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The Art of Discipline

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

Photo by Dominique Baxewanos

Winter in South Africa is here. As the temperature begins to drop, so does the attendance rate at our dojo. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon and dojos around the world suffer the same phenomenon.

Here are a few reasons that students have cited for not coming to training:

  • It's too cold!

  • I'm sick (again)!

  • I'm injured (again)!

  • I'm stuck at work!

  • I'm stuck at home!

  • It's too far!

  • I'm too busy!

  • It's too dark to drive back home!

  • My child/spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/dog/cat is sick and I'm nursing them.

  • I have this meeting/party/event to attend...

  • There is this series on Netflix....

Then there are the seasonal reasons too ("It's too hot"! "I have sinus issues"! "My dog ate my uniform...!" )

There are some legit reasons for missing training, but many times, it boils down to a lack of planning.

And planning takes discipline.

Discipline in the martial arts, or the practise thereof, comes in 3 forms:

1) Discipline BEFORE training;

2) Discipline DURING training;

3) Discipline AFTER training.

1) Discipline BEFORE Training

"Just get to training!"

is something that sensei has constantly reminded us about. Just show up and keep moving! Once we're at the dojo, the rest is "easy"! The practise to do so is a bit harder. This implies setting the time to train in your diary, or making the necessary arrangements with work or at home to allow you to train. Very often, it's too easy to allow OTHER priorities to take precedence over your training, hence two fundamental questions to ask is, "why do you want to practise the martial arts", and "what are you willing to sacrifice in place of your martial arts training?" These are not easy questions to answer and it should be something each individual embarking on their journey of the martial arts, should answer as sincerely as possible.

2) Discipline DURING Training

"Get your finger out you butt-hole and just get on with it!"

Again, another gem from sensei! And yes, it may seem a bit vulgar to some, but is so appropriate! Martial arts practise aims to refine and unify body, mind and spirit, but starts by first disciplining the BODY to be able to do the technical movements. This may take many hours, days, weeks, months and years of repetitive and boring practise to refine. With repetitiveness and boredom also comes the practise of disciplining the MIND so as to be MINDFUL of ones practise and not give into the "monkey mind" (or wandering mind, which is more descriptive). Staying focused on our practise is part of that discipline. The disciplining of the SPIRIT (or emotions) is probably the most difficult to master. We are emotional beings and we are prone to give into our worldly impulses. However, the martial arts gives us a practise to be able to manage and master those impulses.

3) Discipline AFTER Training

"Everything you do OUTSIDE the dojo is to ensure you can give your best effort when you are back INSIDE the dojo"

Sensei used to always remind us that we "don't get fit by coming to kendo"; but rather, "get fit so that you can come to kendo"!

Kendo, and other martial arts, emphasize the practise of a particular martial (i.e. "military") set of skills, whether it be welding a sword, throwing an opponent, or striking a target with one's fist or feet. Cardio fitness, physiological strength, or bodily mobility may be a by-products of such training, but very often, it is not enough. Therefore, it is encourage that all serious students of the martial arts do some additional training outside the dojo that focuses on fitness, strength and mobility. Again, this takes time, planning and of course, disciple to do do so. This further extends to ones dietary and nutrition plan. As a younger person, it's easy to eat and drink whatever one feels likes (be it McDonald's meals, mid-night snacks and copious amounts of alcohol). However, this must be adjusted as one begins to age and the body's metabolism begins to change.

After-training discipline also comes in other forms such as planning what activities to do so as to not jeopardize ones ability to perform at a training session; or the sacrifice of a family event in place of training; or the planning of one's holiday schedule so that it does not conflict too drastically with the training!

If this seems extreme, it can be! There will NEVER be enough training that one could do in a lifetime, hence the importance of those initial questions:

  • Why do you want to practise the martial arts?

  • What are you willing to sacrifice in place of your martial arts training?

Then there is this final question:

How can I bring BALANCE to my life?

It is very cliched, but a very important question that we often fail to answer as we are too busy to do so (oh, the irony)!

The martial arts journey is a very rewarding but demanding one, but the key is finding the balance that will allow you to walk this path with a purpose and with a clear conscious. Along the journey we will make some friends, have a few laughs, sit by the side and rest and observe, For some, there will be significant milestones such as finding a treasure or experience a profound moment!

And it all starts by just taking the first step onto that path and keep moving.

Keep safe. Stay healthy. Keep training!


The Ryū Ken Chi (RKC) Dojo train the traditional Japanese martial arts of Kendo and Iaido (sword-based martial arts), as well as Jodo (the art of the short staff), that encourages the cultivation of the human character.

Kendo Kid is also available for children aged 6-11 years old.

RKC DOJO has 2 training venues within Johannesburg - RIVONIA and OBSERVATORY. Online training is also available.

Please follow us on our various social media platforms:



Instagram: @rkc_dojo

TikTok: @rkcdojo



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