Aging Athletes: A Story.

Having trained as an athlete for most of my life I'm used to "down days."But today, well today was a challenge.   

I am Sensei, head instructor, for my martial arts school and we have a big demonstration coming up in May. I've been training everyday to insure I'm ready for it because nothing is better for nerves than being prepared.   

Now as an older athlete I don't train as hard or as often as I used to nor do I need to as my body responds differently and needs more rest and varied training to stay, as we'd say in the Army, "combat ready."

I also have to listen to my body closely as I sustained injuries while in the Service and deal with chronic issues. As I rolled out of bed and got ready to train I noticed how stiff my body was and that it was a “high pain day.” So I spent some time warming up, stretching, and with a heavy dose of Coffee and Vitamin M I headed to my Keikojo, practice space.   

The art I practice is from the school Meifu Shinkage Ryu and headed by Otsuka Soke in Chiba Japan. One of the weapons we train with is the bo-shuriken (bo meaning straight).   

Now I've been practicing this art for some time now and generally don't have a problem "sticking" the shuriken from various ranges or positions. So when I, from our basic position, Shomenuchi, heard clang, clang, clang as each throw fell flat, flipped over, or hit wrong I paused. “Hmm.” So I moved closer. Same thing. Moved farther. Same outcome.  Then I remembered the zen idea of "beginners minds." So I put the shuriken down, sat down in zazen took a breath and brought my mind back to the present moment.  After a few moments I stood up and formally approached the target with my mind aware.  Bowing to the target I prepared to throw. With presence of mind I threw each shuriken as if there was nothing else in the world.  Thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk. Five times straight, our school throws 5 at a time, they flew perfectly and hit where I aimed them. Bowing to show respect I retrieved them and did it again and again and again. For the rest of practice I had no more issues.   

Looking back I see that due to pain, stiffness and such I had not approached my practice with the proper spirit. While in my youth I may have been able to overcome or not even had these issues, as an older athlete I can still achieve my goals through diligence and attentiveness to what I am doing.   

Now I wonder what I could have done if I'd known this in my youth?   So remember that no matter your condition it is important to stay mentally in the game and draw upon your training.

Sensei Seiyo is the leader of the Chicago Keikokai of Meifu Shinkage Ryu style of ShurikenJutsu and a current student of Yasuyuki Ôtsuka, Sôke of Meifu Shinkage Ryû, in Chiba Japan.

Sensei Seiyo started his journey on the Path when a friend gave him a copy of Go Rin No Sho by Miyamoto Musashi. That was now 37 years ago. He continuous to be extremely passionate about Japanese Martial Arts (Budo) and about Japanese Culture in general.


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