Time in the Dojo

Kai Cho

“Much learning does not teach understanding”

In terms of martial arts there are many ways to approach the element of time.

Maai is an obvious starting point. While often translated as correct spacing between uke and nage, it really should be viewed more as harmonious time and space. Always being in the correct time and place to carry out both offensive and defensive moves.

Hyoshi is another obvious area. Hyoshi is timing and rhythm. This is about discerning your opponent’s rhythm while being fully aware of your own and then using this knowledge to your advantage.

Of course simply being centred must also be mentioned. By “simply”, I do not necessarily mean that this is simple to achieve, though it can be.

While the Japanese terms for this are various, perhaps the best one for us as martial artists is mushin, or no mind. If you can achieve this then time itself becomes still. Multiple attack randori becomes achievable because your uke are not moving in the same time zone as you.

There are more ways to examine time within our art, but these three are the most obvious and most important. They play key roles in Ten Shin Sho Kai Tactics and Strategy Principles program, that the School runs on special occasions.

So, how do we achieve these keys to temporal mastery? Once upon a time I would have said that all you need to do is turn up for training and eventually you will reap the rewards.

But I no longer believe that.

Yes, you do need to turn up to training as often and as regularly as classes are offered to you. Yes, the more you train, the more you learn. But that is not enough. A Dojo is not a gym, where if you keep exercising regularly you will develop those particular muscles. To fully understand, to fully comprehend a martial art, to develop true and meaningful insights as to the how and why of what you are doing, you need to do more than simply be physically present in the class.

That will only take you so far. It will train your body to move correctly, it may even teach you to perform an impressive array of impressive techniques. But that is all. What this produces is not a martial artist, not a warrior, but a fighter.

When you train, you must engage more than just physically. You must commit you mind and spirit to each and every moment of your time in the dojo.

You must train as a conscious and direct act of Will.

As both uke and nage you must approach you time on the mat as a life and death situation, not as “Oh I wonder what they will teach me tonight? I hope it’s really cool.” To even begin to fathom the spiritual aspects of what is available through traditional martial arts, you need to develop a focussed intensity of mind and spirit.
This is not easy, this is exhausting.
That is as it should be.

If you think such an approach is too difficult, then you need to examine your reasons for being there.
If it is just to accumulate physical techniques, then that is fine, but you will also need to accept the limitations that entails. If you think you can achieve the higher levels of the art by simply spending time in the dojo, then you are destined for disappointment.

There are exercises, largely, but not solely, based around breathing and meditation that can be practiced to help hone the non physical requirements, but ultimately it comes down to the individual student and your attitude to training.

So, my final word on time as it applies to how you use it in the dojo:

Do not waste it.

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