“After you have practiced for a while, you will realize that it is not possible to make rapid, extraordinary progress. Even though you try very hard, the progress you make is always little by little. It is not like going out in a shower in which you know when you get wet. In a fog, you do not know you are getting wet, but as you keep walking you get wet little by little. If your mind has ideas of progress, you may say, “Oh, this pace is terrible!” But actually it is not. When you get wet in a fog it is very difficult to dry yourself. So there is no need to worry about progress. It is like studying a foreign language; you cannot do it all of a sudden, but by repeating it over and over you will master it. This is the Soto way of practice. We can say either that we make progress little by little, or that we do not even expect to make progress. Just to be sincere and make our full effort in each moment is enough.” – Shunryu Suzuki, (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind)
It was two years between my belt tests in Aikido. Slow progress. That’s in part because of the usual stuff. Aikido is hard and takes a life time of practise. You’re never done. And I’m far from a natural. It’s graceful and beautiful and I’m more strong and into getting the job done. Jokingly in our house we call Aikido “whee, thump” but truth be told I’m more “thump” and less “whee.”
But it’s also because I don’t only do Aikido. When not injured I do CrossFit and I run. I ride my bike a lot. This winter I’m going to cross country ski. I’ve also been known to enjoy a hot yoga class or two. (I also end up taking time off due to work travel.)
I preach the gospel of moderation and avoiding specialization. Fitness has lots of different elements. Strength, balance, power, flexibility, endurance…
At times, especially with Aikido, I’ve wondered if I’ve been making a mistake thinking I could do it slowly. Most of the black belts at our dojo work very hard. It seems they’re there just about every night and few of them have other physical activities in their lives.
So my recent belt test was a success not just for me but also for the path of moderation and slow progress.