Training Is For Day-to-Day Life / Day-to-Day Life Is For Training
I recently bought a hybrid bike in order to be able to bike to work and for running errands. I have really been enjoying it! It feels great to be getting some exercise, reducing my carbon footprint, and feeling the wind on my face. It has also been making me think about at least two types of martial arts training:
The first type of martial arts training is simply (and importantly!) that dedicated, sole-purpose (and soul-purpose?) time spent "training". This is very important time for me, but, ultimately, in the modern world in which I live (and I am not a "full-time" martial arts teacher or student) it is but a handful of hours-per-week that I can dedicate and focus entirely on my Xinyi skills and repetitions. I try to focus as fully and deeply as I can on my martial art during that time, but it is (even on the most flexible of days) a limited amount of time. The problem seems to be, then, that the broader definition of "kung fu" is "skilled work" (earned through time and effort) - and as a husband, son, friend, professional, student, etc. there is only so much specific time I can allot towards striving to be the best I can be at each endeavour.
That said, the second type of martial arts training is (and always has been) day-to-day life. It is actually hard to imagine just how tough those ancient martial artists in China (and elsewhere in the world) would have been. If they spent their days doing farm work, hammering at an anvil, or even just living without modern transportation and labour-saving devices -- those people would have had a baseline level of strength and endurance that nowadays we associate with "fitness enthusiasts" or professional athletes. [Not to mention the fact they ate organic food, far less "junk" food, etc., etc...]
As great as dedicated "exercise" time is (be that lifting weights, cycling, swimming, etc.) someone who swings a hammer, or an axe, or a pick, or a hoe... for hours a day is going to be able to hit quite accurately, quickly, and powerfully! Someone who stands in a small boat fishing all day is going to have incredible balance. Someone who engages in the day-to-day work of a subsistence farm is going to be quite fit - and actually lack the energy, the time, or the need to lift weights and do "cardio". In fact, they are going to have to work very hard to find the energy and time to get in their martial arts training at all (which is a similarity we seem to share in modern times...). Now, don't get me wrong, in the modern world we need to get some regular "exercise", if only to try to counteract so much sitting around. But, it is hard to compare forty minutes on the elliptical with hiking sacks of rice to the nearest town.
For someone dedicated to having martial arts be a part of her/his life (then and now), there is no substitute for some regular, dedicated time invested in specifically training martial arts skills -- but there is also no need to feel guilty for not doing specific martial arts training "all the time". Living a full, productive life can also be one in which I can "train" every time I go for a bike ride, wash my car, take the stairs, adjust my posture, or even take a deep breath. The more of these supposedly non-training hours I can make truly mindful and healthy the better. They are actually going to add up a lot faster than the number of hours I can dedicate to specifically doing Xinyi. And being a good husband, son, professional, etc. is why I am so interested in doing Xinyi - and why I am so motivated to try to share it with others.
Of course, the two types of martial arts training go hand-in-hand. Martial arts training helps with living a productive, healthy life - while living a healthy, productive life feeds back into martial arts training. To me, that's the whole purpose of martial arts - not to be my life - to enhance my life and to help me to live it well.