August 12, 2017
During a visit to the Oyama dojo, late 1990's
Enthusiasm; it's a high!
We all love it. Someone comes up with an idea, we all get enthusiastic, Yes! Let's do it, lets' go for it. Sounds great!
In most cases there will be no follow up. The idea will die a natural death. Or it will die as soon as someone actually takes the first step. Enthusiasm alone is never enough.
In the cases where there is follow up there is rarely any honest research into the details.
I am reminded of a Seinfeld episode where George quits his job. The next day he is sitting with Jerry, in a more sober mood, and exploring his career options; I could be a sportscaster, I like sports, says George. Jerry, the voice of reason, says, Well George, those jobs usually go to retired athletes or to people who are actually experts on sports.
After going through a list of possible careers Jerry looks at George and says, "you didn't really think this through when you quit your job yesterday, did you?".
That in a nutshell is the problem, we get enthusiastic but do not think it through.
And yet sometimes we need that jolt of enthusiasm to change our lives. We need to plunge into something new when clearly we are unhappy and stuck in a miserable situation. So yes, there is a case for selling everything and moving to France and taking up art. As long as you are prepared to follow through.
What I just said may seem like a contraction; on one hand the voice of caution and reason, on the other hand the voice of spontaneity and change. There is no contradiction. We need both.
There are times when you must make a change in your life. If you feel stuck, unsatisfied, then as Barry Manilow sang all those years ago you must be "ready to take a chance again". Take a risk, but a calculated risk and be willing to work hard on it.
Do not sell everything, move to France and then realize you don't speak any French, have no discipline to learn the language, do not really like the climate or the people and do not have any talent for art. Enthusiasm must be coupled with reason and.....Dedication.
Dedication and Enthusiasm are a winning combination. We all start with enthusiasm but few, very few, posses any real dedication. Thus the rotating door syndrome.
The greatest burnout for martial arts instructors is this rotating door syndrome; students come and go but very precious few remain for long enough to achieve anything.
My friend Adam G. a fellow student of the late Arthur Cohen, was Mr. Cohen's student for 37 years. Yes, you heard that correctly, 37 years training with the same instructor, until death parted them. My friend and student Shihan Velez trained with our teacher Shigeru Oyama for decades, until death separated them. But where do you find that these days?
Teachers lose interest because students lose interest.
Dedication must kick in when Enthusiasm fades. Every type of relationship will experience its highs and lows. That is why couples sign a marriage contract, so it is not so easy to walk away at the first sign of trouble. You must be dedicated to make any relationship work. Martial arts or Marital arts, the principle is the same, what starts with enthusiasm must continue with dedication, and that in turn will lead to a new and better enthusiasm.
I am always happy to see new faces but I am sad when it is a rotating door. I believe in long term relationships built on dedication and enthusiasm.
New York, 1980's, the alarm rings, it is 5 am. It is cold outside but my bed is nice and warm. My body still aches from last night's karate lesson. Part of me says...stay in bed, sleep a little longer, you can miss class today. But the better part, the wiser part, says NO. Do you want to be a black belt? Do you want this relationship with martial arts to work out? So get out of bed, drag your body out of this bed, get dressed and go out in the cold. And soon I was wrapping my scarf around my face and heading towards the F train. Before I knew it I was outside the Oyama dojo with a few other dedicated students. Soon a sleepy uchi deshi, (live in student) would open the door and our day would begin. That is dedication. That was more than 30 years ago and I am still training, still learning.
Enthusiasm is never enough. Dedication will get you through the rough times. Do not be a once a month student, do not be a martial arts drop out. Do you want something? Then go and get it!
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