Friday, December 3, 2010

The Art of Self-Perfection

"If there is effort, there is always accomplishment." - Jigoro Kano

Such are the words of the founder of Judo. Most call it "the Gentle Way." Some call it the art of self-perfection.

I call it fun.

I have been a part of this martial art for about two years. It taught me much more than how to grapple and throw people; I learned the worth perseverance.

Let me tell you a story...

In high school, I decided to join the wrestling team during my junior year. I had never done such a sport before, but it wasn't long before I discovered my natural wrestling talent. I always practiced until I could barely stand and I cut weight in ways that I'm not particularly proud of. Due to an injury on the team, I got to wrestle a few varsity matches during my first season and won a match against a guy that made it to regionals the previous season. This taste of victory drove me to work harder so that I could start varsity the following year.

After postseason and preseason workouts, I was determined to earn a varsity spot by wrestling off with guys that had been doing this sport far longer than I have.

My hard work paid off.

I was on my way to starting varsity at the first tournament of the year. Words could not describe the unique combination of excitement, nervousness, and anticipation that I was feeling on a bus ride that felt like forever. I wanted to graduate with a winning season. That day was my first step.

My name was announced. My match was up next. I took off my warm ups and stepped on the mat. My opponent looked just as ready as I was. The whistle blew and we went at it. It was a fairly even match. He took me down, but I got a reversal in on him. I went for a pin that I had learned the previous week. It almost worked, but it wasn't tight enough. We both went back to the standing position. He got an awkward take down on me, and I immediately felt something wrong.

My elbow had popped out of place.

I yelled. The ref blew the whistle. I tried to move my arm, but needles of pain surged through. My coach was also my JROTC instructor with many years experience in the Army. He used his emergency first-aid knowledge to fashion a soft splint out of available material. "They'll pop it back into place and you'll be back in a couple hours," he told me with a smile. I know his real smile. He only said that to keep me from panicking before I got to the hospital.

I was done wrestling for the season. I was devastated.

It was a month before I gained semi-useful mobility back into my arm. Even so, it was still weak. It seemed as though my grappling days were over. I graduated high school with an unfulfilled goal. I started believing that my time wrestling was a waste.

I believed that until my brother introduced me into Judo that summer. I was all for it: it is a martial art that is based on grappling and throwing. It is the Japanese equivalent to wresting. Despite my nagging fear of re-dislocating my elbow, I was sold. I attended the local dojo in town and earned my yellow belt by the end of summer. I felt the rush again.

I occasionally attended Judo club practices at Ball State during my freshman year. My classes kept me too busy to practice. Also, I was discouraged at how sloppy my form was compared to everybody else. As wrestling came easily to me, I had to work at my Judo. This year, I missed only two practices because of homework. Thanks to focus and commitment, I placed first in my division at my first tournament a couple weeks ago. I still want to get better.

This story may seem out of place in this blog, but please let me finish!

Due to my focus on Judo, I have paid less attention to my classes. My drive to get better became an obsession. I could sit down and daydream about techniques for a half-hour before I realize that I'm in my math class.

I guess the moral of the story is to not try to get better at new hobbies. You'll break your arm. Yup, that sounds right.