Making a list of things that you need to do is not the same as being productive. Spending an afternoon on a "planning retreat" is not being productive. Writing down ideas for ways to change in the future is, you guessed it, not being productive. Ok, if you want to be technical, I guess you've got a piece of paper with a nice list at the end of the day.
You know what is productive? Execution. Taking something from one of your many lists and actually DOING IT, that's being productive. Being able to, at the end of the day, cross something off of your list, that's being productive.
Now, before you get all kinds of upset, know that I'm writing this first and foremost for myself. I've got tons of lists and sure, they're helpful reminders, but holy cow it can be overwhelming. Seeing lists which day after day go neglected is downright depressing, and the only thing that makes it worse is adding to them.
So again...speaking first to myself here...DO something today. Knock something off of your list and feel the freedom that comes with a task accomplished.
I think about our dojo and the students a lot. One of the more difficult aspects of running a budo karate school is the balance between individual student development and the overall health of the dojo. Honestly...I'm not sure that I could be much happier with the balance that we've got here.
Do you know who were are? Most of our adult students have no idea how successful some of our kids are and to the kids, our adult students are like characters in these funny stories that Sensei Bob likes to tell.
Did you know that our students at The Forge dojo range in age from 5-66? We've got kindergarten students, soon-to-be medical school students, and business owners. We've got men and women from all walks of life, in all seasons of life.
Outside of the dojo, we are so incredibly different. But in the dojo...that most special place...we are joined together by three common beliefs: everyone works, nothing is free, and all start at the bottom. We all, even our youngest students, embrace the challenge that's needed for self-improvement. It makes us quite a special group.
Dojo literally means "a place or room where martial arts are practiced". To me though, it goes well beyond the space or the room...to me, the dojo is the people. That's why we can train anywhere and call that space the dojo. We are the dojo. That's who we are.
Have you ever been in the gym or in an exercise class with a human noisemaker? You know...the grunter or the screamer...that person who uses bodily noises to inform everyone within earshot that they're working hard? Yeah...I hate it too.
Don't get me wrong. I grunt when I lift sometimes. In fact, I'm far from being a silent training enthusiast and often I instruct people, especially children and teens, that our bodies need to release some of that built up energy and noise is a great way to do it. Ever go into your bedroom, lock the door, and just scream away your frustrations? There's a reason we're drawn to screaming and yelling and being loud in general when we feel overwhelmed.
That "one last rep" grunt or shout...I love that. Heck, any sound that has a noble purpose is something right up my alley. What I don't like...what I hate even...is using that God-given gift of noise to falsely advertise effort. Grunting because it'll make it sound like you're working hard is garbage. Your instructor(s) know what your best is. Don't try to dress is up in some kind of false suffering, like throwing 100 kicks in a demanding stance is really that big of a deal for you anymore. Want to impress your instructor/coach? Suffer in silence. Become annoyed with your temporary discomfort and use that to push you to a new level.
In our kids Kyokushin classes, we've been working through the virtues of Bushido and have so far spent time learning about honesty and politeness/respect. Whatever the virtue is, the theme carries over into the Teen and Adult classes, just with a different flavor.
False shouts and grunts and grimaces don't make you look good. They make you look like a liar and a cheat. Be honest with yourself. Be honest with your instructor. Again, Sensei knows what your best is. For my students, I know when you're busting your butt and when your slacking off. Keep your composure. Suffer in silence.
What a beautiful day! Here in the DC Metro area, we're going to be looking at sunny skies and temps in the mid-70's today! It's a perfect day to celebrate our mothers...to take a moment and reflect, or to practically serve and bless them today.
The vast majority of you have never met my mom in person, but she's why I am the way that I am. If Sensei Bob has ever taught you anything...if you've ever take a class in the Gaithersburg Dojo, if you've ever been challenged, pushed, or blessed, it's because of that sweet, wild and wonderful West Virginian.
Regardless of your relationship with your own mom, you should be able to think of a handful of things to be grateful to her for. If, like me, you're blessed enough to still have your mom...let her know. I have to do things like that in writing because I get a bit choked up...but you do you.
For those who've experienced the pain of mom's passing, I encourage you to think back fondly on the memories you have with her; to reflect on the lessons learned, and to dedicate some part of your day in silent prayer or reflection in her honor. Let this be a day that you can celebrate your mom...you are her legacy afterall.
See you in the dojo.
The second principle of the niju kun is: In karate-do, never strike first. Now, I know what you might be thinking..."NEVER?!?!" and you'd be right to question the use of that word. Physically speaking, I believe, and train others to believe that if you are in imminent danger of being attacked...as in it's definitely going to go down...then yes, you should strike first. The likelihood of that happening though is slim.
I don't believe the idea of never striking first has anything to do with punches and kicks though. Rather, I think that the idea behind this has more to do with our awareness of our surroundings and our interactions with others. Hear me out on this one...
First, one stark difference that I noticed when traveling, training, and teaching in Ukraine was how focused everyone was there. There were very few people (young or old) that were plugged in to their smartphones while in public. I also noticed that a great majority of the people there walked with their heads held high, rather than looking at their shoes as they walk...something that I notice a lot around here. Watching a screen or looking at the ground, or even listening to music in a public place can be a distraction from what's really going on around you. You are, by focusing on something very small, ignoring the big picture...the stage production going on around you.
By really being aware of where you are, what you're doing, and what is going on around you, the likelihood of you having to strike at all drops significantly. I distinctly remember a time walking through Washington, D.C. with my family when I noticed a potential altercation that was about to take place about 100 feet in front of us. By being aware of what was happening, and about to happen, we were able to calmly cross the street and avoid things altogether. We can avoid striking first by being aware.
Now, the odds of you needing to avoid some kind of incident in public are small, but I guarantee that you're much more likely to talk with another human being today. It's very easy, especially when discussing politics, religion, or relationships, to strike first with our words. I do it. I do it all the time. Heck, I'm writing about this today as a way to hopefully help improve in this area. What does striking first in our relationships look like? Some of the behaviors that I show, to my shame, are:
- always having an answer
- listening to respond, rather than listening to understand
- using logical fallacies
- shutting down...yes, shutting down is just as much of a relational strike as a punch to the stomach
So, is there hope? Of course! Like any positive growth though, it's going to take a bit of conscious effort. Effort to plug into your surroundings instead of your phone. Effort to listen with the purpose of understanding your spouse, friends, or coworkers. Try it. Just for one day, let's commit to being at peace with our surroundings and living in peace with those around us. This is budo karate-do which transcends the dojo.
Those who have trained in traditional martial arts know that the martial way, specifically the way of karate-do, begins and ends with respect. Practically speaking, this is evident in our traditional bowing at the beginning and end of each class. We do this to show respect for those who came before us, for those who teach us, to those who are our seniors, and to one another. We literally show respect for everyone in the room at some point in our tradition.
In all honesty, when I bow, there's a mantra that goes through my mind and I've considered it for years now. Each time my head lowers, particularly now as an instructor, my thought is: "I have things to teach you and you have things to teach me." I'm not the greatest teacher in the world...I'll never claim to be close, BUT I do try to go into each class trying to learn from my students and I think this is helpful to all of us. This is respect for my students and their experience. My giving that respect, I think it builds the same feeling in those that I train with; I'll have to figure out how to ask about that.
I think of respect like a fire. When I'm in the dojo teaching, I have a torch (it begins as the natural respect from student to teacher) that I use to light the torches of my students. The powerful thing is this: even though I share respect for and with my students, my torch doesn't go out. My flame doesn't go down. By showing respect, we can only improve the lives and experiences of others.
Common courtesies are rooted in a respect (and love) for others. Holding doors, looking out for the young or weak, loving our elders...this is respect. What are some other ways that YOU can show respect for others today?