It all just got real

I remember growing up in Dublin with grandparents who survived the war. In fact they had stories about how they went towards the war in some cases. Sought out ways to help and in some ways thrived in the madness. A few weeks ago I was still thinking that this virus would disappear before I was going to head to Okinawa. In fact, I thought that I would be OK to go through China because, in my stupidity, sure Shanghai was miles from where this virus was… oh how times have changed. Now I am very much not going to Okinawa and I’m OK with that because I could not handle it if I was the one who brought some sort of sickness to our Honbu Dojo. Can you just imagine.

Possibly my favourite picture from Okinawa… no filter

So today was a day of scary conversations, conversations that I know will test me and my training. Sometimes it’s the small things that make a difference and I constantly question my training and if I’m doing the right things so to have a conversation about dojo’s closing is tantamount to heresy in my world. But that is the conversation that I had today, with a number of people, all of whom are trying to figure out what is the right thing to do for everyone involved. I’ve had conversations with small business owners who are worried about their livelihood and business leaders who are worried about well… everything.

So the real subject under consideration… how to keep, no how to actually improve during these times in my training. Furthermore, if the dojo is to close, how can I continue to support the dojo so that, when life gets back to normal, which it will, we can get back to full time training.

To this point, my self training has been in support of the work that Sensei LInda does in Tooting Dojo. I generally take the topics that she focuses on in her classes and these become the things that I train on in my morning sessions. Now I need to find a way of self managing and yet still pushing myself. Unpacking this, there are a few things to consider…

  1. What to work on?
  2. How to keep momentum
  3. How to push myself
  4. Is it possible to improve during this time

I guess the what to work on is somewhat easier with our style. I mean we have a structure to follow that takes so much into account. I have already seen videos from Sensei Torben in Denmark where he has an hour long session that starts with Junbi Undo and then goes into a full session on line. For me, there is a silver lining in all this and that is Kata. I’m not a kata person… at all. I’m so bad at kata, I much prefer kumite training… of all sorts that time to dedicate to kata is so precious. So if I take some of the training points from Sensei Linda and work on them… well then good things should happen.. surely. I see a lot of 108 kata challenges coming in my future. I’ve also had to challenge my own self training regiment. For me, self training is an addendum to ‘real’ training. Which means that actually I need to turn that entire process on it’s head… cause now… real training is what I can do myself.

Keeping momentum is interesting… I refer back to the war stories of my grandparents…these guys had challenges… no bombs are dropping on heads just now… but also… I’m a people person… I need people around me… if I go into self isolation I know for a fact that my brain will go into a spin. I will seek out potentially new ways of interacting with people but essentially… I will need daily personal input. Especially if I am confined and not actually sick. It’s the reason I would never be a good criminal… I would never be able to do the time. So for me, it’s all about finding a rhythm. The less my brain can argue with me the better… so to everyone out there… if you want a shared karate class where we work together… I’m your person. I know now that my rowing machine and I will become better friends and the calluses on my hands will become even more related. Joy.

Here’s a secret. I’m lazy. I always have been. If I could do things faster or with less effort… that becomes my M.O. I also have a ridiculous need for data. Not to the same amount as some of the people I work with who are silently enjoying this virus outburst and have been flexing their data scientist muscles daily. No, I like to know if I’ve pushed my heart rate and if my calorie to fat burn ratios are in the right sectors. At times when I’m working from home and where I have no access to proper (real) training, I’ve used my training monitor to ensure that I’m actually doing meaningful work and enough to justify the training. But… taking the above into account and then adding the fact that I’m not going to be good in confinement… means that I need to really find ways to push myself and to ensure that I don’t just become a home worker who goes into “survival mode”. The sad truth… if I don’t push myself I won’t make it. So part of me will want to push myself way outside of my comfort zones… which will be in total conflict with he other part which will want to just chill out and watch box sets for weeks. So there will be a huge conflict and on the bad days… I’ll just probably work for hours and regret not training. If I allow that to happen.

So for me… it’s all about the possible. I’ve come through some pretty staggering challenges in my life. Never fully sure I would make it…but with the intention that no matter what, I was going to give it my absolute best. I’ve had times when I was literally destined to fail but I put my head down and got on with it and somehow I managed to find a way to a better place. Through every challenge I my life, I’ve been blessed with friends who were amazing… who forced me to push myself and to believe that I could actually make it through. For those that don’t know me so well… I have had significant health challenges and so I have a keen awareness of this current situation. (FYI I’m very healthy now).

I don’t think it’s true that this is our generations “war”… this is a time when we as a world need to look after each other. I’m already helping some of my karate colleagues world wide. It is however a test of our karate style. We need to look after it and make sure that it makes it through and whilst all of this article may have been about me… actually as someone who genuinely loves the rich history and links back to Okinawa that we enjoy as Goju Ryu practitioners now is the time for each and every one of us to step up and make sure that the style makes it through. We are so lucky to have so many great Senseis around us but now is a time for everyone to step up. Now we all train… irrespective of language or religion or location. We do what those on whose shoulders we stand did… we train through times when we may in fact find ourselves in the equivalent of virtual garden dojo’s.

So… my rally cry… if you train… join the movement. Help our style make it through a dark time… be part of history… don’t give up… If this “is” my war… then OK… I may struggle every day to give my best… but I’m gonna try.

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