Longevity

May 01, 2020

Longevity … or length of life, life span, lifetime; durability, endurance, resilience, strength, robustness.

In the mid 90's I was living in Minneapolis studying at university and training at Rick Fayeʼs MKG.  Because I was a student, I didn't usually have a lot of money to spend on training.  Knowing this, Rick was good enough to allow me to clean the gym in exchange for not paying monthly dues.  I loved this arrangement, and spent A LOT of time in the gym 5 and 6 days a week.  “Gym Rat” was a good descriptor to fit me at that time. 

During this time I suffered an injury to my lower back which caused me to not be
able to train for a period of weeks.  When I had gotten through the worst of the injury I went back to the gym to pick up my training.  As I met with some of my training partners I found out to my dismay that they had learned many new techniques while I was gone.  I now felt as though I was “behind” the rest of
my peers and became very dismayed.  Rick saw this in me and asked me what was wrong. I told him what I was feeling and he just chuckled and shared with me 2 specific truths that have guided and enriched my training ever since. I would like to share them with you, and hopefully you will find them as beneficial I did.

The first truth is: As serious martial artists we plan on training for the rest of our lives. 

In other words...you've got time.  Youʼre in this for the long haul ... so there doesn't need to be a feeling of hurry or panic.  Knowing this, we can relax and enjoy our journey without getting hung up on focusing on “the goal”.  If you get tired of training and you need a break, sometimes all you need is to change up your
training to give you more variety.  But if you really need to take a break ... take one so that you can come back even more focused and motivated to meet your personal goals.  Either way, understand that you are doing this for the long haul not just for the next “2 years”, or whatever.  If you are a lifelong martial artist, you've got time ... so relax.  Youʼll get more out of your experiences, youʼll enjoy your time more, and youʼll be a happier person as a result.




In the beginning of my personal journey I was always focused on the “prize” of the coveted Black Belt.  After my first dan grading I came to realize that the journey was the prize.  Sure rank will follow training, but rank in itself is a totally futile and empty goal.  If all I had to draw me to train was the thought of another instructor ranking or belt I would tire very quickly.  However, the lessons learned, the people met
and friends made, the lives affected ... these are a prize worth pursuing.  It is very easy to learn how to hurt someone.  That objective comes quickly with diligent training.  Changing our environments just by virtue of the fact that we are there.  Seeking to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer.  Learning to be a
leader and positive influence in peoples lives … now these are worthy goals. 

This can only be done by being “in the journey” and not fixated only on a distant, artificial end.  I am not saying that it is bad to be motivated to achieve things in your training ... far from that.  I am just suggesting that the journey is far more important than “the goal” because the true prize is found in your daily experiences and
relationships.

The second truth is: As serious martial artists we generally train hard year round, and we train dangerous techniques therefore we do get injured.

Athletes from other disciplines have seasons of hard training, and seasons of rest.  We generally do not.  Because of this fact (combined with the nature of what we do) as a martial artist, you can EXPECT to get injured at some point in your career.

Depending on the training regimen you follow, you may even live with different injuries constantly.  Unfortunately this is just a fact.

Does this mean we have to have long breaks in our training?  No, it usually doesn't.  It means we must be selfish and smart about how we train.  

When I say be selfish, I mean that you need to make sure to take care of your body when training.  I am not talking about the common sense things like good nutrition, proper rest, good form, etc.  I am talking about the abuse we sometimes unwittingly subject our bodies to.  When we are young we can get away with it as we heal and recover quickly … but trust me … old injuries (and bad training habits) have a way of
catching up with you. 

Many of us tend to take a lot of unnecessary risk and put our health in someone elseʼs hands (i.e. Your training partners or your students).  I used to allow every student at every one of my seminars to practice on me so that I could make corrections to their techniques.  While my intentions were good, I was being naive.  While I was being careful to explain safety practices and doing my best to protect myself, the truth was that I was putting my body under unnecessary duress allowing the repetitions to be done to me. I was also the victim of many well meaning but over-enthusiastic students who inadvertently caused me injuries ... sometime minor ... sometimes not so minor.  I am not advocating stopping your training or being a bad training partner.  I am saying to be very intentional about what you
do and with whom you do it.  I no longer allow everyone to train on my body.  I am happy to demonstrate techniques on them and make corrections to what they are doing with their partner, but I rarely allow someone whom I donʼt know/trust to practice on me.  I no longer take that risk.

When I say be smart I mean your body is like a machine.  Maintain and build up your machine.  Try not to wear it down. In order to have longevity in our training we must seek to build up and maintain our health ... in all of itʼs aspects.  Strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, bone and joint health, cardiovascular health, etc, etc.  There are a lot of "New Programs" that seem to emerge constantly.  Be wary of them.  There are some "tried and true" principles that never go out of style.  These methods usually have been around so long because they tend to work.  Use those as your main pillars and then if you want, research newer things.  



Research, seek out advice, and experiment with what training combinations you can do to maximize your work potential each week while minimizing undo stress on
your body, mind, and will.  Listen to your body.  Make sure to rest enough, but not too much.  Make sure to eat properly.  And the list goes on.

Your martial journey should be enjoyable, beneficial, and long.  A little planning and common sense will go a long way towards helping you on your way. 

I hope these principals have been a small contributor to helping you on your personal journey.

Blessings and Strength!
John

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