What are you training for?

train·ing
 ˈtrāniNG/
 noun
 noun: training

1. the action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior.
 2. the action of undertaking a course of exercise and diet in preparation for a sporting event.

I am a member of several groups that actively engage in the martial arts. The various arts are of Asian and European origin but are all decidedly American in attendance. The American cultural attitudes and expectations are all present and accounted for. In many cases the lust for quick results and desire to purchase a quick fix often taint the students perception of the art. A focus on the martial aspects of any martial art is a common occurrence for both teacher and student. A student preparing for a tournament, testing, upcoming fight or other event is surely training. A student who is still mastering the basics of an art form is certainly training the body. The question arises then, why continually train and for what?

It is important to be impeccable with ones speech as much as possible. You see, I am the student that once became focused on the goal. A goal, any goal implies an ending. The very use of the word training implied that I was training for something. Whatever am I training for? There are always tests, tournaments, seminars, and of course the odd brawl among my martial arts brothers that I am always ready for. So again I ask, what am I really training for? I’ve devoted a substantial amount of time, treasure, and energy into the martial arts and learning all I could about my chosen path among them. What do I gain? What have I achieved with all my training? I gained all those things that are advertised about the martial arts; fitness, discipline, confidence, skill. I gained all of that, years before and in many different aspects of my life. I didn’t need the martial arts to gain these attributes. Of course the training in the arts reinforced these traits but I didn’t need the martial arts for this. Maybe I wasn’t training for anything.

It came to me one day when I was leaving for the dojo. Everything ached that day from a rough night with my kung fu brothers. I was not looking forward to Iaido and a sticky, hot summer dojo. My best friend sent me a text as I walked out of the house telling me that she hoped I would have fun at training. Fun was the last thing I thought would happen but at the same time I realized that not only was I certainly not going to have fun but that I wasn’t actually training. Some where along my path I had failed to notice a change in my goals and motivations. I wasn’t doing this for fun and I certainly wasn’t training for any goal. The only goal was to continue exploring this amazing world where violence and pure communication come together. I want to make art and this is not something I can train for. I can train all the skills to death and become an amazing technician of martial skills but I won’t be an artist until I let go of any kind of goal driven motivation. To strive for only the benefits granted by a dedicated pursuit of the martial arts isn’t enough. I am striving for something more but also something far less. I’m not looking for belts, titles, a legacy or fighting skill. I don’t want to teach these things or achieve recognition. I am not training for anything. I am making art. I am offering up a story for anyone willing to come see. My sword is not a weapon. Its a tool and I’m going to use it to cut the story of my life out of the fabric of reality.

I am not training any more. I have moved past the desire to obtain anything from my art. I am maintaining a practice of personal growth and cultivation. A practice that leaves the dojo with me every day. It permeates and influences all of my thoughts and actions. I have a practice that includes and is centered in the martial arts but touches every aspect of my life. Regardless of my location or status, my dojo is with me every day at all times. My practice lives in me. My vision of what that will come to envisage is as blurry as can be and I like it that way. I can’t tell you how this path will end, or even remember how or when it began for me but I can tell you that today, I am not training. I am going to practice.

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