Why did you choose Aikido?
Do you remember why you began training in Aikido? It doesn’t matter if it has been two or twenty years, think back and remember why. Now write down why you are still training, is it still the same reason? Everyone begins training for different reasons and I think those reasons change over the years. These changes happen because of what you learn and what the focus is in Aikido. It is not about competition and being better than others. Aikido is about peace and personal growth.
What do you learn then if it is not about beating someone else up? You learn a lot such as self-control, self –defense, courage, and confidence. When I say courage I am not talking about running into a burning building or thwarting bank robberies. Remember that is in the movies and you will most likely not have the same results. When I say courage I am referring to the little things like standing up to a bully as adults or children, learning to be more assertive, or waiting until the last second to move out of the way of a punch. Have you ever been hit really hard? It Hurts! But it is better to get hit in the dojo among friends than those who wish you harm.
If you do get hit while training that does not mean you failed and ruined the technique, remember this is practice. You just need to work on your timing the next go around. My sensei gave me more than one bloody lip before I learned how to get out of her way during jiyu waza. It is uke’s job to really hit you, if you get hit it is not personal. Also on the other hand uke should not redirect their strike if they think they are going to hit shite. Shite needs to move when they feel it is the right moment.
Self-control is very difficult for people. Learning how to control someone is a lot harder than learning how to hurt them. Anyone can take a blunt object and cause serious harm or death to another individual. Being able to control someone else resulting in minimal harm to both of you will result in a much better outcome. This is where self-control will come into play. Aikido techniques can be very devastating if not applied correctly. If you are applying a technique in anger then you will most likely not have the desired effect. The result can be an injury or even death because you have lost your self-control.
When I say self-defense I am not just talking about physical contact. In kamae you learn to stand up straight and be aware. You learn to move naturally to a push or a pull and how to fall. Numerous studies have been done with inmates and how they choose their victims. The people they were most likely to choose are the ones not paying attention, walking with their head down and off balance. You will be surprised after a couple years how you react to a push or a pull. Instead of fighting it you just move with it instead of against it. Your reaction time will improve with training which can save you from getting a serious injury and injuries from falls can be minimal because you learn how to fall.
Self-confidence is a good thing for people to have. Trusting your decisions and moving forward is always a good feeling. In Aikido you will learn self-confidence throughout your training. As you progress in techniques and rank you feel more reassured with what you are doing. You can take this assurance outside of the dojo also and put it to use at work, home, and in your relationships also. What you don’t want to develop though is an ego.
As you progress in kyu rank do not feel you are better than those below you. You have more time invested in training but you will develop a bad ego if you act like you are superior to others. I have seen this in numerous martial arts practitioners and they are not fun to be around. Their stories get more absurd and it is hard to believe what they have convinced themselves they can do. I was once told that the brown belt is like the teenage years in training. You have not reached shodan yet but you are near the end of kyu ranks. This is where ego can creep in and you may not even know it. When you get to the brown belt level keep in mind how you behave and treat others.
So why did you decide to start training? Was it to improve yourself or did you want to learn how to hurt people? Did you want to build self-confidence or get into shape? Whatever your reasons think about what they were and what they are now. I bet you are going to notice a change or personal growth in yourself during your time on the mat. Remember to always practice with an open heart and continue to grow. Osu!