In the excellent little book Dojo Wisdom: 100 Simple Ways to Become a Stronger, Calmer, More Courageous Person by Jennifer Lawler, she has a section titled, “Hone your tools through continual sharpening.” This is an important concept, because we all must keep our tools sharp. In this section, Lawler writes, “If you learn how to do a side kick, but then stop practicing it, when the mugger comes you may still be able to do a side kick (which is better than nothing), but it won’t be your best, most effective side kick. Your tools need continual sharpening to remain effective.”
This about this. How many things have you learned in the past that you didn’t keep up with? Are you as good now as you once were? It is easy to become complacent, and even lazy, and let skills deteriorate. All skills require practice to remain sharp. And while it is fun to learn new things, we must keep those things we’ve already learned useful and relevant. This is especially true in the martial arts if you want to teach or believe your skills will still help you in an actual self-defense situation. Why do you think people say they are “rusty” when they take a layoff and don’t keep their tools sharp and in good condition?
And don’t forget that you have many tools for different jobs. We keep our physical tools sharp by physical training, but we also have our mental and spiritual tools. We can keep these sharp through regular meditation and similar activities. Remember the story of Abraham Lincoln and how he said if he only had a certain amount of time to cut down a tree, he’d spend the first part sharpening his ax. We must continually sharpen our tools if we expect them to be ready for when we need them.