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Ready to Learn and Advance

We are all training in martial arts because we want to get better. We want to grow. We might have different reasons, different burning desires that keep us coming back to class week after week, year after year. Some are looking for self-defense. Some enjoy the historical techniques. Some want the personal growth and empowerment that come from martial arts training. But whatever brings us to the dojo, we’re all looking to get better at something. The most important growth though, is actually what happens outside the dojo. How do we implement the lessons we learned in the training hall? How does our effort inside the dojo enrich our lives outside the dojo?

That means we have to take our training outside the walls of our usual dojo space. We have to look for ways to train wherever we are. The hard part of that is that we have to work at that ourselves. Our teacher usually doesn’t follow us around day to day to give us training lessons. We have to be ready to find those lessons ourselves.

It doesn’t have to be a fight we won, or even one we avoided. Training happens everywhere if we look. I find myself driving through heavy highway traffic more often these days because of my schedule. And I don’t like it. The thing I like the very least is tailgaters. And not the fun, before a football game kind. I like my space and get annoyed when others invade it. The other day I was driving, and going over the posted speed limit in the middle highway lane, but apparently not far enough over the speed limit to appease the driver behind me. This person was driving extremely close to me. Then when I didn’t get out of his way fast enough, he whipped around me, passed me, then cut back into my lane and hit his brakes. I assume he wanted to exact revenge on me for having dared slow him down. I was ready for it and didn’t hit him. Then he sped away again.

My immediate response was anger, of course. Then I took a breath. And I wondered what kind of life this person must have that a driver getting slightly in his way could so upset him. Must be an unpleasant life to say the least. By my values anyway. Kind of made me feel sorry for him. Which feels like a way better response to me than shaking my fist and swearing.

For me, a successful encounter. Why? Because I feel like it was a moment to grow, and I recognized it. (I don’t always. Sometimes after a moment like that I’m still angry thirty minutes later when I get to class. Oops. Forgot I should always be training). And that’s the real point. How do we look for ways in our daily life, in each moment, to train, to grow, to enrich our lives? My teacher doesn’t usually ride in the car with me to point out the futility of swearing at tailgaters. Or the danger of not paying attention when I walk into an unfamiliar place. I have to do that myself. If I’m open to it, if I’m always ready to learn and advance wherever I am, than I always get to grow. The dojo is a place I go to practice skills in a controlled environment to begin learning them. Daily life is where I continue learning them. The dojo is a specific training hall. It is also wherever I happen to be standing.

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