Rick Matz directly addresses finding the time for martial arts training, but his advice reaches deeper into global men’s culture.
A reader recently asked me to comment on how one finds the time to train. We live in a day and age, he noted, that puts a stress on how many waking hours we have to devote to training in budo (Japanese martial arts). How did the great masters of the past manage to train so much?
How can we devote all the time we really need when we have jobs, families, and other responsibilities?
It’s not a minor question. Surveys show that we Americans, at least, are working more hours and getting paid overall less (figuring in inflation) than a decade or two ago, and stereotypes notwithstanding, we work more productive hours than almost any other country, including the vaunted Japanese worker. All that work and then having to deal with daily family life will, indeed, put a crimp on training time. Surely, if you’re an adult with a job and a family of any sorts, you can’t be going to the dojo five nights a week to train for five or six hours. It just ain’t gonna work.
First comment: an author I admire and respect (plus, he’s my bud), Dave Lowry, addressed this issue in, I think, a past column in Black Belt magazine. Some of this is my take on his observations.
Second: We’re not alone in our predicament. Every generation has had to struggle with figuring out how to balance training with living a realistic life.
When the earliest martial systems were founded in Japan and China, they still provided a modicum of practical application for life-and-death situations. Learning to handle a spear or sword, or grapple to the death (or for subduing criminals) were skills a hereditary warrior had to know to better survive if called upon to serve in a war or police action. So it wasn’t much of a choice between pastime or work. Learning the bugei WAS part of one’s occupation.
There was no conflict of time between pastime and work.
Go down a bit more in time and, in Japan at least, there was an extended period of relative peace of the Tokugawa hegemony. But early in that period, civil war was still a relative possibility, so martial artists who were skilled at their craft could parlay their prowess into being hired by a feudal lord as part of his retinue or as an instructor. The martial arts were still practical skills that could, in fact, be utilized to save your life during the execution of your duties as a warrior.
However, if you study the records and proclamations, much of the martial ardor and pugnacity of the Sengoku bushi (Warring States samurai) faded as two centuries of peace ensued. Several Tokugawa shoguns had to write public admonitions to the samurai class to continue to practice martial arts and study strategy because as bushi, that is what their station in life was supposed to be about, never mind that the wars were over. So as the samurai became bureaucrats, administrators, teachers and lawmakers, they, too, struggled with balancing work, family and budo training.
The problem of finding the time to train is nothing new. The issues are the same.
Here’s my own opinion: if you can’t commit a reasonable amount of time to your training, then perhaps your life is full and you may have to forego training, at least for the time being. The two koryu master teachers who I admired as my main teachers in Japan both said the same thing:
there is a hierarchy of values, and never let your love of martial arts eclipse the other responsibilities you have, or in the end you will be left with nothing. You have to put in adequate time for family, first, because without the support of your family, your life is meaningless.
Whether family is just a spouse or significant partner, or ten kids, a wife and three ex-spouses who receive alimony, you have to shoulder the responsibility you took on, and spend the time and effort with family, and extended family, to make sure the family endures, and you as an individual in that family contributes your fair share.
That is what being an adult is about. You no longer take everything. Now you have to give.
Second, of course, is your job. Without a stable job and income, you really will have a hard time paying to train. You need to pay dues, room rent, buy new training gear when the old ones wear out, be able to pay for travel expenses to attend seminars and workshops,and pay for medical bills if you fall the wrong way or get hit in the head by a wayward stick. So you have to do your best at your job to secure a decent wage for a decent day’s work.
Finally, if all the above is working relatively well, you can enjoy budo as a pastime. With a supportive family and good job, doing budo is a plus, a way to keep yourself mentally and physically healthy, a way to engage in an activity that you enjoy with others who enjoy it with you, a way to develop bonds and friendships outside of family and work. Having the mental and physical health that comes out of good budo training will add to your abilities at work and in your family and social life, but all these parts have to work together. You should never use budo training as an escape to avoid dealing with your responsibilities in the other two spheres of your life.Click here and help Rick help a friend.Originally posted on Cook Ding’s KitchenAntheaAtlas/Flickr