The Joy of Rust

A Return to Training is Sometimes Painful

A Return to Training is Sometimes Painful (Credit:

His opponent seems about the same size, perhaps a little taller, wider, but not too much stronger. They slap hands as a sign of respect before reaching for collars, sleeves, pant-legs – anything to start a little movement, generate a reaction and most importantly, identify an opening.

The attack comes far slower than he expected it would. A grip on his left sleeve is sunk into the ground, minimizing his ability to move, and then there are feet within the crooks of his arms, and then he’s on the floor, and a heavy weight rolls onto his stomach. Hands find their way to the thick fabric around his neck, and then he’s choking.

He taps. The couple reset. They begin again.

There are many good things about taking a break from martial arts training. One of them is renewed interest, discovered as you mutter “I really missed this,” while chugging water, desperately attempting to replace the sweat pouring from your body. Another good thing is that you develop a little rust.

I know that doesn’t sound like a good thing, but bare with me.

When a beginner, improvements come quickly. You step onto a mat, no matter what your art, and you learn something new almost every class. Fitness improves, awareness improves and even knowledge of the cultural aspects of the art you’re learning seems to build up week after week. It’s one of the reasons that so many people get enamoured with martial arts almost immediately.

Unfortunately , it’s also one of the reasons people stop training. Because after you improve quickly at the beginning, you plateau, and it can take a lot of time or effort to break through and get your next improvement. This can lead to boredom, and people stop training, sometimes for a short amount of time, sometimes permanently.

If someone doesn’t find a new motivation to train, beyond the gradual improvement and natural progressions one gets from training, it’s often the case that they stop. And that’s where taking a break can help in one’s development in the martial arts.

What was once second nature is perhaps a little slower. The strength one used to have is perhaps lacking. The determination to succeed is perhaps not quite as robust as it once was.

And that is not a bad thing.

Because those things will return, and they will be noticed returning. That feeling of improvement is there again. The reward for participating shows up at your feet, knocking the rust off, reminding you of the ability you once had, and motivating you to get better in the future. It’s not a feeling that lasts a terribly long time, but this “honeymoon” of sorts is significant, it’s a lovely way to resume.

It feels great to be training once more.

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