In response to a query about seemingly “extreme” physical training

What your GM is doing is probably his unique version of shugyo as applied to the world of today. Shugyo means “the Way of enlightenment through physical discipline”. It is a method of physical training that pushes the trainee to the utmost of his or her physical limits. The samurai did it, as did the ninja, as well as various other traditional martial arts at one time or another. In the broadest sense of the word, today’s foremost practitioners of Shugyo are the special forces of the world: the SEALs, the SAS, etc., etc.

Shugyo exists in every form of traditional martial arts. The difference lie in the focus and extent to which each art emphasizes it.

Usually, Shugyo is done as a special event (after adequate preparatory training) that goes over the length of a certain time-frame (a few days, a week, etc., ala special forces’ “Hell Week”). Participants usually prepare themselves physically, mentally and spiritually in advance prior to Shugyo.

Your practice of punching the tree till you bleed would be one form of Shugyo, and I can understand why you’d then write your name in your own blood. Your name, in blood, is declaring to whatever “gods and spirits” of the world that are watching, in vivid, fiery red, “This I have done; I, who is mortal”.

To paraphrase a certain saying, “Pain, where is thy sting”.

As a form of Shugyo, if it works for you, then it works for you. But you must grasp what it is that your GM wants for his students to accomplish through this practice. Your interpretation of the purpose of this practice might be different from that of your GM’s. Don’t just train. Learn as well train.

Having said that, whatever the reason and purpose behind your method of training, look after your hands (and your understanding) well.

Soft hands don’t necessarily make you a lousy martial artist. Hard hands don’t necessarily make you a great martial artist. Functional hands at least let you brush your teeth.

On a lighter note, to paraphrase Mr. Miyagi, “What tree ever do to you?”