Yesterday after church I came home to something that I had been dreading for a couple of days...an unopened box containing a new dresser from IKEA. Historically I've not done well putting these types of things together. Sure, I've put them together correctly, but I've typically been a huge jerk about it...hating every moment and speaking rather unkindly to anyone who was in the area. Just because this may be almost expected behavior when putting IKEA pieces together doesn't excuse it...at all.
So yesterday it was just me and the younger two sons in the house when I set out on this little project. While the boys worked on other things I decided to think about how to best approach the task at hand and tried to apply something I've learned from my time walking through the woods.
When walking a trail, you've got to know that looking at the ground and taking care in each step is crucial in the overall enjoyment of your time. A single stumble on an exposed root or a trip over a rock can spell disaster. Conversely, by not paying attention to each step, you can miss the blessings of the trail. Last week when on a trail run, I saw that small turtle in the picture. If I hadn't made it a point to really watch my steps, I would have missed the blessing that little turtle brought to me that day. Lesson four from the trail...enjoy every step as it's own unique experience.
Now if there is an easier process to practice this lesson than putting together furniture, I can't come up with one. Yesterday, I could have been expected to look at all of the pieces and tools and then again at what the final product should look like and then feel overwhelmed. Instead, this time, I made it a point to only focus on the step at hand...on the one part of the process that needed my attention and, more importantly, the step that I was committed to for just those few moments.
By focusing on just one step at a time, I experienced this freedom from being overwhelmed by the enormous task at hand. The process went from being a tremendous burden to a blessing. This type of thinking translates so well to our karate training so much so, that I believe this one lesson more than any other determines how we let our training shape us.
When practicing kihon (the basic punches, kicks, blocks, etc.) it can be so easy to become bored and want to move on to other things. Those of us who really train know the importance of kihon and know that experiencing those techniques is far more important that just cranking out twenty repetitions of each.
Kata, the other victim of the whiny, "I'm bored" mentality, has become my favorite part of training. Though disciplined determination to enjoy every step, every technique, and every movement of a kata, it has become something more like a puzzle. This is a puzzle of the mind, body, and spirit. How do they each work together in the kata? There is so much enjoyment to be had here that is, sadly, too often missed because we just want to go through the motions.
Of our "3 K's", kumite (sparring) is where we're often misled into thinking it's easy to enjoy every step of the process. I have very "fond" memories coming up through the kohai ranks and having opportunities to spar with my teachers. For the first few years it was almost embarrassingly predictable how poorly I moved with them. Over time, I learned to go in with a defeated attitude...much like the way I have approached IKEA furniture:-) Something happened though, and I'm not sure when it did, where I stopped dreading the process and embraced the challenge of the moment where I could step in and spar Shihan Reburn or Shihan Melanson. Rather than looking at those "matches" as events in themselves, I began viewing them as steps along the way.
If you feel like your karate training (or any area of your life) has hit a wall, I'd encourage you to stop looking at the big picture, and enjoy the journey one step at a time. Through those small, disciplined, determined steps, we find real long-lasting growth.