I have always had a love for the martial arts, ever since I was about 6 years old. Having grown up a small guy with an older brother basically meant that I was going to be a punching bag for most of my childhood for my sibling and his friends.
I wrestled for a couple of years in middle and high school, but I never actually won a match. You can imagine how happy I was to finally get to start studying Aikido once I hit 14. Ever since then, I have generally had martial arts as a part of my life.
It hasn’t always been a straight line. During that time, I went to college and became a professional with a family, and life has gotten in the way a number of times. But I always come back to practice eventually, although it’s always been at a different school due to a move.
Whenever I come back, there have always been expectations. I always work hard, no matter where I attend, and I always like to think it’s like riding a bike… It’s not entirely false, particularly once you’ve put in a number of years, but it’s not necessarily as easy as you might think, either.
I would imagine that most people who have an on-again-off-again relationship like this have different experiences in terms of what it’s like to get back on the horse so to speak, but for me, there’s always kind of a new learning curve. I’ve known others who have taken time off but then went on to study again in their original system and pick up where they left off.
What’s interesting is that when you move on instead of returning to your old style, you notice the limitations of where you’ve been. Now, for many, there is something kind of romantic about their particular art. I still have a deep love for Aikido and an affinity for Chinese techniques after spending so many years studying them. Because of that “romantic” sort of feeling you get when you think about your art, it is easy to overlook the shortcomings of it. This tends to wane as you study different systems and see the strengths and weaknesses of different fighting styles.
What else is interesting about moving on is that you always start from the beginning. As such, you tend to go back through basics because you are studying new curricula with new emphases and different philosophies on how to fight. This is a big limitation to progress. Yes, the basics are the most important stuff, but if you don’t stay with one system, you’ll never get to experience all that it has to offer. So what you end up with is a little bit of insight into many different arts with no real deep insight into any.
One thing I think I can say for most people who are involved in martial arts for a long period of time is that it is not easy to maintain consistent practice and class attendance during certain seasons of life. The on-again-off-again relationship is normal for most hobby practitioners, even if it’s a near obsession. School, work and family become priorities, and sometimes we have to put our “extracurriculars” on hold for a time. Life is what life is, and it’s just something we have to accept.
The question is “what will you do when you can practice again?” Will you come back to this same school? Will you go back to a previous system? Will you practice something entirely new? Or will you move on to something different and completely unrelated?
I always come back because it brings me joy like nothing else. I can’t imagine life without martial arts. Regardless of what gets in the way, even if I get pulled away for another extended period, returning to practice will always feel like coming home.