Mess In Training

by Fatih Genckal

The other day, some things occurred to me in a quite direct way when I got Sensei’s strike right on my jaw which knocked my head back and had me do an extremely quick back fall. It actually also stretched my neck and bent my back to a point where I would not have thought they could.

Practicing with Sensei or a senior person dislocates you. It upsets your balance. It messes you up. When you think you got the movement or the technique, and you feel strong, flexible, and ready to take your nice ukemi swiftly, Sensei throw a wrench in the works. He spoils it all. And after that happens for quite a while, you hopefully may realize that however hard you feel you’re training yourself, however much you feel you’re pushing your boundaries, working your muscles, that in fact your mind is orchestrating all that. It’s telling you what you’re doing, it tells you how much energy you should allocate to each thing, it even tells you how much more you should try to do, how much more you should and could push yourself and how to do that. It figures out ways to do things, and tells you how to do better. This way you know.

You know where you are and you know where you’re going, how much you have traveled and what to do next. It’s a sort of clear map. You think it serves your training. Getting a good strike from Sensei makes you realize how much more there is to it than that map. Suddenly you step out of it, out of that head-governed zone and try to deal with the chaos. Your body, not your mind, reacts then, usually in surprising ways. Only then you begin to train.

I think it was that same day that Sensei said “You’re not trying to defend yourself, you’re trying to know yourself.” or something to that effect, or maybe something that had in me that effect. Man is a creature of habit. We are constantly taught to make things familiar and safe, to reduce things into the comfortable, safe zone that we learn to build for ourselves to dwell in. So much that this becomes an instinct for us. And on top of that we think, think and think to further make things safe. That way we can know, we can predict.

We predict and constantly form expectations upon which we live our lives. We can live like this forever and we need to strive not to. What is so precious in the training is that it pushes us out of there into the unknown where we can actually learn much more about our real selves. What you do there is the beginning of your training. Let us all push each other there. It possibly is the best thing we could do for each other.