Your Progress Is Proportional to Your Commitment By Ryan Goettsche Sensei When I first started my Aikido training in 1994, I would never have guessed I would learn so much about a martial art or about myself and even more, to still be working on perfecting both counts. I have always loved and been fascinated with martial arts ever since I was a child and wanted to be a great martial artist someday. But, this notion was in my head and that someday was never really pondered or scheduled. I never pushed myself to get a black belt in four years and I didn’t eat, sleep and breathe Aikido. I was very excited when I first started. I trained as often as I could which usually ended up being about 5 or 6 classes per week. When I first started training I was working night crew at King Soopers and my dojo offered morning classes from 9:00-11:00AM on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and evening classes from 6:00-8:00PM on Tuesday and Thursday. There were a core group of students which regularly trained during the evening or morning times and once in a while show up to the other classes. So my regular schedule was to go home after work at 7:00AM and stay awake by playing some music and a Game Boy. I had to stay awake because I’m not the type of person that can nap for one hour; it’s all or nothing for me. So I would stay at home for an hour and a half then go off to class. One of the regular students of the morning classes also worked at night but he would just drive over to the dojo after work and sleep in the back of his van. I would always get to class about 20 minutes early and sit in my car waiting for the dojo to open. When it did, I would knock on the van to wake up the other student and we would all file into the dojo and train. I’d then go home, shower and head off to band practice then go back home and sleep before work. As time went on I changed jobs and had to rework my entire schedule around work and training. It was my first day job and I was still in a rock band at the time. So I couldn’t change the times I went to work and train in Aikido, but band rehearsals could be changed. I couldn’t train in the morning anymore either so now I started going to the evening classes and Saturday morning classes. Three days per week was all I could make it to now. It wasn’t a hard adjustment to make but it was strange because it was a different group of people and I felt like a brand new student again. Plus the evening classes were much larger than the weekday morning classes and that was intimidating as well. But I had to keep training and polishing my techniques and my spirit. My desire to learn the art and commit myself to the school was the most important thing. I didn’t care how long it would take to master the art…whatever it even means to “master” something. It’s kind of like halving a number and then halving that number and so on, you never get to zero…the number just gets smaller and smaller. If you keep training, you never master it, your movements just become more refined and your Ki starts to replace the physicality of the movements. As time marched forward I moved 25 miles from the dojo, started working 50 miles from where I live, have a wife and three children. Schedules outside of the dojo always need to be worked on, just like in the beginning; work and dojo times stay consistent so it’s up to me to work on everything outside of those times. I only have so much free time outside of work and my time at the dojo will not be sacrificed for another activity I may want to start doing. I would love to play in a band again but there is no time to commit to it so I don’t for now. We also have a lot of activities that my son Brandon is involved with such as Cub Scouts which takes time (thankfully the meetings are on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Personal schedules can always be changed to support the things one truly wants or needs to do. I will work until 2:00AM so that I can go to class that night, come home and do the things I needed to get done for the day vs. not going to class so I can get the things completed and go to bed at my usual time. I am still trying to figure out what has changed over the years but I don’t see the excitement and enthusiasm in the martial arts community, which used to be there when I first started training. I do think that it is partly the “now” society we have created over the past fifteen or twenty years. Most people are all about instant gratification because of the technology we are told we love and have to have, the crash course certifications we can get online, etc. When people become more disconnected from society and everything that is happening every day, at any given time, the desensitization is, I think, astounding. True martial training is not about those things but rather the slow, relentless commitment to the polishing of the human soul. It is that constant desire to be better tomorrow; not just better at work, a better father, a better husband, a better guitar player…an overall better person. If you’re a better person, everything else is just a given.