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Home > Columns > Lynn Seiser > December, 2004 - The Gift
by Lynn Seiser

The Gift by Lynn Seiser

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Tis the season to give and to receive. Some of us have learned to be good givers. Others have learned to be great receivers. Many say it is better to give than to receive, but actually that is a myth usually perpetuated by those on the receiving end (but that is a different article). It is actually better to learn how to do both.

In Aikido training, this means learning to be both a good uke and a good tori. It also means to be a good kohai and a good sempai. For most of us it is learning how to be a good perpetual student. For a select few, it will also mean how to be a good sensei. A gift is something of value given freely without any strings attached. A gift is developed through consistent and persistent training and discipline with honest and genuine intent and intensity.

How do we develop the gift of being a good uke? I first learned that the uke was the one who said ouch. Learning to fall down and get back up just to be thrown down again is indeed a valuable gift. Initially, we simply give our bodies freely in training so that others can improve and grow in Aikido. We actually spend more time being thrown or tapping-out than we do anything else. So we all had better learn to do it well and safely so that we dont get hurt while giving this gift to others. With time we will learn to give just enough resistance so that our training partners really have to learn the technical proficiency and conceptual applications of any given technique.

How do we develop the gift of being a good tori? Tori is the one doing the technique. Some call it nage because they are the one throwing, not the one being thrown. It is important to stay relaxed and move slowly so that we do not hurt anyone. The more we improve, the more our uke improves. They learn to enter and blend with us as we enter and blend with them. The better we get as tori the more uke learns to trust.

How do we develop the gift of being a good kohai? The kohai is the new kid on the block, or in the dojo. As a kohai, we give the gift of being open to receive instruction and correction from our seniors. We give the gift of respect by learning humility. We give the gift of not understanding so that our seniors can learn to become teachers. We give the gift of patience while our sempai try to figure out how to explain what cannot be put into words. We give the gift of asking them for help when they are not sure what we are doing wrong. We take our place in line so they can see how far they have progressed and remember when they too just started this excellent journey.

How do we develop the gift of being a good sempai? The sempai is the senior student. They are the ones who are supposed to know something and give the gift of what they know to anyone open to listening. I remember when I first started training. So many sempai gave so much of their time and patience to try to teach me. Whenever I offered them thanks, they simply told me to pass it on when I became a sempai. They were my role models of behavior and conduct. They gave me the gift of welcoming me into the Aikido family. A family I too now hold the door open to for others. I also ask them to pass on what they receive from me.

How do we develop the gift of being a good student? Being a good student means always being a kohai with Shoshin, beginners mind. A teacher needs someone to teach, someone open to learn. A good student gives the gift of punctuality, cleanliness, and etiquette. A good student stays open to input and tries to modify their technique according to the lesson. A good student accepts the training curriculum and promotion criteria set forth by the instructor, the school, and the affiliation.

How do we develop the gift of being a good sensei? The sensei, teacher, gives the gift of being a good role model for their students and as a world representative of the benefits of Aikido training. A good sensei consistently, and persistently, trains with honest and genuine intent and intensity for technical proficiency and conceptual application. A good sensei pays attention to the business of running the dojo so students have a safe place to train. A good sensei accepts the guidelines of good ethical standards with a high-level code of conduct. A good sensei is not perfect but admits their imperfections and do not make their students pay the price for their humanness.

How to we develop the gift of being a good receiver? How do we develop the gift of being a good giver? How do we develop the gift of seeing beyond the dualistic thinking of uke/tori, kohai/sempai, student/teacher, and receiving/giving? We develop any gift by accepting what is and being who we are. We develop the gift by appreciating and validating all that is. We develop the gift by relaxing, breathing, and enjoying ourselves and everyone we train with. Ultimately, there is no uke/tori, no kohai/sempai, no student/teacher, no giving/receiving. There is only the training.

Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of services, and for sharing the journey. Now, get back to training. KWATZ!

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