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The most common understanding of "mastery" is having reached a high level of skill or accomplishment. A master painter or electrician, for instance. An expert. Someone who has solid, deep understanding of a subject.
Another interpretation of "mastery" is more ongoing. In this sense mastery is a continuous process of development and improvement. Mastery is more an attitude and a habit than a state to be achieved. We don't become a master, but practice mastery.
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"I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I'll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is." ~ Chef Jiro Ono
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (documentary)
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In the pursuit of mastery we are striving not to become someone who "already knows," but to be continuously paying attention, learning, and often helping others on the journey along with us.
In striving for mastery we move beyond simply accumulating knowledge and repeating skills by rote. We begin to make the thing our own. In any art -- dance, painting, music -- this means building on what our teachers have conveyed. We develop
Life lessons from Aikido, eh? That's a huge topic, and the subject of entire books. So many lessons are available in every aspect of the practice. The challenge with this subject will be keeping it brief. Here goes…
Aikido and life. It goes two ways.
The way I see it, there are two ways in which Aikido can be relevant to our life off the mat, and they flow in opposite directions.
First, there are qualities we develop through taking deliberate actions on the mat. These then percolate into our daily lives. In training we viscerally embody the principles that are central to the art -- compassion toward others, working with circumstances rather than fighting, keeping our center, moving with confidence, being clear and direct, etc. Through that practice we literally get these principles into our bodies -- into who we are. We'll look at this more closely when we get to "Q -- Qualities -- Discovering and Developing Our Better Selves."
Second, there's what we learn about who we are in the rest of our lives, through observing our own actions on the mat. In training we can step outside of ourselves and watch what we physically do -- how we react (or overreact) to an a
Kihon Waza [KEY-hone WAH-zuh], or basic technique, along with other important skills like learning to be present, to feel, and to respond appropriately, is a good place to start when learning Aikido.
Various schools interpret the idea differently. In some organizations kihon waza is a specific set of basic techniques that one can list. These techniques are divided into groups like pins vs. throws, or joint locks vs. balance breaking.
The meaning I am more familiar with is that kihon waza is a basic way of learning and executing any technique being taught. We go step-by-step through the technique, from a static start. That is, our uke [OOH-kay], or attacker, does not come at us in motion. They grab or strike just so.
Step, by step, by step. Feet move this way. Turn! Hands stay in front of you. Settle! Relax your elbows. Watch your alignment.
Through this regular, set process we learn the mechanics of what will someday become flowing, effortless, natural responses to a variety of situations.
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"Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals." ~ Jim Rohn
Business and Marketing Author
Aikido originated in Japan. Japanese tradition, language, and culture influences everything about the art -- the names of techniques, the design of the dojo, the way we address each other, etiquette and attire, even the relationships between junior and senior students, and our teachers.
Japanese Words in Aikido.
At the dojo you will hear a lot of Japanese words used -- for the names of techniques, weapons, and parts of the dojo. We also use a few traditional Japanese words when addressing each other. You do not need to speak Japanese to train in Aikido, and you'll find you can pick up the words we do use pretty quickly.
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"Domo arigato gozaimashita, Sensei." [DOH-moh ar-ee-GAT-oh go-za-ee-MAHSH-ta, SEN-say] "Thank you very much (for what you've just done), Teacher."
We say this when we bow out at the end of each class.
This is the ninth in this series of 26 posts, one of each letter of the alphabet, that I am writing during the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, April 2016. You can find all the posts, as they are published throughout the month, by following the A-to-Z April 2016 tag.
I is for Inclusion.
Many people are intrigued with Aikido, and can see value for themselves in taking up the practice. But some might pass up the opportunity fearing that they are too old, out of shape, or not sufficiently athletic. They worry that they will feel awkward and out of place, that they are slowing down the class, or that more advanced students will avoid training with them. These are common concerns, and everyone is awkward at first.
Not to worry. Aikido is something anyone can do. We all have our challenges, and it's possible to train -- and even teach -- with just about any condition. There are students and teachers who are blind, have one arm, have cerebral palsy, use a wheelchair, have Parkinson's, etc. Not to mention all the usual issues we accumulate throughout life: a bad knee or iffy back, a shoulder that needs a little extra stretching, or a body that's just weak and stiff from years of sitting at a desk. Some things improve with time and patient work, and others we learn to work with.
Anyone can do Aikido, but we all do it in our own way. A short, stout student and a tall, lanky student will each do a technique a little differently. One person may need to work m
There are many excellent books and web resources covering the history of Aikido in great detail. I will list several at the end of this post. Here I'm going to give a very brief overview, and a few special bits that I find particularly interesting.
A very (very) brief overview of Aikido's history:
Morihei Ueshiba [more-ee-HEY oo-ay-SHE-bah] (1883-1969) founded the art of Aikido. We refer to him as O Sensei, meaning great teacher.
Ueshiba was descended from samurai, and his family was well off. He was a small, sickly kid who got picked on, so he took up sumo wrestling. At about 20 he joined the military, and served during the Russo-Japanese War. After his military service Ueshiba trained in several martial arts.
During this time he also begin studying under the spiritual teacher, Onisaburo Deguchi, a leader in the Omoto religion. Deguchi had a strong influence on Ueshiba's development of Aikido. A central teaching of Oomoto-kyo is "harmonious alignment with a...More
This is the seventh in this series of 26 posts, one of each letter of the alphabet, that I am writing during the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, April 2016. You can find all the posts, as they are published throughout the month, by following the A-to-Z April 2016 tag.
G is for Grounded.
Grounded. We toss the word around a lot. We say someone is really grounded, or that spending time in nature helps us feel grounded. But what is it, really? The dictionary will tell you it means emotionally stable, down-to-earth. That's not a bad place to start.
One way to think about it is in terms of contrast. In my experience, the opposite of grounded is "in one's head." Flighty, scatterbrained, separate. Thinking about what's going on with us instead of experiencing it. Head in the clouds, as opposed to feet on the ground.
We are generally happier, less reactive, and more effective, both on and off the mat, when we are present to our actual experience, feeling our way through, connected.
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"When adversity strikes, that's when you have to be the most calm. Take a step back, stay strong, stay grounded and press on." ~ LL Cool J
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Being grounded is a principle we embody in our Aikido training. We recently explored this in a workshop at the dojo. Some of the experiments that Sensei led us through demonstrated how we are more powerful and stable, with less effort, when we are grounded. A simple exercise was physically easier
Right from the beginning, even though the newness can be awkward and frustrating, you will start waking up to how your body works and responds. You'll begin to feel a connection with others that we don't often get to experience in normal, daily life. You'll start to remember what it felt like to play and tumble as a kid, and wonder why you ever forgot about that.
Once you gain a little proficiency in basic techniques, and in falling and rolling things can get more exciting. You can throw people, and they can throw you. Do you remember what it was like to be picked up, and tossed in the air? Or "flown" in circles like an airplane? It's that kind of fun. There's something magical in playing with someone who's physically capable of moving you, and who can be trusted not to hurt you.
Sure, there are uncomfortable, frustrating times. There will be days when you can't seem to get anything right. The thing you could do pretty well last week is gone again. You keep falling back on the same old habits of movement. Muscles will remind you that you are using them in new ways, and you will acquire some bumps and bruise
I have trained with many students and instructors from a variety of lineages, and read or listened to many more. Each one sees Aikido from a different perspective. For one, Aikido might be primarily a tool for defending one's self from muggers and rapists. For another, the purpose of Aikido is to protect all beings For yet another, Aikido is a moving form of meditation, cultivating our presence and attention.
Some appreciate the health benefits of strenuous physical activity, the challenge of rolling and falling gracefully, and the camaraderie of getting sweaty with friends. Others love the philosophical side, seeing that we all one human family, and learning that we really can be compassionate, even toward someone attacking us. Still others appreciate the worldwide community focused on peacemaking, non-violent communication, and conflict resolution.
Some love the never-ending pursuit of mastery that comes with continuously refining technical skills that have been passed down, unchanged, from teacher to student. Others see Aikido as an ever-changing art, expanding and evolving over time, and are excited to be part of creating this future direction.
The place where we practice Aikido is called a dojo [DOH-joe]. Like the word "church," "dojo" refers to a physical space, and also to a group of people who share important values, ethics, and commitments. Some dojo (plural is the same as singular) have permanent facilities, and some hold classes in community centers or other multi-purpose spaces.
An Aikido dojo is a transformational space.
The word "dojo" is usually translated as "the place of the way." You could think of it as roughly being a school, although there's more to it than that. It is a dedicated place for intensive training, study, and personal development. A place to not only learn the technical how-tos of techniques, but to practice a way of being. We treat the dojo with reverence.
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"The dojo -- because some things can't be found on the Internet." ~ Linda Eskin (me)
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The dojo is a place to discover and develop ourselves. We learn through physical training to be grounded and responsive, assertive and compassionate. We are rigorous and committed in our training, but not stern or grim. Aikido classes can be philosophical, vigorous, challenging, supportive, and fun, often all at the same ti