The other day I was looking through my old archives of notes and videos of some my earlier days in training, and as I showed a few of the students, they looked at me as if I was out of my mind. One of the students looked at me and said “You actually trained like that back when you started?” and I said back, “I still do.”
What we were looking at were my notes on training in the snow. I wanted to develop my mental ability of focus and perseverance in difficult weather, so I would head outside to my outdoor training area, in my gi, barefoot and would practice! Training usually started out with a 30 foot rope climb, followed up with kata practice, and then makiwara sessions. My makiwara was 1 inch hemp rope wrapped around a tree stump that I would strike with all the traditional strikes as well as my fingertips, wrist, shins etc. My cool down was to take a piece of carpet and lay it out on the snow and practice 15 – 20 mins of deep meditation.
Of course I didn’t think I was crazy, there were many stories of this type of severe training from the many masters of the arts, but my friends, family and students though I was a psycho! Yet, it never stopped me from my crazy training. Even now as long as it is 15 degrees above zero, I will hit the trail or road for running and training sessions outside, and yes people still call me crazy!!
Yet, maybe all of this training has prepared me for and allowed me to be where I am at today, I don’t know? I can tell you I have pages of history from my past that give me examples of what I pushed myself to be capable of, because sometimes what we are capable of and what we actually do are two separate things.
We have all heard of the rough and tumble training that Soke Hatsumi use to put his students through in the early days, and from the conversations I have had with the various Shihan none of them would have had it any other way. Now is this path for everyone?? I would honestly say no it is not, but that is because too many people have become soft in their training and life and would not take well to leaving the skin of your knuckles frozen on the makiwara post (oh yes this happened to me a few times! and yes it sucked!!) or being uncomfortable in the cold, bruised and or sore from sparring sessions, or even taking a quick trip to the ER to be stitched up or a finger put back into place.
Would I change the way I train or have trained? Not on your life would I, and I also know and have been pushed way beyond what I thought I could do or take to my body and mind and yet I am still training rough and difficult for as long as I can. Would our ancient forbears have trained in any other fashion to prepare themselves for the potential hardships they would face in war or life? I don’t think so, and so I offer you this Ninja challenge – ramp up your training, push harder than you think possible, do things beyond what you think possible and see what your training and skills look like in a few months, I guarantee you will be impressed.
Airyu – “Living the Ninja Lifestyle”