So it happens, for whatever reason you miss a training night, then another and then another. Pretty soon its been several weeks since you trained. Suddenly you feel weird about going back, perhaps you begin to question yourself, – is this really working out?
I can’t quote you specific drop out figures for Aikido, but i can tell you that in Krav Maga when I took the introductory class, we were soon left with about 10% of students that were still there six months later. In itself that is not a bad thing. I am very much favour of ‘intro’ classes to Martial arts and combat systems. There is no shame in trying something out and realising that it is not for you, what works for one person may not always work for another. Being asked to sign up on the example of a single night on the mat can be an unrealistic expectation.
Still it is also common for medium term students to drop away, this is not exclusive to Aikido, all Martial Arts and Combat Systems experience similar statistics.
Yet it is at this point that it is worth examining your reasons for why you may not wish to continue. For many people this is the point where you may be leaving for no other reason than that your motivation is lacking for something that you may well still love.
Here are some points for overcoming the mid term blues.
#1 Choose carefully in the first place. As above, it is a good thing to try introductory courses and to visit various disciplines to try them out, yet once you do commit to something your decision needs to be resolute and not still wavering in indecision. Otherwise you will begin to question your decision.
#2 If you have made the wrong choice, change. If you are three months into training and you realise that this is not for you, make the hard decision now to leave, not later on when it can become harder and more confusing. When it gets tough at the gradings later on down the track you need to know that this is really what you want to do, not simply the consolation prize because you could not get into what you really wanted.
#3 Understand that you will have to put in the work to motivate yourself. I love watching the various sports at the Winter Olympics. I also have some understanding of the massive amount of sacrifice that those athletes have put into it to be there. The constant 5am training, the strict dietary requirements, the constant pressure to be better. There is no easy way to say it, yet there are many times in training when you will face opposition and if you wish to break through you will have no other option but to take on the attitude of drinking a cup of cement and hardening up.. Sometimes the best feeling of making the grade is when you look back on what you were prepared to do in order to take the journey.
#4 Commit to being in it for the long haul. When training gets hard, you need to be able to draw on the reasons why you are there in the first place. This is why you need to keep a training diary with the reasons for why you are there written into the front pages. You should be able to turn the pages back and be reminded of the goal that you are working towards.
#5 Use your training diary to set and achieve small and large goals. There is more to having goals than just gradings, you need to know what your personal best is at the various techniques and what you can and cannot do and you need to set goals with a view to achieving the things that you cannot. Achieving goals can be addictive and motivating. Being able to track real progress can get you through the bad weeks when it gets tough.
#6 Be inspired by O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba. Go take a look at the history of O’Sensei, go right back to his service in the Japan-Russo war. O’Sensei saw and experienced many things that shaped his outlook on life and we are very fortunate in that many things that he said were recorded and translated into english for us to study and ponder upon today. Many people outside of Aikido draw on the philosophical nature of the writings of O’Sensei for encouragement and you will find encouragement to continue your Aikido journey there also.
You will find that when you train, you will have good weeks and bad weeks, you will have good nights where everything just clicks and you will have other nights where what you did well the week before falls in a heap this time around. You will forget things, remember parts of techniques and get confused with content from different techniques. This is something that will continue to happen to you not matter what the colour of the patch is that you have earned along the way, it is something that your Sensei and fellow students have all been through before. Don’t allow this experience to set you back and make you believe that you cannot learn the techniques that are required of you, Repetition and commitment to training will get you there when it counts. Commit to keeping a diary of your training and you will soon be in a place where you look back on what you through you could not do from a place of where you can do those things along with more difficult techniques.
Keep the faith!