A Lesson in Martial Arts Pain


(July ‘98/#41)

The true art is transmitted through the personal contact of two people.

Yes, one could figure out the true art by reading books and watching video tapes, and working twice as hard as the fellow who takes a real class, and it will only take him ten times as long.

But the personal ‘hands on’ of transmitted pain will give a student the reality of the true art, and enable him to learn not punches and kicks, but the other entire reality that the arts are. And it will do so in a short time.

Hey, it works or it doesn’t. And if the method is true the art will be true.

But there is more to it than that.

I was taking an aikido class and the instructor came around adjusting grips and arcs, and suddenly he decided that there was a major point he would like to share with the entire class. I happened to be the nearest available ‘attacker,’ so…

“Look, this is sankyo,” he twisted my wrist in a ‘vertical wristlock’ and I was suddenly prancing on my toes, every joint in my arm suddenly aflame with the torque of his grip. I was barely aware of him saying. “But you don’t have to throw your attacker, you may simply walk him around, helpless, and the reason he is helpless is because he is thinking about pain more than he is thinking of anything else. He can be brought to a point where he can’t even think of escape.”

And he walked me around the class, showing each and every individual the correct angle that would result in pain, and the class knew that the pain was real because they could see it scribbled across my face.

I bowed extra low that night, when class was over.

I didn’t bow low because I humbled, or cowed. I bowed low because I was grateful. I had been shown the technique in a way that somebody who hasn’t undergone that type of pain could never understand. I had been shown the true art. My wrist hurt for six months, but man, I had learned!

Is the true art pain? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

If it was we could just go around hurting each other and become Mozarts and Beethovens.

The pain I experienced was total, but held to a certain threshold where I could feel it and still look and be aware. And I was aware. As I tip toed in open mouthed agony around the room I examined the fineness of angle inherent in good sankyo in incredible detail, and it was writ upon my bones.

And when I show sankyo to students I have a certainty about it that is more than they understand, unless, of course, they are at a level where I know that they can except a true lesson.

How do you know when somebody is ready for a true lesson?

When they never miss class, even after a year or two. When they volunteer their time to help the school in uncommon ways. When they smile a lot and always greet everybody effusively.

When the soul of the human being is open you may put something into it.

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