Always Open

Michael Ken
4 min readOct 2, 2023
Old woodland forest in eastern North Carolina.

I began practicing the martial arts when I was a small child. For years, I trained hard, practicing late at night in a garage my parents transformed into my own personal dojo. There, I would punch and kick for hours and hours every day. Back then, I didn’t have any real responsibilities, so I had time to do whatever I wanted, and I spent all of my time training.

As we get older, life presents more responsibilities. We have jobs, a partner; maybe children who need our love, time, and energy. This can make it hard to get to the dojo to practice. My work required me to move around the country, and often, I found myself in remote towns where there was no place to train. Martial arts skills are highly perishable, and once you’ve been out of practice for a while, it can be really tough to get back into training. This can leave you with a feeling of frustration, and even sadness, for not doing what you love, and not having the time or place to do it.

Several years ago, I was living in a small city where there was no dojo. I took some vacation time to train with my teachers in Japan and I remember expressing my irritation to one of my Sensei. I think he understood what I was feeling because he stopped, looked at me seriously, and said, “Michael-san, never forget the dojo is always open.” He was relaying an important lesson that some things we want are not accessible, not because they don’t exist, but because we seem to forget they do. When we are ready or able to change our focus and priorities, we find the things we wanted were within our reach all along. Often, the only thing standing between us and our goals is, well, us.

When we are ready or able to change our focus and priorities, we find the things we wanted were within our reach all along. Often, the only thing standing between us and our goals is, well, us.

Today, I almost skipped my customary evening walk through the woods. It was a busy day at the house and my wife was gone for the evening. Since she had an early morning class in the city, we decided she should stay at a bed-and-breakfast overnight to avoid the long, early morning commute. My work had been busy with some major deadlines and I was stuck at my desk all day reading through hundreds of…

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Michael Ken

My journal about life in the woods. Visit intothewoods.blog to see my complete journal, photographs, and articles.