Updated: Mar 2, 2020
This is often the most common reason students leave any physical discipline. We know that physical activities (martial arts is no exception) run the risk of injury, both short and long term. Illness is another factor with the same effect.
One of the truest forces in the human experience is Habit (if you have not read The Power of Habit, check it out: https://www.amazon.com/Power-Habit-What-Life-Business/dp/081298160X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1534886578&sr=8-3&keywords=habit)
Like diet and exercise, the pursuit of self improvement is an upward battle, our minds are constantly battling against us because of our ancient drives for self-preservation and energy conservation. Injuries and illness are a great excuse for our "ancient drives" to interrupt these habits - opening up the opportunity for bad habits to replace them.
If you read Mr. Duhigg's book, you will find that there are generally three components to any habit and when you replace the positive action of training with a negative one (like sitting on the couch eating junk food and binge watching tv) while achieving a positive feeling - your mind will quickly opt for the sugar and tv before the rigors of training.
So what's the secret?
For the best chance at long term success, we need both internal and external accountability. Meaning: it's not entirely your fault if you single-handedly attempt a healthy lifestyle and fail - since no one was there to support you, it's easy to fall victim to every other distraction that's vying for your attention.
This, to me, is one of the chief functions of the Sensei. We often erroneously place emphasis on this title, thinking it means so much more than it does. It literally means "one who came before" - which in Japan is given significance because one should always honor and respect those who "come before" us. We should of course honor and respect our Sensei, but this honor and respect must function in two directions. In fact, I would argue that the direction toward the student must be first if the Sensei expects to successfully help a student push through potentially habit-breaking experiences.
As instructors, we must always strive to support our students' habit of training through more than just our sharing of technique and discipline on the mat - we must hold ourselves to as high a standard as possible off the mat so that our students are always seeing the motivation we espouse when we teach.
I think this is often the most difficult aspect of being a Sensei, simply due to the number of hours spent on the mat or in the dojo VERSUS the time you spend everywhere else.
Just like any teacher, confidant, coach, etc... we must espouse the qualities we want to see in our membership - not just on the days we are on the mat, but each and every day in between.
It is a delicate and often dangerous path we follow, requiring diligence, hard work, respect, and so much more; without falling prey to bad habits and ancient drives.
What positive habits have you broken as a result of injury or illness that's prevented you from realizing a dream or path?
As always, everything that I or our dojo share is free to be disregarded and discarded if you find yourself out of agreement with it. However, if you do find that this is something you agree with, we invite you to incorporate it into your daily practice if you haven't already.
See you on the mat,