To understand what we do, it’s helpful to understand why we do it.
One of the best ways we understand a new concept is through analogy. If a crowd gathers to welcome home the Olympians, the news tells us not the square feet that the crowd covered, but how many football fields they would have occupied. The sight of a girl moving a boy’s heart to his throat evokes much more emotion than saying she was beautiful. Being told to ‘turn on’ your core can be less helpful than imagining a string pulling your belly button to your spine.
So to explain what Shugyo is, we’ll use an analogy. Warning, this may get deep.
If your life is a river and your experiences are the running water, then Shugyo is a deep gouge in the riverbed. Shugyo deepens your experiences in life and prevents them from spilling over the banks, forming shallow ponds and stagnant waters. When we lose direction in life, our experiences can become shallow and leave us feeling empty. When life is going well, it’s because we’ve chosen a direction, a purpose, and that deepens our riverbed and makes space for our experiences (the water) to move us.
There are many ways we can gauge deeper into the riverbed of life. Fulfilling work can do this, happy relationships, a pursuit of a goal. Shugyo is acutely aware of this role in its member’s lives and its driven to provide fulfilling work, a community built on empathy and a shared purpose: to learn to love how our bodies move and have fun doing it.
How? The skills you’ll learn have ever expanding degrees of difficulty, limited only by the imagination of those who practice the art. You may be able to learn a turning kick in your first month of training, but then you can add height and power to that kick, before understanding how to use it while hopping. You may then ask yourself the question: why do I want to know this kick? Is it for self defence, or to feel stronger, or to have greater control over my body? More physical barriers will then offer themselves, like adding jumps and spins and speed. These barriers can only be hurdled with dedication – showing up week after week – encouraging you to form healthy habits that benefit the rest of your life. To stay consistent enough to clear these barriers, you also need to enjoy what you’re doing. A playful approach, curiosity in place of judgement, is the environment you can expect to walk into.
Then there is the community. Such a strong purpose draws people from all walks of life. You’ll learn from your peers as much as the instructors in the class. With no end goal, it’s easier for everyone to accept that everyone is equal, irregardless of their position in their journey.
The community is strengthened by individuals improving, and the individual can improve faster with the support of the community. Both must thrive for the Shugyo space to gauge depth in your riverbed. And so everyone understands that giving their time to helping others improve (by holding a target, lending advice, celebrating achievements, lending an ear) is as important as helping yourself improve, if not more.
The question remains. What is Shugyo?
It’s a class, for physical and intellectual learning. It’s not a gym and it’s not kickboxing. It’s balance. It’s a meditation, a playful activity, a curious pursuit of new skills, non-violent but empowering. It’s friendly and keeps you fit. The class structure means beginners and others can benefit equally. It’s fitness with a purpose. That purpose is for you to determine.
But you don’t have to learn the purpose before you begin. It will come to you as you progress and it may well change over time.
A reason we do this, one ‘why’, is because physical fitness should be fun. If it’s fun then we’ll do more of it and more of us will enjoy mobile, useful bodies. Ready to play?
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