One of my favourite movie scenes is in The Matrix when Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) has a brain download and promptly declares “I know Kung Fu” and then shows that he does indeed now know Kung Fu.
How cool would that be to be able to download a martial art into yourself the way you download an app on your smart phone? It would be awesome but it’s a long way from reality. There is, after all, a reason that Kung Fu translates as “hard work”.
It is the start of a New Year and I am getting lots of enquiries from people interested in learning Ninjutsu and among their most common questions are whether they are too old, too unfit or too fat to do it.
These are sincere questions from genuine people so I answer them honestly and respectfully but it reveals a misunderstanding about what a martial art is and what learning one entails.
By asking whether they can learn Ninjutsu at their age or in their present state of health suggests they think learning a martial art is like it is in The Matrix only in slow motion. As a martial artist, it is not just the speed at which Neo learns Kung Fu that is incredible; so is the fact that he doesn’t have to undergo any other changes to learn it – such as improving his fitness, flexibility, strength or co-ordination (ignoring for my blog’s sake the fact that his Kung Fu is all done in The Matrix.)
Learning a martial art is not like that. You cannot be exactly as you are now only with Ninjutsu skills. Learning those skills will change you – physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s a journey of self development and that involves change.
We can now reframe the question as to whether you have the capacity to change enough – to improve yourself enough – to learn Ninjutsu. For example, if you are unfit from being inactive for too long, will that still be the case after a year of learning Ninjutsu?
Learning the art will change you and you will have to change to learn the art. That is personal development through the martial arts.
It might not sound as cool as a Matrix-style download but it is even better than that. At the end you are not just the same person with a new skill, you are a more developed person in every sense.