Don't feed the monkey, keep going and expect to break

articles podcast Jun 28, 2020

20 years ago, I had my first training experience with my martial arts teacher, and in this episode I want to share with you some observations that I took from that experience and how it really helped me to understand this saying,

Keep going.



What does it truly mean? I dig into some observations I made during that first training, and at the moment it gave me to for the next two decades of study.

It's Saturday morning right now, and I teach a morning conditioning class. While all the martial arts schools in my area are closed due to covid 19, I have opened my teaching to anybody who wants to come and train at no charge through our online streaming.

I've been reflecting quite a bit on what made me choose this path.

Was there anything specific?

Was there a specific trigger or a time that said, This is the path that I want to go on?

I've been having a hard time putting my finger on one specific experience.

There's a lot of wonderful, amazing experiences... martial arts has allowed me to  travel the world, teach and develop relationships not only with some of the best colleagues and most talented martial artists, but also with my teacher. I'm  privileged and honored for all of this


Today, we're doing 1000 strikes from basics.

That's a lot.

It actually takes anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour to get through.

And because I opened up my teaching to anybody who wants to attend... skill level, experience, background - it doesn't make a difference; there have been a lot of new people joining us, so occasionally have to stop, and I have to teach a little bit for those not familiar with the content I'm teaching. 

Were it just my students, we'd be able to get through those 1000 in about 45 minutes to me about an hour.

Well... I noticed something today that stood out as we're getting into about 500 reps.

I noticed a few of the students online would stop while we're going through the strikes, to stretch their hands, showing obvious pain and discomfort.

Then I noticed at about 700 reps, I started a feel an burn from friction of the of the weapon on my skin.

I'm not used to that, I've developed callouses on my hands. Well, guess what? I burned through the callouses today, and it occurred to me that that's probably with these guys are dealing with.

If you're getting blisters on your hands from doing this, if you're burning through the skin, it doesn't mean that you're doing a lot of repetitions. It means you're not doing enough repetitions.

But, hey, I noticed this was happening to me too, and then it occurred to me what that moment was I'd been looking for!

Back in my first seminar with Unsui Sensei, was when I was really introduced to the way that the Jinenkan trains. There was a group of instructors there among us, and then there were a group of other people who I didn't quite know at the time who they were.

This group of instructors were dressed in their clean, pressed uniforms. Looked sharp. They were talking among themselves and catching up on times.

Then there was a different group of people, a small group who weren't talking, stretching, doing push ups and generally warming up. They were just moving their bodies, not talking or anything.

A few minutes go by and I take notice that the group of more experienced looking students and instructors start taking sandpaper out of their bags, and because the topic was bojutsu, they started to sand their weapons.

Then I watched as one or two of them tape their hands.

And then I witnessed a few more put talcum powder on their hands.

But the group of students not chatting it up, stretching and getting warmed up had not done any of that. They were just silently doing deep knee bends, or whatever conditioning drill they were into at the moment.

As training commenced I began to notice the different actions of these two groups. The qualified instructors would often time step to the back after a lot of repetitions. After they completed the required six reps, they'd simply stop and drift off to chatter or just chill.

But the other guys; when they finished with their training partner, they'd step back and keep going through the movement. They'd just keep going, going, going.

The other guys didn't.

This term keep going that is so often spoke in this martial art, I began to hear a different meaning as I developed as a student and it was not some motivational high five. term. At least not to me.

When you've met your capacity.

When you can't go any further.

When you're broken.

When your hands are ripped apart...  you have to keep going.

You haven't gotten to the end yet. You hav however got into that 40% capacity I think that David Goggins talks about in his book, Can't Hurt Me.

You think you're at the end, you stop and you drift.

What happens in that moment can be overcome by the onkey in your head, the saru.

You give yourself little excuses, little moments, little fragments of time that wedge their way into your determination and your effort. They break into the practice.

Those little wedges are talcum powder, taping the hands or sanding your bo so that your fingers don't get blisters.

That other group who didn't stand their Bo ... they kept going and maybe their hands got ripped apart and their weapon became sticky from sweat.

Maybe they were exhausted and tired, but they kept training.

Here's the thing... Those people today are now at the top of the organziation I train in, the Jinenkan.

The instructors and students who were taping their hands, standing around chatting it uo, taping their soft fingers... they're not in this organization anymore. They've all quit for whatever reason.

I'm not saying that that's bad. We all have differing and prsonal reasons for not carrying on in whatever we do... no judgments here. But the fact remains that they simply did not keep going.

My message to my students in today's training. Was, keep going, nut do not take that message as  some Tony Robbins thing motivation, or some superficial support. It's very real, and hard. 

You are obligated in this martial art to keep going, you're obligated to not put tape on your hands. Expect blisters.

Did not put padding on the situation to prevent yourself from break down... this is where growth happens. This is where you find expansion.

When you break your muscles down, you go through recovery, and that's really where the science exists to developing and becoming stronger. Optimizing your recovery is a craft, on that makes you sharpen your health, ability and longevity. 

You must welcome that break down and you must push through, understanding that when you're out of capacity and you feel like you can't go further ... you most likely burned 40% of your capacity and ya got another 60% in your tank.

How do you access that remaining 60%, that nearly no human ever does. Well, according to Goggins and many other athletes and respected warriors - you simply keep going. 

You don't let excuses wedge in.

Don't let blisters on your hands stop you.

Do not step back until you've completed the training, not a rep. Once you've stopped, then the saru, that monkey in your brain wants to be be fed with 

"Oh, I'm gonna go grab a water" 

"Oh, hey, Bob, blah, blah, blah"

Pick the weapon up, or pick yourself up and keep going until the end. Without chatter, without excuses, ignoring the monkey. Expect discomfort, expect pain as it's where growth resides.

Ignore it, cover it, pad it ... and you will eventually fade away. 

That has ben the most important principle to life that stands out to me in this martial art. And it has only ben found within the so many times I've just wanted to quit.

And there have been so many times.

Why am I even doing this?

What is this all about?

Where does take me?

All these excuses bubble to the top. Expect it, but you must keep going.

You will be break mentally. Expect it.

Your emotions will break, you will cry.  Expect it.

You will break your body, you will end up at the doctors. Expect it.

You will endure months of recovery over the decades of training. Expect it.

It's all part of the path, and if you don't accept that ... if you gotta put tape on that ... if you gotta put talcum on that to protect your hands ... if you don't like the blisters ... then maybe you should look take a path more suited to your comfort needs, as the path of true martial arts is horribly painful and tiring.



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