You Are Doing Too Much

“It’s not what you aren’t doing, but what you are doing that’s wrong.” —Joe Sheya

One of the criticisms I heard most often from my first martial art teacher was that I was doing too much. I was complicating the techniques that, in his mind, were actually quite simple, by doing a lot of unnecessary movements, by adding more to the technique than it needed in order for it to work. More than just being inefficient, it was ugly and just plain wrong.

As much as martial art practice adds value and skill to our lives, a lot of it is actually a paring down process, a trimming away of preconceptions, ineffective beliefs, behaviors, and habits, and the fine tuning of a small number of fundamental principles that happen to express themselves in a myriad of ways depending on context, application, and relationship. Learning a martial art is a long, arduous process, but there is as much unlearning as learning that needs to take place in order for the art to truly take hold in the practitioner.

We all enter relationships with preconceptions, prejudices, and preexisting attitudes and habits, but, when we enter a martial art school, we are, whether we know it or not, saying to ourselves, our teachers, and our training partners, that we are willing to put our egos aside, even if just for an hour, in order to learn something new. To the degree that we are willing to do this, we will find out more about ourselves than we thought possible. We may even discover that we no longer need all of the ‘extra’ that we were carrying around and that we are actually quite a bit happier doing less.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as a founding member of the Severna Park and Baltimore Holistic Chamber of Commerce.

Artwork by Ana, except where otherwise noted.

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