I remember when I started to train Karate-do, I appeared the first possible Saturday and the gyms where not open yet at the University. Among the veterans there at that moment was Javier Fernández, one of the two brown belts in the Shibu Universidad de Concepción group at that moment (now Shodan). We were to train on the dirt football field close to the gyms barefoot (I had no problem with this, I actually expected to train this way). We learnt some basics and ended up doing some 600 techniques that training. I loved it, though quite a challenge I was actually hooked on the spot. The other six or seven trainees disappeared and never returned. The tough training without violence was what I had wished for and also what I got. Soon aching muscles and bruises due to lack of technical control were our daily bread in the first year :-). The football field became a close companion in my training and many other students too, our will tester and the early morning sessions a tough start for our normal weekly training hours. When winter came along and the field started to freeze, our will was even more tested.
When I jumped into Karate-do Shotokai I wasn't sure what I was looking for, I am still a bit unsure. I did though know that I was attracted to oriental philosophies and I had decided to plunge right in without any excuse to stop, free of any preconceptions and expectations. Many started training that semester, I am the only one that has continued till this day. What was the difference? I believe I never came up with excuses or sometimes reacted earlier than the typical excuses so I would have no way of retracting. For example, I would pay the special training subscription long before the date arrived, one or two months beforehand so I couldn't back out as the date grew closer and the preparation sessions became tougher and tougher.
I had an unfortunate accident training one day and I broke one of my right hand knuckles & had my arm in a cast, this was 2 and a half months before the summer special training (my first one). Even though in the first days I became very depressed, I restarted my training with the cast and in the mornings at the field. Two weeks later I was on my way to my first 100 km. non-stop hike with the cast.
Even considering the horror stories that were told about previous special trainings I had no excuse to not assist other than a soft bone where my knuckle broke. Having in the beginning decided to dive in with no exceptions, no excuses, I went to the special training that year.
The stories were quite true, I didn't believe the ground could be covered with thorns... it was actually quite true, though they could not easily go through the tough skin of our soles, they surely could between your toes :-). The rocks, dirt and sticks were nothing really compared to the nuisance of the thorns but later on the overexertion on the training sessions eclipsed any pains we might have had to begin with. It was also very interesting to notice you could do much more than you ever expected, your mental limits were far shorter than what you really could do. All in all a fabulous experience, no tongue in cheek friends, truly a life changing experience, even though it took a week to have the 4 x 3 cm. holes on the koshi of my feet recover. Many others were scared by the special training stories and didn't go, it's interesting to note that most of those that never went to train to the football field, never went on the hikes and didn't go to special trainings were those that stopped training along the way. When you let your mind find excuses you'll be controlled by your fears and weaknesses and will never get far in Karate-do.
I have now recently been graded shodan in Shotokai Karate-do, since the beginning some things have changed in my practice, I am a bit more agile and coordinated but was is most important is trying to maintain that initial spirit, the love you felt for Karate-do. Training alone? No problem. Cold? Who cares. Your muscles hurt? Doesn't matter, it'll go away. Too early? Go to bed earlier! No excuses, straight ahead and no turning back nor getting off the train! :-)
Shotokai requires exactly that, a strong and unbending will to continue no matter what it requires, continue until you can no more.