4th article in the series, “I Can Do Anything?”
I was visiting a sister dojo, it was the end of class, and the Sensei asked us for twenty pushups. I was already very tired from a long day and from almost an hour of intense karate. I knew I couldn’t do twenty but I was going to give it my best shot. My arms started to shake before I’d reached the number I knew I could do. I’d also fallen behind the count. I was so frustrated I was fighting tears.
Someone came alongside me and knelt down. I was too tired and discouraged to care who it was. I hoped I wasn’t in for a lecture. I heard a man’s voice quietly explain, “Form is more important than numbers right now. Tighten your core – don’t sag your belly. You got this. Now down slowly. That’s it. Now up. One more. Down slowly, and up.” The instructing Sensei finished the count and my helper quietly left so I wasn’t able to sneak a glance to confirm who it was.
If the leading Sensei had yelled at me for being weak I probably would’ve reacted badly – probably disrespectfully. I wouldn’t have gotten those extra two pushups out of my arms. Encouragement is powerful. After that class I was motivated to keep working on my pushups on my own. That’s saying a lot because I really don’t like pushups. Every day I now do as many good pushups as I can. Then I do as many as I can on my knees. I stumbled across a trick I’d been missing – I finish with as many “pushups” as I can do by standing up and leaning into the wall. (If anyone has any more tips, I’d be grateful to hear them because my progress is slow!)
For some people, encouraging others is as natural as breathing. Others, like myself, might need a lot of practice at quickly getting past negative emotions to come up with something that will build up, not tear down. I am very glad to have many good examples in my life – THANK YOU! Hearing encouraging words at just the right time feels like water on dry soil. Every time I hear or read encouraging sentiments, I learn something that I can hopefully pass along to someone else some day. Encouragement is one of the many ways others can help us be successful in the dojo and in life.
Teachers and Peers
We need teachers to help us along. They are the experts. Teachers have already been where you are. They know what you need to do next. Most importantly, teachers are there to push you outside your comfort zone when you need to be pushed. They give us perspective on what we do. It’s difficult for me to see what I’m doing in karate because I don’t have eyeballs outside my head. Mirrors help a little bit, but how am I supposed to know what to look for? For that I need an expert. Sure I could watch a video to try to learn a technique, but I guarantee if I show one of my Senseis that technique, he’ll spot something I missed. Teachers answer questions like, “What happens if I do it this way?” or “How does this work?” The teachings of an expert is precious and vital to success.
Peers are a blessing too. They are right alongside us, traveling the same road. It’s nice to have company on the journey. We can cheer each other on. We empathize with each other’s challenges. Sometimes when the expert isn’t around, we can at least serve as eyeballs for each other and suggest things to try. Collaboration often produces wonderful results – sometimes even effective new methods of learning. In Karate we work a lot with our peers so we know what our techniques actually do. Good peers aren’t jealous when another excels or receives an award. If we’re contributing to a peer’s success, we feel great about each others’ achievements.
Have you ever thought about the people you don’t always see, but who are also a part of your training? Look around next tournament and see how many workers are not wearing gis or blazers and ties. Our dojo meets at a YMCA, so there’s a whole army of workers whose jobs are vital to the facility – and therefore to my training. For example, there’s a lady who slips into the locker room from time to time in order to keep things tidy. If nobody did that job – yuck! I’d probably get some sort of wierd infection and be out of class for a week. After my last promotion, I thanked my Shallow Water Aerobics instructor for helping me develop strength and endurance. If you really want to blow your mind, think about all the people needed to put together that granola bar you wolfed down before class. Yes, we all need each other!
It would take me quite a long time to list everyone who’s been a part of my training. If someone drilled with me, sparred with me, taught me, worked or volunteered at facilities and venues, or encouraged me they’re on the list. Some of the people who have contributed to my training don’t even do martial arts. It’s often difficult to succeed alone – and I think it’s more fun to help and be helped.
What Goes Around Comes Around
I’ve written a lot about receiving help. Let me briefly mention our obligation to give help so that others might succeed. What goes around comes around. Be willing to be a cheerful helper. Someone needs you. Go find out who it is. Encourage. Teach. Walk alongside. Do something constructive when no one’s watching. Help in some way. I guarantee you’ll get more than you give, and that, my friend, is a form of success.
Final post in series: success!