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Home > Columns > "The Grindstone" > August, 2005 - The Role of Faith

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 is "there"?

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 deal.

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 everything.

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 humiliated.

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 there.

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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