When not practising Shoto Budo, I usually can be found watching ice hockey and during a recent NHL contest, a commentator made a statement that I found interesting
"Hard work will beat ability if ability does not work hard".
I am not a natural athlete, anything but, and sometimes I look at other members of the organisation and envy their skills, flexibility, power or stamina. When looking at great practitioners, whether they be martial artists or superstars from other sports, it appears that they do things easily. In reality, whether it is Roger Federer, Lionel Messi or Sidney Crosby, they have worked tremendously hard to improve, develop and refine their abilities. It only looks easy.
Bringing it down to my own level, I have often thought "I will never get that" or "I wish I could kick like him" when encountering a new technique yet, given time and with practise, I eventually get there. Not perfected or mastered by any stretch of the imagination but at least I understand the techniques where I can work to improve them.
This progress was apparent to me over the last couple of weeks during practical application of the Nijushiho kata. I first encountered this during a course when I was a yellow belt and to say it confused me would be a massive understatement. I could not grasp the moves of the kata and the application practise left went over my head, with several metres of clearance. It was another "I'll never get that" moment.
Fast forward to May 2013, and revisiting the kata for the first time in a few months, I found I could quickly pick up the shape of the kata. Again, it is not perfect but the confusion my yellow belt self experienced is no longer there. As we worked through the application, not only did the moves come to me more smoothly than before but I could see much more clearly what they were for and how they would work. Several years of training has, I believe, improved my ability to develop and retain new skills.
It would appear that it is the hard work that creates the ability, and the ability is developed by hard work.
To illustrate this further, Hugh has often said that he is not a natural athlete and that he has got to where he is through blood, sweat and tears. As a ninth Dan black belt, clearly he has a huge amount of ability but every week we see him training hard and working to continually learn and improve.
Looking back at how my own skills have developed since I began practising and watching how, even as a ninth Dan, Hugh is working to improve his skills, I draw inspiration and motivation to continue working hard on my training. Who knows, maybe one day, ability will follow.
Until the next time, keep your guard up!
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.