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I am a martial artist. The more I train, the more I come to realize this: I am a martial artist. I'm not a fighter. I'm not a tough guy. Challenge me all you like, I refuse to take you on. Despite my temper, I hate confrontation.
I don't like physically hurting people. No really, I don't. When I verbally hurt someone out of anger, I end up hurting myself with guilt and a lot of I-shouldn't-haves. I'd hate to think what my conscience would do were I to deliberately use physical force on a person simply because I was angry. Despite the dark attraction I have for violence, the thought of actually becoming a violent person, with all its karma, terrifies me.
So why do I practice martial arts? Why cross train in Aikido and Arnis? Why spend countless hours sweating and breathing hard, swinging sticks, hitting targets, applying locks and throws, getting thrown and pinned and getting up every time?
I don't know. I do know that I am an artist. This is my chosen art. My medium is not paint and canvas. My medium is the movement of my body, my brushes are my sticks and hands, my canvas, myself.
My art is not a solitary art, although I do train solo from time to time. It is a collaborative art - together with my opponent, we create that which we deem beautiful albeit brutal. We do not fight - not even when we actively try to hit/pin/throw each other. Rather, we play our respective roles to the best of our abilities, in the quest of making something tog
That's what I told my wife last Monday as I wearily lay in bed. It had been a rather tortuous session that included three rounds of shikko around the dojo, lots of bokken suburi, and a (pardon my language) s*#tload of suwariwaza. It was the first time I actually felt grateful that my schedule only allows me to practice Aikido once a week.
Which is actually a wake up call of sorts for me. My physical conditioning sucks. Okay, I already knew that. I've always known that. I'm overweight, asthmatic, and my knees are - well, let's just say I wear knee supports to practice.
Since I currently cannot go to the dojo more than once a week, I have to practice solo most of the time. Which I have been doing, but only sporadically and at a leisurely rate. Time to raise up the intensity level.
And maybe put thick pads on the inside of my gi pants where my knees are.
Nikkyu exam is still in September, but I want to be prepared. I don't want to do a lot of suwariwaza though. I recently came across several horror stories on the forums about people, even shihans, who developed knee problems because of years of knee-walking. Since I'm overweight with bad knees, I think my priority should be to lose weight and strengthen my legs.
Just some thoughts I wrote in my notebook yesterday:
In Aikido, one's weapons and defenses include not only one's own hands and/or the weapons they hold, but also other people.
When I wrote those words, I was thinking about SUKI and the idea that one must work hard to develop one's skills to the point of not having any suki at all.
The first time I read about this I felt that while this was understandable in a martial context, it was bordering on paranoid and obsessive-compulsive in the context of daily life. But then I thought that maybe I didn't understand what it meant not to have suki at all.
Consider our Aikido stance. It's just standing naturally on both feet, with one foot forward and both hands in front of the hara. When I started training in Aikido I was really skeptical of this stance. I kept thinking, "Isn't this too wide open? I'm really vulnerable to an attack if I stand this way." I came to Aikido with a background in Taekwondo, and while I admittedly sucked at it, I at least learned that not having my hands up usually meant a roundhouse kick to the face. Aikido's stance simply didn't make sense to me.
And yet after a few years, I have learned that I can easily move in this stance. From this natural, non-combative posture, it's so easy to tenkan, irimi, and apply technique - all this while being relaxed. And what's more, this is a very non-threatening posture, which means that in a potentially violent situation I have a far better ch