I recently read Stu Cooke Sensei’s blog post, The Beauty of Paradox, which concluded by saying that “Getting past the first batch of pain is likely the major barrier for people that try the martial arts”, saying that they don’t understand the point of the unpleasantness and don’t get to a point where they appreciate what it’s all about.
This is true for many people, but there are those who take their training a bit further, accepting the part that physical discomfort plays only to face a second sticking point: frustration.
I have often considered the reasons why many women and even smaller statured men don’t stick with a martial art training over the long term, and this is one reason, particularly in Jiu-jitsu. At the earlier stages of learning fine motor skills like joint locks and throws, most students don’t understand the finer technical points that make them work. Bigger and/or stronger students often get by using their strength to get their uke to tap or throw them to the ground. They feel a certain level of satisfaction at having achieved their objective, even if they didn’t do it exactly the way they are taught. Smaller/weaker students often face greater difficulties getting a desirable outcome from their joint locks or throws at the initial stages of learning. As as result, they feel more frustrated with their training. And if there aren’t any instructors or higher level students of a similar stature for them to look to as an example, they often wrongly come to the conclusion that the martial art is just not for someone like them.
To those students out there who feel this way, I say if you are enjoying the instruction and training you’re receiving, have faith and give it time. If you’ve made it past the hurdle of pain, keep training and jump over the hurdle of frustration. Once you start to figure things out, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of the people who used more strength to get by at the lower levels.
In his blog post, Cooke Sensei also refers to the “mutual existence of compassion and violence” as a beautiful paradox that exists in the martial arts. In my opinion, the way we train in Can-ryu (the style I teach) and Shorinji Kan (the style cooke Sensei teaches and I train in), the “violence” experienced is not true violence. Oh sure, we teach techniques that can be used violently in self-defense and often put ourselves in physically violent training drills so we can learn to use them effectively, but in the dojo, there is no violent intent in that no one wishes for another student to come to harm (or at least there isn’t supposed to be). Ultimately, I don’t see this as a paradox, but I understand why people outside the arts or new to the arts, might not see with this mentality.