What is Shugyo (Shodan test essay)
By Colin Bauer

We are born into the world in a fragile state. Our bodies are so weak we can hardly hold our heads up. From the first moment we breath air with our lungs we begin our training. We begin using muscles that never had any use other than stretching our inside our mother's belly. As we strengthen we look for more efficient ways to act and accomplish things. It seems in this world, the better we are at creating shortcuts, the more successful we become. We have developed technology to the point that we don't consider living without it. In the light of natural selection the name of the game is efficiency. When we become limited to the extent of our efficiency our spirits and bodies become soft again like the newborn's. shugyo is used to widen our efficient limits and drive us to evolve.

I feel the nature of shugyo deepest as a purification. It is the training that breaks down your comfortable limits by taking oneself to the point of exhaustion and find greater strength. Every time I go hiking I pack an backpack with water, some warm clothes, and some extra books or weights. Some people look at me strangely. I have been asked;

"Why carry all that extra weight? Why not just enjoy the hike."

I knew a guy that cuts the handles of his tooth brush and spatula to cut down on the weight of his hiking pack Some people understand that I get great enjoyment out of raising the bar a little higher. I look forward to working out all my energy until I am "cleaned out". Not only does my body expand and drink in my environment but the mind undergoes a cleansing that make you forget your limits. There is scene from the movie The Matrix with a skinny little bald kid holding a spoon between his index finger and his thumb. He looks at the spoon and it bends in half and then resumes it shape. He says

"Do not try to bend the spoon. Simply recognize that there is no spoon." In the martial arts as well as in other areas of life we must constantly test ourselves. We train with Shugyo so that when the most difficult decisions face us we can act with certainty and resolution with grace.