Aikido training in Japan

Lesson 7: You Are Doing It

I spend probably 90% of my aikido attention on thinking about concepts and dreams, and maybe 10% on actually doing aikido movements. This isn’t necessarily bad, because I think about aikido a lot; when I’m bored, when I’m excited, and all throughout the day. But it can interrupt and distract your actual practice when you bring all of those other thoughts into the movement. I found myself very distracted at times during tonight’s practice when I was screwing up a movement. I would think “I’m doing it wrong”, “when I become a black belt it’ll be fixed”, etc. No matter your level, when you’re doing an aikido technique with a partner, you’re doing aikido. It may not be as good as others around, but you are doing it. By being stuck in your own extra-special anomaly world, you’re not only robbing yourself of the experience of what’s actually happening, but you’re also robbing your partners of that moment as well. These moments are special and precious! The point of aikido is to see the moment for what it is and react accordingly, not thinking about two moves ahead when you’re supposed to throw the opponent. I want, and thusly somehow expect that one day I will have practiced aikido for 80 years and will be a 10th dan whose written many books and won acclaim, but what if I don’t make it there? Is that OK? Screw all that. I’m a dude practicing aikido, which is the same as being a dude in the future doing aikido. Just do it and have fun. Success and failure are your own arbitrary judgements, not the law of the land.

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2 thoughts on “Lesson 7: You Are Doing It

  1. There is a nice Japanese word usually translated as “no-mind” (I can't remember how it's spelled right now). Martial artists should always keep that in mind. I'm usually focused enough when practicing external styles, but not at all with the internal ones.

    One more thing: you often write about having a hard time understanding your sensei. Otherwise you seem to get on quite well with japanese (except perhaps with elderly strangers in nameless Onsen that should have been buddhist whaterfalls). Is it because he uses a specific martial vocabulary, because of his accent or what else?

  2. MUSHIN! No mind. That's it Daniele, and you're right on. Over the next few posts, that will be at the center of my discussion.

    As for my sensei, I've developed a remarkable knack for understanding the feel or direction of what people are trying to say to me, so I get the feel of what my sensei is trying to tell me, but when he tries to say specific concepts to me they are lost BECAUSE of the martial vocabulary as well as accent. In order to understand what he is saying, I need to know basic vocabulary of anatomy like wrist, waist, hand, center, pull, punch, turn, etc. And I've come to understand those particular words, but that is only the beginning. So, I'm trying to read books on aikido in Japanese to get the usual lingo down, but its a work in progress. He is also from a different part of Japan (Kyoto), so he often speaks in Kansai-ben (dialect used in Kyoto). In Japanese, the standard would be that which they speak in Tokyo, which is what I learned, but even coming to where I am in Toyama, I've had to overcome a lot of Toyama-ben (Toyama dialect, which even differs from town to town only 10 km away from each other!). As a fellow linguist, I'm sure you understand the different realms you can be familiar with. I am proficient in topics used to learn a language as I am an English teacher, and I am good at Toyama-ben conversation, but martial arts specific Kansai-ben is another deal. I'm getting better, but the delicate intricacies of specific explanation he gives me still escapes me.

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