1 in 10,000

“1 in 10,000,” says Hanshi. “1 out of every 10,000 people who enroll in martial arts classes will become yudansha, black belt.”

It’s after 8pm but no one cares. Hanshi’s giving us another chalk talk and, as usual, I hang on every word.

“I’m telling all of you this because you can be that 1 by continuing to show up and do your work. 99% of those 10,000 just stop coming or walk away. So when I say 1 in every 10,000 it is not to discourage you. It is to encourage you, because other people will walk away. You just need to keep showing up and work from there. Stick with it through injuries, through job changes, through family changes, and you can do it.”

It’s a small group, just Nate and Jeff, Dwayne and myself, but Hanshi is never outwardly phased by attendance. He’s there with 110% as he expects us to be. And even with my knee, which he was incredibly accommodating about, he instills me with the confidence to continue my education. Dwayne and I work blocks the entire class and time flies. Hanshi reminds us to mix the blocks with punches and then block/punch combos with movement as we train for yellow belt. Each movement is a word, therefore, combinations are like sentences. Kata tells a story and when we get flowing, that is the body’s language. The mid block, he shows me, has a wider arc, all the way up to the nose. And the backhand block isn’t as fancy as I make it out to be.

There are three parts of budo, or the martial way: tai-i-ku-ho (the physical training), shushin (the ethical training), and shobuhe (the combative training). At our dojo, we say there are three principles of the latter, shobuhe: shindo (realistic, genuine, life-like), shugyo (austere, making sacrifices), and shumari (training to transcend, “to be better today than I was yesterday”).

“This is a whole life practice,” Hanshi says. “And the highest principle of budo is ju yoku go o sei suru, which means ‘gentleness will conquer force.’ All of my students are strong in three areas because I insist on it: intellect, combative skills, and reishiki (etiquette from the heart). Of those three, which matters most? Probably your intellectual training, because that encompasses manners and respect. My students have impeccable fighting skills, but in the end it’s not whose bigger or who wins the most.”

We bow out of class and bow off the tatami and really, all I want to do is leap and give Hanshi the biggest hug on the planet. Hanshi and Dori both, for their generosity, their open-heartedness, their genuineness, and their expertise. Who would have thought I could “live in the middle of nowhere” and get world class martial arts training just five miles from my house?

  • alessa

    He’s right. There were a lot more physically fit and gifted men and women who drifted into and out of the dojo at which I previously trained.

    It’s those plodders like me who came to all the classes they could, practiced outside of class, read books and got more excited and determined as time went on that made it to black belt.

    For example, of the group of 5 people who entered that dojo in a 2 month period, I am the only one who still trains in a traditional dojo. One other, a close friend now, attends a lot of seminars, but will probably never set foot into a dojo again for training because of the change in atmosphere in that dojo once I moved away.

    I hated to miss all last week, but continuing education and birthdays interferred. I’ll drop off that book at the dojo for you today, since I will miss class tomorrow night as well.

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