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Seeing the Benefits

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Martial Arts of Japan

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Seeing the Benefits

by Salahuddin Muhammad

The benefits are there. Can you see them, beyond your own reasons for being in the dojo?

A student of mine hit me up and wanted to let me know that one of my writings is true. I chuckled at the way he stated this — this 40-year-old man sounded like he had found the Revelation from an uncle that he had not believed, LOL. The student had excelled technically, meaning physically, but admittedly was struggling with discipline. He said he could not find a way to connect the principles of the dojo to his routine outside of the dojo. I knew better than to interject or to even ask a question. I wanted to let him get this out, whatever this was.

When you have students on different continents and from different cultures it is quite a learning experience in itself. It is easy to teach students in your own small town, that you never plan on leaving, and everyone else is like you. That’s why I’ve always been fascinated by the early teachers that went and taught via seminar format, long before World War II.

The gentleman stated that he saw one of my Facebook posts that said that Warriors develop discipline by getting up early. I’d been posting videos and my own thoughts on waking up at 4:00 a.m. He said that this truly taught him who he was and what he needed to work on. He said the first week was truly horrific and that (in a benign way) he hated my guts. I found that hilarious, trying to envision him waking up and thinking of his hatred for Sensei and then coming to class oh so willingly, anyway. I must be that bitter pill that helps. Thanks, kid. 

He then went on to explain that each day he had a success, he felt better about himself, and he noticed that he achieved much that day. I told him that this is not new knowledge, and that there are certain types of people that have lived by this. I told him that, early on in my life when I did not, I was a totally different person. For much of my life I was a nocturnal creature, in part because of the environments that I worked in and in part because it just felt natural to me.

He told me that now he’s been looking over other posts, video lectures that I’ve given, and seminar footage. He stated that he’s no longer watching what my body does in terms of technique but rather trying to extract the lessons so that he’s not a very talented but undisciplined, sloppy person. I smiled and told him that he had just figured out something that 80% of all people that have ever called themselves martial artists actually never figured out. I told him that if it there was an award for taking steps forward in one’s life, he would definitely be presented with his godan (fifth-degree black-belt) in People-ryu.

During and after the lights shut down on many famous combat careers in sports history, and after we’ve done all the trips and certificate collecting, and having our shoulders patted, and received recognition from so many circles, oftentimes, we’ve received more praise than made progress toward finding our ultimate potential.

I felt it very important to give my student some feedback, as that was what he was seeking. I told him that I have, over the last few months, seen some positive changes in his posture, and even in his presence. I told him changes are coming from a renewed sense of self. 

People “framework” themselves into low ceilings and they state that that is just who they are. It is potential unrealized. So, I informed him that he is realizing his potential, but he must be careful not to settle into any feeling at all. I told him that he may overestimate his current abilities and stop developing and show himself to be an ass. I also told him that he may underestimate his abilities and potential growth via assumption and thereby permit himself to accept that low ceiling again. I told him to enjoy what he is experiencing, but to keep chipping away at the clay.

I told him that the work is not done, and then I thanked him for realizing that Warriors do in fact wake up at 4:00 a.m. I told him that he hasn’t even realized the fun part yet. He owns a business and I told him if he can understand how the principles that we teach in the dojo can positively affect him as an entrepreneur, then not only will he feel better, but he’ll see tangible results of applying said principles. A dojo, at least an authentic one, is not weird people trying to be Japanese and swinging around the big shiny razor blades. Actual work is being done there. 

If the leadership of the dojo is emotionally healthy and talented, and the students have done a self-assessment on why they are actually there, powerful things can transpire in people’s lives.

• • • • •

Salahuddin Muhammad Sensei, dojocho of the Takeshin Dojo in Philadelphia, is an overseas director (Nihon jujutsu division) for the Japanese Budo Association, under the direction of his teacher, Asano Yasuhito Sensei. Muhammad Sensei is a student of Shinkage-ryu Hyoho (Asano-ha), and the director of the Nihonden Aikibujutsu Senyokai — he is retired from the fields of private client protection and executive protection, and has also worked in fugitive recovery. He can be reached through his website, takeshin-dojo.com.

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