. In a street scenario there is also the whole “fight or flight” thing going on which results in the priming of skeletal muscle making you “Harder, better, faster, stronger” like in the song.
Most importantly the power of the mind; focusing on one thing (eg a punch / a block) for concentrated periods of time, helps clear your other thoughts, the way it would in a mindfulness exercise (as well as having the benefit of building muscle memory!). So next time you feel bored practising kihon (who ever get’s bored practising kihon?) don’t be bored, be mindful.
I was nearly finished this post yesterday and didn’t get around to publishing it then. Strangely, now, I am not sorry I didn’t. Why? Tonight’s class started with our instructor talking about “no excuses” and how it fits in with the dojo kun and dojo etiquette, which was part of where I was headed with this anyway, just not as explicitly, initially.
No excuses means being patient with your self and your body. No excuses means taking pride in what you do. No excuses means respecting your instructor and any feedback / advice from him / her and showing courtesy to everyone you train with and respecting the dojo as a place for training and development. No excuses means letting your spirit rise above any ills going on in the background.
So yes….I went to class tonight, even though it was a long and challenging day, even though the traffic was less than conspiratorial to my efforts at getting there, even though there was a lot on my mind, even though I have a really busy weekend and week, even though I am still limping a bit from a minor foot injury……I won’t go on….you get the picture….I went to class…..and, unsurprisingly, I am not sorry I did.
At the end of the class, as we were packing up, our instructor remarked to me that I hadn’t missed a class since I started training there (except, as I pointed out, for the few before Gasshuku when I was on holiday with my family – and as I explained then I was madly texting my Sempai and Kohai after those classes to see what I missed out on and what I needed to practice). For me personally there are few excuses to not be there, only reasons to be there. Being there is good for me. It is going to make me “stronger, better, faster, harder” for sure……but that’s only the start of it!