Those lazy days
More than any other time of the year, it happens in the summer.
School is out.
The days are longer.
The beach, the parks, and the obligatory family vacation all beckon.
Each one calling loudly with promises of fun and adventure under the warm summer sun.
It is inevitable therefore, during these warm and pleasant days of summer that the dojo will often echo with the sound of fewer feet.
This is, we are told by those who are departing, only a temporary situation, for as they bow out the door in search of "some time off" they all do so with a common pledge, "I'll be back".
Now all of us at one time or another have felt the need to take a break from those events in our lives that occupy so much of our very limited time. Whether it is from work, university, the city in which we live, the people we hang out with, or even from the dojo that we hold so dear, sooner or later we all crave a brief change of pace.
The question in the mind of the sensei, however, as he listens to those quickly fading feet, is not so much, "when will you be back" but more often than not it is, "at what level will you be when you come back"?
Now for those students above the rank of Ni Dan, I think it is safe to say that a few days off, or even a week or two away from the dojo, will usually not make a great deal of difference to their fitness level, or to the quality of their techniques. This is primarily of course because students at this level will usually have eight to ten years of dedicated training behind them. For them it is often a case of being able to "switch on" and "switch off", with most likely only a minor number of adjustments in order to get back up to speed after taking some time off. Any longer than two weeks, however, and yes, even these senior ranks will also see a distinct difference in all aspects of their karate upon their return to the dojo.
But what about everyone else?
It has been my experience that students below the rank of Ni Dan, will find that they are in for a bit of a surprise when finally returning to class after those lazy days of summer.
More often than not they will find that compared to those students who remained and continued to train, their stance will seem somewhat higher, their timing will off, and their blocks for some unknow reason will not seem quite as crisp as they use to be.
As for kata forget it.
It is not uncommon for brown belts who thought they "knew" all of their kata to discover much to their dismay, that Heian Sandan and Heian Yodan have for some unexplainable reason now blended together in both their body and their mind, making even the thought of completing either kata an impossible challenge.
All of this of course is not unusual, since any significant time away in a relaxing setting has a tendency to diminish both our mental memory, as well as our body memory. Fortunately for most students there is a cure for this softened mental and physical state, and the remedy is very simple. It is getting back to into the dojo and getting back to the basics as soon as possible. Hours of hard work, countless repetitions, a large dose of self-determination, and a strong desire to "make up for lost time" are the only means by which a student will recover their position within the dojo society.
To do an less means risking the prospect of being passed in rank by those students who remained and trained.
There is an old saying, "time and tide wait for no man".
The point being that some things wait for no one, under any circumstances.
If I was to look for a similar analogy in terms of karate I would suggest, "that a missed class can never be made up".
My point being that in your life you have a finite number of days, and you can never make up for lost time, or a class missed, both are gone from your life forever. Oh sure, you can go to class on Friday to make up for the one you missed on Wednesday, but no matter how you justify it in truth the classes you miss, for what ever reason, can never be made up for.
So by all means listen to the song that Summer sings in the hope of luring you to play at other past times, and take a break if you feel the need. But, always be prepared to come back to the dojo a few paces behind those students who remained and who continued to polish the dojo floor with their feet and their sweat while you went in search of "some time off".
Gichin Funakoshi Sensei once said, karate is like boiling water, if you do not heat it constantly it will soon start to cool.
On your return to the dojo turning up the heat once again is entirely up to you.
In order to start where you left off,
you must first get back to where you use to be
Part the clouds - see the way.
"The objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
of the human spirit through physical and mental training."
Sensei Peter Lindsay