Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Forge-Why it is essential to training

I often refer to the dojo as a forge. Many of the students look at me with a question on their faces, usually along the lines of "What is a forge?" I forget that in this age of plastic and new age materials that the concept of forging and working with metal may be alien to some. Why is a dojo like a forge?
Well lets examine a forge.The actual word forge can be used as a verb or a noun. When used as a verb it means to make or shape an object (metal) by heating it in a fire or furnace and beating or hammering it. It is also used to mean to move ahead gradually or steadily. As a noun, it is the location where the shaping of an object takes place sometimes referred to as a smith or smithy. Both definitions are pertinent as we will see.When a piece of metal is chosen to create an object, for example a sword-the best possible raw materials are used. In the dojo you do not always have that option. One of the different aspects between the forge and the dojo is that the forge requires the best material to produce quality work. In the dojo it is usually the inverse. You enter a dojo full of doubt, insecurity, ego. Carrying baggage that can only hinder your training. How the dojo and the forge are similar is in what happens next.

Once the metal is selected it is placed in a furnace and heated to such a level that it becomes a liquid. Once this occurs the dross floats on the surface and is easily separated. What is dross? It is the unwanted aspects of the metal, the waste products. This occurs in the dojo as well. The rigour of training brings out the dross of our lives, the ego, the insecurities and doubt, the unchecked anger and the accumulated baggage we carry with us. We find that after training for some time we have to let go of the baggage, the dross must be discarded in order for us to continue, to thrive, to transform.

This is the action that is taken in a forge. Metal comes in one form and is transformed into another. It is still metal, but it is stronger and it is given a purpose. It is no longer simply metal. The base characteristics may remain the same, but its essence has been changed. This same action is taken in a dojo. Yes the dojo is a sacred space, it is a place to train, it is a place to confront yourself. It is also a place of transformation. You enter in one state and over time, usually a very long time you are transformed and discover a purpose. You are liquefied in the heat of  training (sometimes it feels quite literal) and the dross comes to the surface. Here a pivotal choice must be made. You can choose to keep the dross or acknowledge it and then discard it, no one in the dojo can make that choice for you. It is yours alone to make. It is singularly the greatest gift and the most daunting prospect, to be given this choice.

If you are in a training hall of this type you should encounter this state on a continual basis. You are not allowed the luxury of complacency. You cannot rest on your laurels. It is equal parts dread and excitement, you are awed by the students who train with you and strive to emulate your seniors. You can look back and be cognizant of your progress realizing that although you have come a long way, there is still a long way to go. The forge is merciless, the heat is never comfortable and more often than not unbearable. What happens over time is that you become used to it. You adapt.

There is hammering and beating in a forge. Metal is not an easy material to work with and must be coaxed into forms with heat and pressure. In the dojo there is hammering and beating as well (visit us for a kumite class and you will understand) in most cases its usually a hammering and beating of the ego that is ever ready to rear its head if you are not vigilant. Ego, like metal requires the not so gentle coaxing of  the heat and pressure of training.

If you find yourself in a dojo like this. Consider yourself fortunate and commit to your training wholeheartedly. If you have not found a dojo like this then you must take it upon yourself to bring the forge to your life. Be uncompromising and strive for the highest standard in your training and life. Your example will encourage others. Like moths to a flame they too will seek out the heat of the forge.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

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