Martial arts helps people break free from personal imitations. Over the years of studying martial arts I have come across many different systems. At first I was learning the basics of martial arts: punching, kicking, sparring, ground fighting and so forth. I felt, at the time, that this was the highest level of freedom. Then I started to think about applications outside the Dojo (school) and at that point I felt that I had achieved the next level of freedom. My next step in the exploration of martial arts was to see how they worked in a new environment – again an application outside the Dojo. I realized that nature, the ground the earth and sidewalk were not like the mats we had at the dojo or the sparring that was made possible by the ring. At this point in my training I started sparring in rivers on hills or deep in the snow. However, I still did not feel like I had achieved what I wanted and I began to think that this was occurring because martial arts was very limiting but instead what created a limit was my own way of thinking.
Some martial arts systems like Ninjutsu and Toshindo are there to help people break free from self imposed limitations. This is why it is called a martial arts school (Ryu). The school provides you with the tools to break free from your own limitations. Initially when I was a young student I thought that martial tools (sparring, jumping rope, ground fighting and bag work) were the end or highest level of martial skill. I even made fun of other people who were not training in the same way, however, only later did I realize how limiting this way of thinking was. You see, what I failed to understand at that time was that this method of training – the set of tools I had acquired – were only there to help me break through my own limitations. An old teacher of mine used to say “Don’t eat the menu because you think it’s your lunch but choose your food carefully so it gives you energy to live and create.”
Mr. Hayes has helped me along the path of self discovery as a martial artist but I am constantly aware that it is up to me to search for the next personal break through.