It's nearly Easter time. For Christians, it's a very special time of year. One of the central themes of Easter is starting afresh. Easter comes at spring time, it echoes with the surrounding rhythm of life, when plants seem to be reborn, and the world comes alive once again.
It's surprisingly hard for people to start over, and so it's nice when there's a festival which gives people permission to. That gives us a reminder that starting over is not only possible, but worthwhile.
While I turn this thought to my martial arts teaching, I realise just how often, in martial arts of all sorts, teachers experience the frustration of people giving up at what in truth is no great difficulty. And not starting over. Just giving up. It's a terrible waste.
Every day I hear people say "I can't do it." Sometimes, that can be put right by showing them, gently, that in fact they can. (What a great feeling that is!). But other times, it's the start of a journey to nowhere. So many people let a minor injury, an inability to grasp things in an instant, a hard session, or a failure to remember, be a cause to throw away what could have been a great martial arts career, a life-changing and perhaps a life-saving path.
People often look at me and say "well it's easy for you!" In truth, no it isn't. I have done well in martial arts, but I have done well because I have worked hard. When faced with not being able to do something, I have called upon two great allies – resilience and patience. In time, if I keep going, I'll get there. And I'll probably get there faster than I have any right to expect.
Of course, it would be wrong to belittle people's difficulties. Sometimes things are really hard, and sometimes progress seems downright impossible. Sometimes we are knocked flat. When this happens, I recall what I always say when someone asks me to comment about a new student of prodigious talent. I say: "you never know someone's metal until they've been knocked down flat. Only then will you be able to tell if they've got what it takes." Many people are good till they are knocked down, but no further.
Now let me tell you a truth about martial arts and life. You will get knocked down.
And when it happens, you need to be prepared to have another go. Start afresh. Don't worry that it was difficult. Don't worry that you got it wrong. Don't worry that it doesn't seem like you can do it. Just get back up.
There's a Japanese proverb often quoted by martial artists. "Fall seven times and stand up eight." With little more than that belief, we can surpass so many others, and surpass ourselves.
Interestingly enough, people around you will not treat you badly for struggling last time. They will be impressed with your fortitude when you have another go. So start afresh Easter time.