Posted by: balladofyoko | January 21, 2009

The Joy of Practicing

The other day, a group of us went down to Wilmington to train with Rick Berry-sensei. What a treat! There was great energy in that class, and I came away with adrenaline rushing through my veins.

But you know– I finally figured out what has been missing in my practice: curiosity. Berry-sensei showed us a lot of techniques that were new to me– things that he came up with and wanted to try out. Things that left me scratching my head, saying “how does this work? When would this work?” They left me wanting to keep trying until I got it right. I didn’t get it right that day, but it got my wheels turning– and that’s what keeps me going.

My practice used to be that way, before I was advanced to black belt. Every class I went to, I was motivated to learn, frustrated enough to want to figure out what was going on, but not so frustrated that I gave up. Sensei often calls this “the edge”– push to the edge, but don’t go over.

I think that perhaps I lost that somewhere in the last two years. I haven’t been pushed to the edge, and I’m hard-pressed to find it on my own. I don’t think it necessarily means learning new techniques or variations of familiar techniques– it just means sparking the curiosity and being encouraged to do my best.

When I came back to class at my home dojo, I practiced kokyu dosa, the technique I need to learn most from. I was reminded once again of the wall metaphor. If you see the barrier, you have lost. If you try to pound through the wall, you have lost. Just go through the wall and touch the other side. Stay centered.

Go through the wall. Find the edge. Strengthen the mind, strengthen the body. Trite, I suppose, but good reminders for me on how to approach my practice.

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