“Paradoxically, in many respects the need for “Shugyo” is even greater in an affluent society…. the trouble with the country is that a man can live his entire life without knowing whether or not he is a coward… a society of complacency and “ennui”, which was a result of a life of shallow distractions and luxuries. In affluent society, it necessary to purposely seek out the challenge which were once part of daily life.. This drive to test the limits of ones own potential is universal” – Dr. Alan Hasegawa

Couches are built for comfort. Plush cusions wrapped in soft cloth, we sink slightly as our bodies find comfort. The remote nestled in our hand, thumb pressing the soft rubber buttons. We scroll through Netflix to find our show and make our decision. The heat kicks on, keeping the home a comfy 68 degrees, and the walls insulate us from the elements. With a touch of a button we can find a pizza place that delivers and within a short walk to the fridge a cold drink to wash it down. Yep, the modern man can get used to this, and so we have.
In our society we work so hard to be comfortable. Years are spent in a educational establishment to in hopes find our “dream” job. However, once achieved we become comfortable, learning begins to take a back seat only to appear once in awhile for an in service training day. Often we find there are no more “challenges”, we have the life we are comfortable living and there in lies the issue.

What you have in between your ears is a 2 million year old brain. Its programmed to keep you alive. It is always searching, analyzing, and evaluating your current environment. This programming kept us safe from predators and other humans hell bent on extinguishing our life. It continually looks for dangers (anxiety) and for what is wrong (depression). Its the brain that got us here. In comfort the brain begins to wonder. What you need is a primal reset.

Shugyo is a samurai term, which means the act of training vigoursly. Shugyo is to take the body to its limits, to see what your made of. A physical challenge to break the mold and enter a new phase of growth. How many of us don’t know our current limits? We find comfort in our lifestyle. Challenging that scares most off; However, our minds and bodies seek that challenge. To know what we are truly capable of.

At one point every society had a right of passage, a challenge to test the spirit of every person; now, these are all but gone. Many feel weak because they have not tested their true strength, they have not pushed themselves to see what they are made of. To know your own limits is crucial and it develops modesty.

It is no wonder we see so many people training for a marathon, obstacle race, martial arts, competitive fights, or other physical challenge. It’s deeply rooted in our minds to seek these challenges. Many will say “how can you run 26.2 miles?”. They don’t understand the need for such a physical challenge. People find that if they can commit to a physical obstacle and push their bodies, they will also find themselves able to push their minds past the expected. It is no wonder those who take on a physical challange regularly are able to cope with daily stress better. Those who routinely find new challenges are less likely to doubt their strengths.

I would never suggest we perform shugyo weekly or even monthly. We can’t wear our bodies down to the nub. I also would never suggest we push our bodies till they break. However, a difficult challange accepted, trained for and executed is something we should do throughout our lives. A test to begin a new chapter, to see what we have in the tank.

Realize our modern society has only existed for a blink of an eye when compared to the millions of years it took us to evolve. We have molded our environment to be safer, more comfortable; however, our minds still hold all of the mechanisms that allowed us to survive and now those properties are looking for their outlet. So, find your own shugyo. A new challenge to break the mold of comfort and complaceny. Whether it’s a race, a martial art, or any other grueling challenge. Find out what your made of. Get off that couch.

About the Author: Efren is the father of two rowdy boys. He is a police officer outside of Chicago where he is assigned to the regional Special Weapons and Tactics unit. He is a personal trainer and student of Jiu Jitsu

5 thoughts on “Shugyo

  1. Well Said Indeed.

    Normally I would respond in kind but instead tonight Ill simply say this. Of all the people you know. All the people you see and encounter in your day to day life , that you cross paths with How many of them are like you? How many look up? We have all seen the masses walking thru Walmart sloppy, and un-kept and without discipline , over weight, with their phones in their hands.. a glazed look in their eyes as they shy away from eye contact ?.Sheep who lead sheep lives.

    Sheep lives are not for us. We are cut from a different mold. The Warriors mold. and in keeping with that built in format we push. we strive. we challenge ourselves and the world around us each and every day. How many time have you thought to yourself STRONGER….FASTER….SMARTER ? I know I have all my life. I have always wondered How far can I run, I know how far I can run because I have….I’ve wondered what does a valley look like from the top of a mountain ? I know because I’ve climbed that mountain to look down and see. A warriors way is clear.. Know thyself. You cant ever know your limitations or lack of them until you’ve tested yourself to the edge and beyond.

    The list is long.. How many push ups? how many miles? how much weight can you carry? How far can you go? when does your body start to betray you for lack of food or sleep? How patient can you be? How much kindness is in your heart? the only way to KNOW YOURSELF is to TEST yourself and you’ll never do that from a couch.

    The test doesn’t stop ever and it shouldn’t. Isn’t that the whole point? isn’t that why we lift and train and run and test ourselves ? Isn’t that why we sacrifice ? …. you climb the wall and shoot from the car at night? to Train? to test? to KNOW THY SELF…

    I’m always amazed by people who don’t have a clue about their true abilities or lack of them who think because they THINK they can do something that that somehow means they can..Idiots

    Back to the video game….Anyone…… Everyone….. is a HERO in a video game…ask yourself How does the world and the people around me see me ???? Look in your heart and in your training and beliefs and you’ll find the answer is right there.. Your more than one persons hero…Your the example and the Way…The Standard to be carried forward..
    Drive On.

    Great Article


    Liked by 1 person

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