Polishing the Stone

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
– Ernest Hemingway


I began training in the Bujinkan in May of 2008.  As a young man of twenty-three years of age, I was fairly confident that I knew a decent bit about martial arts – I had watched all of those Bruce Lee movies, after all!  Thirty seconds or so into the warmups of my first class, however, I was given the beautiful realization that I knew nothing.

Why do I call this realization “beautiful”?  It certainly doesn’t sound very glamorous – realizing you are woefully ignorant when it comes to a subject you have treasured throughout your life – but it is one of the greatest things that can occur to you during your training.  It is nothing short of a gift!  To understand your flaws is to take the first step toward improvement.

There are many pitfalls along the way, however, that make it all too easy to fade into complacency, not the least of which being the tendency to feel like you have “figured it out”.  I wish I could go back and count the number of times I have said to myself, “I finally understand!”  Even now, as I write this, I wonder how silly the things I’m saying will seem to me in a couple of years looking back.  “Oh, look at that!” I might say, “I thought I knew what I was talking about!”

Leland Cseke Sensei addresses this issue often, telling us that if we ever feel as if we have “made it”, then we are training wrong.  In truth, one should never stop improving!  Sensei also likens this process to the act of polishing a stone.  Even if you have been polishing a stone for years and have reached a brilliant shine, it is not safe to stop.  You might say to yourself, “My stone shines so brilliantly, and is brighter than everyone else’s, surely my work must be complete.”  Perhaps you will even place your stone in a well list case, so that all who walk by may see how wonderful it looks.  The sad truth, however, is that as soon as you have put this stone away and stopped working toward its perfection, it has begun to grow dull.

So in my limited understanding, I am forced to turn my attention toward myself and realize, over and over, that my stone needs constant polishing; and, if I am training correctly, it always will.

Japan Trip 2015!

Hi everyone! Just a quick, though belated, update to let you all know that NOW is a GREAT time to come train with us! A group of 4 of us recently got back from training with Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi and the Japanese Shihan (master instructors). Let me tell you, that is one awesome trip! Being able to learn directly from the most senior and knowledgable instructors in this martial art is a huge treat, and an even more huge learning experience!

Come join us now and get some of the most up-to-date training, straight from Japan! See you in the Dojo!!!


P.S.: Stay tuned for some exciting news about a new, second training location!

Why I train here, and why YOU should too!


Defending against a knife held against my throat.

As a sort of introductory post, I thought it might be helpful to some to share my experience here so far; how I got here, where I came from, and why I continue to train here. Maybe it will help someone. So, here goes!

When I moved to Huntsville I began looking around to see what martial arts were offered.  I had always been interested in studying martial arts, even tried a few; however, I was looking for that one art that showed me something I had never seen before, challenged me in a new way, and inspired me enough to stick with it. I came across what is now Huntsville Martial Arts (at the time UAHuntsville’s Budo Taijutsu Club) and my roommate and I decided to check it out. When we arrived at the first class we were greeted warmly. We talked with the students who were there early stretching and were told to just jump in a follow along. Easy enough, I thought! Warm-ups started and we fell in behind the rest of the class. This looks easy! Punches… kicks… rolls? Wait.. what was that move? Okay… not so easy, I guess. I could see what everyone was doing, but my body just would not do it.

After warmups, Sensei began teaching. He did a couple of techniques and we broke up in pairs to try and imitate what we had seen. “That’s cool”, I thought. Next technique, Sensei barely moves and his uke (partner) is on the ground in a flash. I. Was. Hooked. This was the coolest thing I had ever seen! How did he do that?! How can I do that?! That was a little over five years ago, and I’m still here. But why? I’ll tell you…

Of the four martial arts I’ve studied, one of the most impressive things about this one to me is its effectiveness. To some, it may not look like much. However, once you understand the mechanics, feel the effects, and realize what is truly happening, you begin to see the value. This is a true battlefield art, hardly touched by the ages. Undiluted. Powerful. Effective. Natural. We train for all scenarios and none. Unarmed, swords, sticks, ropes, knives, guns, you name it. Everything is a weapon. No fight is fair. This is how to survive, not how to win trophies. After committing to this art my once-struggling grades improved greatly. My attitude changed. I learned what real work meant; what real drive was. My focus increased, as did my level of fitness.

Do you want to gain confidence? Learn how to defend yourself, your family, your friends? Become stronger and more flexible? How about relieve some stress? Need to improve your focus? I’m sure you’ve heard that studying martial arts can help you with most of these things. Let me tell you from experience… it can, and it will. All of these things I have personally gained, in some form or another, since training here. Want to know a secret? You can too!

After my time here I have realized that my life only gets better the longer I continue to train. The other students are great. You will never find a better group of people; whether for training, or just for friends. The instructor is amazing and continues to improve year after year. Come and train with us. You won’t regret it!

Bufu Ikkan!


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