Reflections on Ten Years of Practice

If U've ever thought about starting a martial arts practice, or have started one recently, U might wonder whether it will prove worth your while. I've now practiced Ninjutsu for ten years so I'll try to provide my perspective on how the practice has enriched my life.

Aside from a week of free karate classes I took as a kid at the age of four and a semester of fencing in middle school I'd had very little exposure to martial arts practice. I first read about ninjutsu in 2011 when I still lived in Minnesota. As soon as I moved to NYC and got my basic survival needs met I looked for a place to practice and found Benevolent Heart Dojo.

I'd never done something so immediately difficult. I couldn't even stand correctly in our basic Kamae, much less move in and out of it with the flow required to execute basic techniques. It would take me years to develop the strength in flexibility in my legs to even stand, and the practice continues to this day as the standard to which I strive evolves. I found myself drawn to the challenge but also intimidated and filled with doubts.

My classmates seemed so far ahead of me and I wondered whether I could ever catch up. I felt like I wasted people's time when they had to train with me because I didn't attack them well and they had such an easy time moving me around and locking me up. Fortunately another new student joined around the same and helped me stay motivated. But I did question whether I ought to quit with some regularity. I also tried out BJJ on a lark.

At that point in my life I had this story about myself: that I always quit when things got difficult, that I felt lazy and couldn't apply myself to anything. Around that time I had developed the idea of You Havent Yet and I wanted to see what might happen if I tried challenging those stories, so I decided to devote myself to at least a year of practice.

The friendships I formed at the dojo​, my admiration for my teacher, and some tangible signs of my improvement kept me going. I got to coast along on my beginner gains for a while and enjoyed myself despite the difficulties.

Just two years into my practice I got presented an opportunity. Our dojo would move into a new space, and I had the chance to move radically closer or adjust to commuting a longer distance to join classes. It felt like a big fork in the road. I would need to decide how seriously I wanted to dive in. I decided to take a leap and move from Manhattan to Brooklyn to remain close to the dojo, initiating a new phase of my practice.

I got to do some Miyagi-style practice now, helping my dojo mates build the new space. I also started to see the crucial aspect of endurance and adapting to changing circumstances required to keep practicing, as the location change led to several longterm students dropping out of practice.