At the end of our International Seminar two years ago I was having a conversation with Kaicho regarding one of my students.  He spoke of how this person was advancing at such a rapid rate in terms of his abilities.  I gave him what I thought was an accurate answer regarding his progress.

“He cheats”.

Now I’m guessing that this wasn’t the explanation that Kaicho was looking for, or for that matter, the one that anyone reading this missive considers an adequate response.   I say in all sincerity, though, cheating is exactly what one needs to progress very far in a system such as ours.

How can this be?  A system that includes honor and veracity in our codes condones such a thing as cheating?????  Okay, I tend to over-extend my way of speaking sometimes.  But let us look at it this way:  If you think of cheating, what comes to mind?  Would it include the idea of using an advantage that your peers may not?  Would it be implementing something you would consider an “edge”?

Well, that’s exactly what this person does.

So, without further ado, I am going to render unto you a list of the ways you, too, can be a successful cheater and get ahead of the others in your dojo in terms of ability, ranking and quite probably, respect.

Cheating tip 1:  Show up for class.  Without a doubt probably one of the most used methods of the cheater.  He/she shows up for class!!  This is done almost without fail.  The idea of blowing off class because there’s a hockey game, new episode of (fill in the blank) on TV, this “thing” that someone has going on….. just doesn’t occur to the successful cheater.  Two evenings per week we have class.  He’s there.  One is as etched-in-stone as the other.

Cheating tip 2:  Train when you’re not in class.  What?!?!?!?!?!  “I pay good money for quality instruction!  I should be able to absorb everything I need in that three hours per week!!!!”  Yeah, right.  Successful application of technique requires body memory.  Simply put, you need to practice a technique enough times that your body can perform it without you going through the conscious thought process necessary to work through it.  The first move of our first kata is a step to the left in zenkutsu dachi, executing a gedan barai, followed by a step into another zenkutsu dachi, executing chudan seiken.  Do you know what you’re doing with that technique or do you just go through it like a zombie because that’s what you need to get to the next belt test?  Next question:  IF you know what the technique does, have you practiced it enough that you move into it fluidly and effectively without effort or thought?  No?  Time to do more.  A LOT MORE!!!  Now here’s the trick…… how much time does this translate into when you’re up to your 40th or 50th kata?  How many repetitions do you need if you’re a Jukido student having learned your 30th throw?  How many more reps do you need to do the same 30 throws in hidari?  Still think that three hours per week in going to be enough?  My cheater doesn’t.  That’s why he’s leapfrogging over those that believe otherwise.

Cheating tip 3:  Accept instruction and correction.  This is one near and dear to my heart.  Nothing remains static.  Ever.  It’s that simple.  There are variations/adaptations/improvements/evolutions to techniques and kata.  What I learned 30 years ago in this system sometimes gets “tweaked”.  Techniques get made better.  Here’s an even more shocking thought:  Sometimes what I think I saw or learned isn’t what the person instructing me thought I was being taught.  More simply put…. I’m doing it, and subsequently teaching it….. WRONG!!!  This means, that, once in a while, I have to correct something I taught our cheater simply because I didn’t convey the information correctly.  And, once in a while, sometimes our cheater falls prey to exactly this same problem.  What I thought I was teaching and what he thought he was learning weren’t the same thing and I have to correct it.

Now, here’s where the cheater and non-cheater differ:  Our cheater accepts the adjustment and moves on.  He doesn’t go off into a corner berating himself over being such an idiot as to have done something incorrectly.  He doesn’t mutter to himself and anyone else within voice range that this “wasn’t what I was taught when I learned it” or “they’ve changed it again!!!” as if there’s some unspoken conspiracy to intentionally give him bad information.  The bad is jettisoned, the good added, life goes on and a lot of energy isn’t wasted in between.

Cheating tip 4:  Seek instruction.  This is sort of a corollary to number 3.  See, again our Cheater doesn’t just rely on class two nights per week to get what he needs.  He emails me with questions when he has them rather than hope he remembers to ask them in class.  He attends the Internationals.  He gets to one or two or however many of the Regional Seminars or Workouts he can each year.  He takes advantage of having higher ranks around him.  There are always nuggets of information to be gained.  There are corrections to something I’ve not adequately taught.  There is the chance to pick up another technique/throw/kata that would not have otherwise been presented.  There’s the sheer benefit of having more mat time with fellow Kokondoka that can only be advantageous to those smart enough to take that opportunity.

At this point I’m sure some of you are thinking “This is nuts!!!  I don’t have the time/desire/money/whatever to go through all this!” and I will be the first to agree with you.  We all have our own ideas of what we want or where we want to be with our training.  What I’ve described above isn’t for everyone.  It was never meant to be.  And that’s alright.  Get what you want from the system in the way you need to get it.  This can be as much or as little as obtaining some exercise that you wouldn’t otherwise get.  It can be the opportunity for a little fellowship and a chance to get out of the house.  It’s your path and you have to choose the direction you walk and the distance you travel.

Some of us, though, came to a point of differentiation in our lives.  Somewhere between August of 1985 and this point in my life I stopped being an accountant who practiced Kokondo.  Instead, I became a Kokondoka that used accounting as the method of supporting my training.  I was fortunate enough to marry a fine Lady that accepts me being gone two nights a week to pass what I’ve gained on to my students, going to seminars around the country, beating on the heavy bag in the basement and sometimes putting a divot in the wall with an errant sai.  In the past few years I have gained the luxury of time needed to put in a couple of hours of training at the dojo before any of the students arrive or to go to a local park to do bo, sai or kata training.  I’ve been lucky enough to have a handful of students that will show up for some extra-curricular workouts.

It’s a good life today.

Who says cheaters never prosper?