I read an interesting story about Kobe Bryant that I think might have some relevance to Aikido or any martial arts training. Regardless of what you think of Kobe, his professional skills and work ethic are second to none. I am personally not a fan of his, but I was a fan a long time ago.
Kobe loves to play one-on-one and by his own admission said that, “He could be anyone one-on-one” and that he is the “Best one-on-one” player in the world. The story goes that one year a new rookie was drafted by the Lakers who was supposed to have a considerable amount of defensive prowess. As soon as Kobe found out, he made the rookie come several hours before practice to play him one-on-one. This is not much of a big deal nor is it uncommon, but the way Kobe played him was remarkable. Kobe would set all these rules for himself that would essentially handicapped him. For instance, the defender could defend him any way that was legal but Kobe would only be allowed to shoot and dribble with his non-dominant hand. Even with all these restraints, Kobe still destroyed this rookie every game.
The enemy of greatness is complacency. It happens to everyone after you have spent a certain amount of time doing the same things over and over or have attained a certain amount of skill or ability. In business, it is called “phoning it in.” When complacency sets in, a stumble is not far behind and that is how great martial artists are beat by newbies. In order to reach the highest echelons of ability, we sometimes need to invent ways to confront our shortcomings. Kobe Bryant did something that some of the greatest martial artist in history used to do – he created his own hurdles.
I once read a story about Jigro Kano, the founder of Judo. He would challenge bigger or more skilled judoka to matches and when he couldn’t beat them he would go home and think up a technique to use against them. He would show up the next practice day and challenge the same person to a match. When he found himself in the same predicament as the day before, he would unveil his new technique and throw this person down. Many of the judo techniques used today are a result of his perseverance and desire to overcome an opponent.
Creating our own hurdles causes us to confront our shortcomings. First, you must be aware of your shortcoming, weakness or dysfunction. Secondly, you must figure out what is the correct way (this can come from the corrections your teachers make in class). Then you set about creating a hurdle that forces you to overcome that limitation. Once that flaw or deficiency is righted, you set about looking for other inconsistencies to correct. Sensei likened it to a chain where you identify your weak link and make it your strongest and then go back and do it again and again until your entire chain becomes strong.
The monk Ryokan once said, “When you have a problem, face it; when you are sick, face it; when death stalks you, face it.” Create the hurdle and face it.