A couple of months ago marked the twentieth anniversary of the day I threw all my belongings in the back of a U-Haul trailer and moved to Ohio to be closer to my teacher. I didn’t have a job, or a place to live, or much of a plan at all. I just assumed those trifles would sort themselves out. I just wanted to study To-Shin Do in even more depth, and there wasn’t any way to do that in Washington State in those days.
I had been studying long distance for years before I moved to Ohio. It was those years of long distance training that made me decide I had to move. There were no DVDs back then, or online videos. I wanted to learn even more of this art, and for me that could only mean Ohio. I needed more not only because I wanted to learn physical skills which I found more practical and richer than in any other art I’d seen, but because I wanted to be better and bigger than I was at the time. I don’t mean that in an ego sort of way, I mean I wanted to live a richer, fuller life. I wanted to become tatsujin, a fully actualized, complete person. Lots of martial arts talked about the deeper lessons you would get from martial arts training. There was only one I’ve ever found that really had a clear path to get those lessons.
It was already working, because it was those very lessons I learned as a long distance student that gave me the tools to be ready for such an adventure as giving up all that was familiar, going off to a strange place, and not even bothering to have a plan. The person I was before To-Shin Do would not have dared.
As I drove East, I was aware of how, like a certain character from a popular movie series, I was an impatient, idealistic blonde-haired kid leaving my desert home to study the mysterious ways of exotic fighting art from white-bearded warrior wizard who seemed to have a magical way of controlling the universe around him.
I enjoyed thinking that. And while that movie really isn’t my movie, to this day I enjoy thinking, what if we were the stars of our own mythical adventure movies? (That sounds way more engaging then, what if we were the stars of our own ordinary, everyday biopic, doesn’t it?) And as a new year approaches, I always like to think about what adventures I’d like to have in the coming year and what I’d like the next chapter in the movie to be like. Where would I like to go? What would I like to do? But more importantly, who would I like to be? How do I get bigger and better, become more of that tatsujin? Every year I want to get better at this martial art. But not everything about this martial art has to do with punching and kicking. In fact, for me at least, everything about this martial art that seems to be on the outside, really leads to lessons on the inside.
Interestingly enough, twenty years after leaving my own desert world, that particular movie series is coming out with the next installment, about to reveal what has happened to that other blonde-haired, desert raised character. It reminds me that no matter how much time has passed, there is always more story to tell, more growth to be had, more movie to live. I already know how I want my next movie episode to turn out. How about you? Who are you going to be in the coming year? What will your movie be like?