I sometimes feel my reason for starting Aikido doesn’t measure up to some of the other inspiring reasons some people in the dojo talk about. Looking for a martial art with a spiritual connection or some life changing desire / connection to this practice seems more important than my “it looked like fun” reason. As trivial as my reason for starting Aikido may be, what keeps me coming back are the glimpses into the deeper currents; this is more than just throwing each other around on the mat.
One important glimpse for me happened a few weeks ago. A small group of us went out to dinner with Sensei and Patti. Somehow the conversation made its way to Steven Segal and after I made a couple of jokes at how bad his movies are I made the comment that he doesn’t seem to embody the spirit of Aikido (how’s that for the pot calling the kettle black? ). Sensei, with a half smile on his face, very calmly and quietly said (I’m paraphrashing here, I don’t remember the exact words), “Well he’s just a guy like you and me, trying to figure things out. He’s done a lot for Aikido, which may be good or bad, but we shouldn’t judge him.” Ahhhhh, so there’s the spirit of Aikido. There’s the idea that this entire practice embodies. It’s also the answer to the question that I’ve been asking myself from my first beginner’s class, “is this practice really applicable in real life?”
We practice blending with each other on the mat, but that’s really only a part of the practice. For me that’s the easy part of the practice. Blending with people in our life outside of the dojo who we have nothing in common with or who we are opposed to is much more difficult, that is the real life practice of Aikido.
I had a dream the other night, after two days of Aikido classes where I felt lost and couldn’t figure out how to do the techniques being demonstrated. In my dream I was having yet another bad Aikido class, not being able to keep up, turning outside when I should turn inside, just generally doing everything wrong; in my dream Patti came up to me, put her hands on her hips, cocked her head sideways and asked, “How long is it going to take you to learn this?!” All my life I’ve just muscled my way through opposition. If someone disagreed with me and I had my mind set on doing things my way I would either just ignore them or drag them kicking and screaming along with me. I would not blend. Blending was something an appliance did. I see a different way now. How long is it going to take me to learn to blend? I don’t know. What I do know is I need more practice in blending, both on and off the mat.
As soon as you concern yourself with the “good” and “bad” of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness.