The Role of Faith by "The Grindstone"
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This column was written by Tarik Ghbeish.
Jun Akiyama wrote (in asking about the role of faith in training):
True, there'll always be something you can work on. But, when does
it become detrimental to keep saying that one doesn't have "it" or
I think I have trouble with this question not because I don't have
faith, but I don't think about it in the terms you are describing.
Let me answer you in another way. I feel that I have "arrived". I am
"there". This is "it".
How do I know that? How can I say that?
I look at the person I was when I began aikido and I can honestly say
that what that person desired, what that person needed, what that
person dreamed of, has largely occurred to me.
In fact, I would say that my skill at aikido has surpassed the actual
realistic expectations of that person and moved well into his
fantasies. Sounds arrogant, doesn't it? But it is merely an attempt at
an honest observation.
That person is not the person I am today. That person went through
enormous labor, emotional trauma, genuine fear (see my article The Role of Fear), and by
persevering, sometimes with aid of my training partners, instructors,
and the people you on this list (the Aikido-L mailing list), and
sometimes through pure stubborness, that person has changed a great
Now, let me tell you that I'm here. "There" has moved. "It" has
changed. They are still distant goals, perhaps more realistic,
perhaps more unattainable. The paradox of that doesn't bother
me. Indeed, if I never get further, I won't be too upset, although I
want it. "Here" is a good place.
It's no longer really about throwing my partner, or improving my
technique so that I'm safe on the street. All that is nice and
actually genuinely important (to me still), but it's not
It's part of a process that allows me to overcome and change the parts
of me that I don't like; the parts of me that are unfair, or cruel, or
rude, or intentionally or unintentionally hurtful to other people.
Those parts of me aren't gone, but the process I've worked through ON
the mat has directly allowed me to experience what it is like to stop
such behavior on and OFF the mat. A lot of it springs from an honest
fear or personal need to be right, to be better, to not be
I think maybe, just maybe I got here because the training experience
mirrors life so well. If you train long enough, you will be
embarrassed, you will feel like a failure, you will be humiliated, you
will hurt people, maybe even intentionally (I hope not). You will feel
all the terrible self-deprecating emotions in life.
I think that's a real reason many people stop training. If you can
stay on the mat and work through those issues, how can you NOT change?
How can your life NOT be different? How can you NOT change the things
that make you truly unhappy, and NOT take the risks you need to take
to get where you want to go?
THAT is satori in my error prone world and even if it's a brief,
transient emotional moment, it is worth all the effort to get
So yeah, maybe there is faith in there, and maybe there isn't. I just
don't think in those direct terms. Maybe it takes faith to get there,
but that wasn't my goal when I started. I never trained on hoping to
reach that or feel that.
When I did, it was life changing, and not in the sense of suddenly
being able to be better on the mat, although I have experienced plenty
moments like that as well. Intead it was a realization of my own power
over making my own choices in life; choices that can and do affect
those around me.
At this point I continue to train because I know what change I have
experienced, and I know that I need more of it, need the reminder for
when I fall down and my self-respect drops, and I also continue to
train because every once in a while, I can help someone I am training
with gets a piece of what I have received and that is worth more than
all the money and fantasies in the world.
And yes, I continue to train because I still want "it", and I'm still
trying to get "there". I have faith, tempered with experience, that
the process of training will being me closer even as my destination
recedes into the distance.
Masakatsu Agatsu -- "The true victory of self-mastery."
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