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Enjoy the Journey

April 10, 2011

I still remember my first lesson in Bujinkan taijutsu.

There I was, the only newbie that turned up that week (the others didn’t turn up, for some strange reason) and I was plunged straight into the maelstrom of typical Bujinkan training.

That meant no beginner’s class, you just did your best to keep up with whatever the rest of the class was doing. It also meant little explanation of the nuts-and-bolts of the techniques. I just fumbled my way through, glad that the rest of the class was too diplomatic to snigger at my bungling…

What made things worse was:

  • The topic – Muto Dori (unarmed defence against sword cuts), already a very difficult topic; AND
  • The Techniques – we were using the various wrist locks. And I had a huge mental block over wrist locks.

So that was my first lesson.

After that, I resolved to practice everything I could. Other newbies appeared in class, and because I took notes and made the effort to review them and practice what was taught in previous lessons, I soon had better kamae, rolls and strikes than all the rest of them.

I wanted to be the best 10th kyu (Bujinkan starting rank) in class. And within a short while I succeeded. All the rest of the newbies were promoted to 9th kyu within a couple of months, while I stayed at 10th kyu for SIX months. So I was the best 10th kyu, because all the rest were promoted out of there!

You can imagine what that did to my ego.. 🙂

That didn’t faze me, though. I continued with my note-taking and self-training, and was promoted to 8th kyu after another six months. Just so you know, the usual time frame for those grades is three to four months each if you attend training regularly. Anyway, after the first year I stopped paying attention to grades. It was obvious, if I continued to pay attention to them I’d probably get discouraged! Besides, I knew I was learning really cool stuff in those lessons, and decided that the fun was its own reward.

And that’s what I like you to consider as you attend the lessons and learn the taijutsu. Don’t get caught up with grades, those are just external signposts and landmarks on an internal, personal journey.

Don’t go about comparing your own growth and progress with other people in the class. You should be concerned primarily with improving your own skills. Of course you can learn from the other students how they make their taijutsu work, in fact that’s a great thing to do. Just don’t get discouraged if they progress faster than you do.

And should you struggle with any particular area in your taijutsu, approach your sensei for help or ask your fellow students for advice. Just make sure you ask the really good ones, not those who are just as clueless as you! If you want to do extra research into techniques, be aware that other arts have techniques that look similar to Bujinkan taijutsu, but are actually quite different. For example, Aikido has Kote Gaeshi, which on the surface looks like Omote Gyaku. But the two are quite different, so tips that help you execute a Kote Gaeshi may not work when you are trying Omote Gyaku, and vice versa.


I’ve now been training consistently in Bujinkan taijutsu for more than 10 1/2 years. And I fully expect that I’ll be continuing on for the next 10 years or more. And for me, the secret to lasting so long, in spite of discouragement, frustration and all that, is this: Enjoy the journey. The frustrations, the discouragement, the doubts and fears, are all part and parcel of the training. Like everything else you excel in, you know there will be times when it’s tough, times when you learn and improve effortlessly, and at times you just need to look seriously at something else for the time being.

So whatever happens, chill and enjoy the journey!


From → bujinkan

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