Thursday, May 6, 2010

Enthusiasm and Focus

I just got through reading one of blogs I'm following: Just A Thought.

(It's a great blog...) Anyway, the topic of discussion was how contagious enthusiasm is.

My classes are on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Monday nights are the hardest, because after working all day, I'm usually just not "feeling it," but I leave that behind, when I enter the dojo. No matter how tired I am, whatever else I have going on in my life, the second I hit the doors of the dojo, all of it falls away. This not only gives me a break from the strain of everyday living, but even if I'm totally exhausted before class, by the time the class is over, I'm drenched in sweat and I feel GREAT!

The converse is also true: We have a young brown-belt in our class that has been taking karate since he was a young boy. I don't know if he's just bored or just has a lack of energy, or what... His lack of enthusiasm is a real bummer, and it drags the level of the class down. It's like everything he does is just half-hearted. Honestly, I try not to look at him much, and instead, focus on myself and what I'm doing, and look to others in class, who are giving their all, for inspiration... Last Monday evening, we worked on fighting up from the ground, and for the first time, he showed some real enthusiasm, speed, and focus. I inwardly cheered for him... Everyone was enthusiastic and focused, and because of this, it was an awesome class!

When I first started out, getting this 41-year old body to cooperate, was like trying to push a truck... Every class left me aching, tired, and shook my faith in myself. That's all changed, now. I've dropped ten pounds, and the tougher and more demanding a class is, my only thought is, BRING IT ON!! I look forward to each class, feel myself growing stronger, leaner, more flexible, faster, and more coordinated, and I now have unshakable faith that I will see this through to black-belt and beyond.

I'm glad that the majority of pupils in my dojo are focused and enthusiastic. I know that this is gratifying to our Sensei. I've taught various classes on a variety of topics, especially during my years in the Army. When students just sit back and act like they are there under duress, and act like they have no enthusiasm or interest, it makes it difficult for me to teach with fire and enthusiasm. When I find a student that is interested, engaged, and enthusiastic, it fires me up, too. I find that I want to teach that student as much as I possibly can, because s/he is a willing recipient. The whole teacher/student relationship becomes something that is mutually beneficial and mutually inspiring. Knowing this, I do my best to extrapolate that to being a student in my dojo.

And far from being mindless cheerleading, or like a Jack Russell terrier overloaded on espresso, it just means giving absolutely 100%. By giving every bit of effort I can; by giving 100%, my own sense of honor is satisfied. When class is over, a great peace blooms within me. My conscience is clear, my spirit feels cleansed, and the other knots in my life that previously seemed so complicated, seem to suddenly unravel and the road through all of it emerges straight and shining before me.

And finally, if, by my own focus and enthusiasm, I can inspire others and somehow elevate the level of the class, then that's just the cherry on top.



  1. Hi Frank: Thank you for the kind words!

    When I enter the dojo, I try to leave the stress of the day behind me. For two entire focus is on training. When I do not feel like working out, I remind myself that I always feel better after training.

    You have an excellent blog and I look forward to your future posts.

  2. Heck yeah man. :)

    One of the things some other people have helped me out with, is the idea that training is just as much a mental exercise as it is a physical one. You really have to think about what you're doing in each drill or exercise, and keep yourself in check, to make sure you're getting as much out of it as you should.

    A handful of guys I train with tend to just "go through the motions" of a drill. Their structure is compromised, and you can tell they don't have in mind the application outside the drill itself. I try not to let that get to me and just stay focused as best I can.

    One of the most valuable lessons I've learned is how to approach and think about training, and staying on top of that has really revved up my progress. :)

  3. Michele, thank you! I enjoy your blog, too.

    James, you are so right. I love drills... Usually, for any given technique, there are a number of ways and situations to which it can be applied. Last night, we were doing an exercise where someone grabbed my wrist. I pulled my wrist towards my chest, and then slashed down and outward with my hand, thus breaking the hold, pulling the opponent off-balance, and at the same time, stepping in and around to the side.

    As I thought about it, it reminded me of pulling a heavy door and stepping through it at the same time, using the handle of the door and the foot nearest the door as the fulcrum to lever myself through.

    When we actually did the technique, it worked very well. It was a simultaneous whip and step.

    Just going through the motions, just as with practicing kata, everything just seems kind of two-dimensional. With focus, really thinking about the combat application of the technique, and doing the stretches and calisthenics with that same focus, really makes everything just light up! It all starts to click. :)

  4. You'd think just going through the motions and doing things half assed would be a sure sign to quit and find something else you can be enthousiastic about: why on earth spend time and money on something you're no longer interested in? Seems like a huge waste of free time, not to mention your teacher's time. When I step unto the mat I always try to give it my all and be the best I can be: while not every class is as fast paced and high level as I would like (we still have a lot of relative beginners and lower belts) I always pick up something new and just practising feels great. I don't care what it is: punching, kicking, locking, beginner's technique, advanced material... It's all fun and worthwhile and I know every repetion I make contributes to my skill level and development. It helps that everything we do has a purpose and training is quite realistic, my sensei does alot of cross-training and he takes bits and pieces of other arts and brings it into the system and that's great really: all systems or styles have weaknesses and these can be adressed by the strong points of other arts. Obviously this doesn't mean you should be studying 10 or 20 arts (a relative impossibility, especially when you have to work for a living) but combining training in a few proven and complementary arts will do wonders for your overall effectiveness and understanding of the arts. If you can't do that (costs, lack of time, commitment to other things) it's best to find a teacher who does and who can competently teach you a blend. Most of all training should be fun, challenging and suited to your purpose. If you're geting bored in your style go try another: this will not only alliviate the boredom but also give you a new perspective on your original art and hopefully widen your understanding & rekindling your enthousiasm.

    Just yesterday we had a great class: there were only four of us (sensei included) and it was kyu-training (a class dedicated to practice for the upcoming belt tests) and while it was beginner's material I enjoyed myself and I enjoyed helping the white belts correct mistakes and move smoother. It's cool to be able to help people progress and get some respect in return: the two guys who showed up just started a few months ago and they're both quite busy (both are students and one trains thaiboxing on the side) but they're enthousiastic about the art and how we're teaching it and they're quite committed to it. As a teacher or assistent teacher (my job) those people really motivate you and it's for them you teach, not for those who slack of and are not really into what they're doing. Sometimes I get a little frustrated when people slacken off while it's clear they could do much better if they just put some effort into it but that's their problem, not mine: you'd think people should be thrilled to be able to learn this stuff (it's really, really good and certainly better than what I was taught when I first started) and are actually healthy enough to be able to move, sweat and work. Then again to me martial arts are a big part of my life and it's becoming a part of how I define myself: training has many advantages to offer, not the least of those dealing with adversity and suffering and how to keep a clear head when things go awry.

    Whenever people feel frustrated or tired or whatever I try to keep them motivated by either appealling to their pride or by giving them compliments for what they're doing right. Being energetic and radiating enthousiasm really does rub off on people and remembering what I came from it's nice to hear you're doing a good job and seeing what you can achieve with effort and determination. Humour is also a good way to lighten the mood and keep them going.

    Good post,


    PS: what exactly did you do in the army?

  5. I couldn't agree more, Zara. I'm fortunate that my Sensei does the same thing: He brings elements of other styles to augment our "arsenal." We pull some of the higher kicks from other styles, as well as practicing fighting up from the ground, knee strikes that are the mainstay of Muy Thai, etc. It keeps the training fresh and interesting.

    Last night, we sparred for a three minute round with one partner, switched to a new partner and sparred a two minute round, and then switched to yet another partner and sparred for a one minute round. It took me twenty minutes to catch my breath after that!

    I always know when I've had a good class: My dogi is SOAKED! Hahahaha...

    I was a medic in the Army, mostly on dustoff/medevac in Hueys and Blackhawks, and I was in Operation Just Cause (Panama), and Desert Storm.