Rejection does not exist in this dojo, does it?


Back in the before time, in the long long ago, I was a student practitioner in the Genbukan school of an esoteric martial art known as Ninpo Taijutsu. I loved it, but alas, my world travels didn’t allow me to stay in any one school and I gradually fell out of training. The lessons I learned from Ninpo still stick with me however and I found one of them particularly apropos to a writing critique group. It’s the concept of “Thanks”.

In Ninpo, and in many other martial arts, it’s not enough to simply practice the techniques in a vacuum. Forms and katas only go so far. To really know a technique, you’ve got to do it on someone else, and then, have someone else do it to you. And while you may not practice it at full power and full speed, you had better practice it hard and with full intent (what we used to call ‘to the pain’ i.e., when your training partner ‘tapped out’ you knew you were doing it right). That’s the only way to know for certain that you and your partner were practicing the technique correctly. If you didn’t do this, or horsed around, or got careless, you would develop bad habits (my Sensei called it ‘dojo-syndrome’) and those sloppy patterns would become muscle memory and could get you seriously hurt (and maybe killed) if you ever had to defend yourself for real. Because of this, practicing a technique with a good partner could actually save your life.

We started every practice session by bowing to our partner and saying the Japanese word, “Onegaishimasu”. It doesn’t translate well in English, but think of it as a polite way of saying “Please”, as in ‘Please let me train with you,’ and a sort of advanced ‘Thank You’, as in ‘Thank you for what you will do.” When we would finish a session, we would again bow to our partner and say, “Domo Arigato gozaimashita”, which roughly translates to ‘Thank you for what you have done.”

So what does this have to do with fiction writing and critique groups? Well, pretty much the same thing. If you’re training with a critique group that lets you get away with being careless, sloppy, and only practicing your craft halfway, when you have to use your work on the street for real, with an editor or agent, the results aren’t going to be pretty. If on the other hand, your critique group is taking you to the mat each and every time and taking you ‘to the pain’ until you ‘tap out’, that’s the kind of rigor that forms true artists.

Oh, and its your duty not to let up when they are practicing their craft.

Oh, and don’t forget to thank them.


Rejection does not exist in this Dojo, DOES IT?


(Jeez, that guy can get pushy.)

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