Lesson From Last Night’s Keiko (Fighting Spirit)

fighting spirit


Tuesday evening, Feb about 7:30 pm I pulled into the parking lot of Integrity Martial Arts and began to unload my stuff for that evening’s Keiko.  The parking lot was icy the temperature was about 8 degrees and the wind was cold blowing across my face as I shuffled in with my hands full.

I had been contemplating how to work on using my fighting spirit and honing it for combat.  My thought was this; If I have accepted that Keiko is not only practice, but is also the reflection of the wisdom of the masters of martial arts who have come long before I have, then I must actively seek the thoughts that are available to me to learn from.  I had recently finished reading “Fighting Spirit” By 1964 Olympic Gold Medalist in Judo Isao Inokuma.  There are a few parts to this article that are actually uncomfortable in their truth.  He begins by talking about two battles you fight in every match.  The first is the inner battle overcoming your apprehension and fear.  He mentions a distinct loneliness before stepping out onto a mat for combat.  I must admit, I can identify with the loneliness feeling Inokuma mentioned.  There is that moment right before your name is called where you feel completely alone, because you are stepping into battle against another man, and no one can help you but yourself.  Then you begin the second battle, against your opponent.

It occurs to me, that the first battle is fought daily.  It is fought during Keiko, it is fought when you are dieting to build a stronger body.  There is no time you are not fighting the battle in yourself as long as you have a weakness in your body, or a weakness in your technique.

The uncomfortable part comes, when it occurs to me that I am losing the first battle.  I think many of us lose this battle.  Not all of us, but many of us. After a lengthy discussion with my top student, we decided to make clear our focus.

1)    Physical Endurance, Strength and confidence come hand in hand.  This must first be accomplished before we can reach the goals set.

2)    We need to be solid in our technique.  It will take years to master all Sumo Kimarite.  Go slow and learn to retain.

3)    Find your meaning not from victory, but from the peace that comes with winning the inner war.

4)    There are infinite ways to win in Sumo; there are also infinite ways to lose. Continually be working towards the ways to win.  Consistent offense, attack attack attack. Put your effort and energy into the winning, and worry less about the losing.

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