Although he wasn’t the fastest, or strongest, or most talented of players, he certainly seemed to have the most fun. Session after session, he’d show up, smiling and ready to begin. Sometimes he wouldn’t be able to finish and would rest while the others kept training. Other times he’d sit for the entire class, not quite able to participate. After bowing out, he’d always thank the other students for their time, before heading home to record what he’d learned that day.
He was blind.
When I was a beginner, I loved to fall. There was nothing more exciting within Jiu Jitsu classes than learning how to perform diving rolls, flying through the air and coming back to my feet, smoothly and quickly. Once I started learning more advanced falling, from height, over chairs and around others, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself smiling during those segments of class. Part of me still wants to be a stunt man, and maybe I’ll get to scratch that itch at some point in my life.
As with all things, in time, that changed. These days, I am drawn to the difficulty of live training, the effectiveness and application of technique, the affect that attitude can have on outcome as well as a number of other things. I still love to fall, of course, but my appreciation for the art I practice has deepened a great deal. It’ll change again, likely soon, and I’ll become a different practitioner, and for that reason, I chose recently to begin work on a personal martial manifesto.
A manifesto is a piece of writing designed to convey your thoughts and intentions related to something that matters to you. A martial manifesto explains your attitude toward training, what you want to achieve, what you’re doing to get there and why you think there is validity in your training. It serves not only as a retrospective, but also a signpost, and as an exercise, can help you to develop more complex thought about what you spend your time doing. It doesn’t have to be very long, or very well written. But what it does have to be is honest. You must be as sincere as humanely possible. All real development requires reality.
Self-awareness is one of the most important skills a human being can possess. The ability to put some distance between your mind and your actions, judge those actions as objectively as possible, then return to your life will help you to make wiser decisions, avoid problems, use your time better and be happier with what you have. A martial manifesto helps you to assess your training, for better or worse, and make decisions on what you’re doing. When you look at your training with an honest eye, what do you see?
It could be that you’re driven by competition. It could be that you’re driven by personal development. It could be that you’re driven by the need for self-defense. It could be that you’re driven by making friends. Everyone has different reasons, and they will change over time. Can a blind Judo player win a world championship? Perhaps. Can they show up to a class with the intention of enjoying an activity, participate as much as possible, and get exactly what they’re looking for? Absolutely. No one can tell that person they’re doing it wrong. And no one can tell you that your reasons for training are wrong, that what you enjoy about class is wrong or that you should feel differently.
Your manifesto becomes a testament to your reasons, your unique set of circumstances that cause you to step through the doors of a dojo twice per week. I would argue that you owe it to yourself to think about those reasons. Understanding them just might give you even more reason to enjoy your training.
“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”
~ Isaac Asimov