Some of my students and instructors were excited about the possibility of having access to an indoor dojo. I stood somewhat aside, and one of my students observed my disapproval. He sheepishly asked me, "Is there a problem Sensei? It might be nice to train indoors."
"This park is sacred ground to me. And there is a reason I train outdoors. Do you know what it is?"
"We don't want to be tied down paying for the training hall or compromise how we teach?" he answered, almost as though it were a question back to me.
"Yes AND more important, it is about 'response-potential' and 'response-ability'. We become how we train."
He pondered a little bit and I let the suspense build up. Finally he asked, "What do you mean Sensei, can you please say more?"
I wanted to keep it really short, and let him think through it. "I assume you are training to both defend yourself and for personal growth?" He nodded in agreement, and I continued, "Well where do you expect your fights to happen? In varied environments or the comfort of a studio?"
He answered, "Most likely in the streets.. .BUT Sensei are you saying training in studios is wrong?"
I laughed. "No it is not wrong, it a a vlaid path- a different path, towards a different end. And everyone has a choice what they want to optimize for. For me the path has to be grounded in reality and my relationship with nature."
"Now tell me this... do you walk the same way on a nice pavement and, let's say, the way you walk up hill on a steep mountain or move in a marsh?"
He looked at me for a moment and said, "I do walk but differently in each environment."
"Exactly! That is the clue. The environment exerts pressure on you and then your body's structure changes to adapt, both to conserve energy and to be effective. As the structure changes, your motion changes. In other words if you only learn to move one way in one environment you better pray you only find conflict in that one environment."
He started rubbing his head and I heard a long "hmmm..." The two other students present were in deep thought too. One blurted, "The way you train is the way you react."
"Yes thats true, that is the first step: reaction. Now I want us to move a little deeper into how we ACT!. I spoke about response-potential and response-ability. Your potential is limited by two factors, your genetics and your awareness. And your ability is limited by your attitude and training. You all use the word responsibility - but have you looked at what it means? I digress ... let us return to how you act. It is a matter of choice and choice comes from awareness...which in turn comes from a highly attuned sense of proprioception."
They were tracking and overwhelmed so I pulled back. "Proprioception is your awareness of how you move through time and space. Your environment is the time/space you live in, and as you become more aware of it and its impact you, you will become more aware of the choices you have. So, instead of just reaction you will move into the realm of acting. Think about that. For now know this. We train for where we will find ourselves in conflict. To me this is where I live ... train for the environments you live in. Your environment will frame your structure which rules how you move. You don't want to practice swimming on the ground do you?"
With that I bowed, and the students bowed back. End of lesson from me, and now the possibility of their martial and somatic education begins.