Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Travelbook for Your Martial Path

      This column is my plea to have everyone start using a journal to write down their martial arts experiences.  I've recently become a fan of using a journal myself.  I, like many people, have tried to keep a journal in the past and have given it up many times.  I had the same problems everyone does, I would start strong, and then teeter off with lack of use.  I always wanted to continue, it was just hard to keep up with it.  Sounds like a lot of people who start taking martial arts right?  Just like martial arts, the perseverance ends up being worth the effort.  I've been keeping my journal for about 2 years now and I wish I started it earlier.
Old "Ki"
    I use my journal to record a lot of different material.  I study Japanese arts, so I record any of the Japanese terms used in my art including any kanji I can figure out.  This by itself has lent itself to discoveries.  For example, the kanji used for writing the word "aikido" has changed.  In 1946 the kanji for "ki" was redone.  Every class I go to I write down the techniques practiced, and any new ideas or insights I got that day, as well as any particular difficulties I had with the techniques.  I record information from any book that I read that gives any martial arts philosophy, or history.  I have
Drawing from Bruce Lee's Journal
learned to sketch (partially by doing the journal), so I include pictures and diagrams to help me remember different aspects of a technique, idea presented in class, or presented in a book I'm reading.  However, you don't need to be good at drawing to do this.  You'd be surprised how much  information can be symbolized with stick figures.  Even small ideas can be shown; hand positions and turning the foot, and other little details. Besides, the more you practice the better you'll get at it.
    There are several reasons you would want to write a journal.  The first reason is that your journal is a road map of where your marital journey has taken you.  If you want your art to grow, you have to occasionally look back at where you were.  It works as a record for that journey.  You'll be surprised how much you forget.  The physical act of writing down all that information creates a stronger memory link.  You learn more from writing something down, than just listening to it.  On that same idea, by thinking about your performance of your art, you become more cognizant of it.  You start looking at it more carefully.  If your martial art is more of a competition based art, then this gives you a written record for achievements and goals. 
    Second, seeing it all written down lets you know what your weaknesses are and where to concentrate your study.  I've found that my martial studies are cyclical.  Every so often, I rotate what it is I want to concentrate on.  Sword, aiki, jujutsu attacks, groundfighting, sword, aiki, etc.  By doing looking at your own pattern, you can see if you really do need more practice/concentration, or is it just a change of interest?  Are you improving or just moving on?
Bruce Lee's Personal Journal Became a Classic Book
    The third reason is it makes a great reference manual for your art.  And not only your art, but how YOU practice your art.  All the little details you notice can accumulate to be okudenOkuden are "hidden techniques." They are the subtle aspects that make a technique actually work.
    Fourth, you never know what the future will be.  Some day in the future, after the zombie apocalypse, you'll have to reintroduce the art.  Or at the very least you'll be able to write a book about your art.  Or you could end up forming a "new" martial art.  Bruce Lee did, and his personal notes on philosophy and combat became the book "The Tao of Jeet Kun Do," and its a classic.
    In the end, the journal  is first and foremost written for you.  Your entries are messages to your future self.  They are secrets that you'll forget, and then only when you read them, will you get to experience them all over again.

Next time I'll write on HOW to write in a journal.

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