View Full Version : How do we learn, an Aiki Perspective

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03-19-2012, 09:59 AM
There is a Chinese saying that the three elements to correct learning of anything is the following: Correct teaching and example; Unconditional effort and perseverance; and Sufficient aptitude and talent. It is highly significant that correct teaching and example are considered to be the most important, with strength, talent and applicability of lessons learned being the least. Of course, without resolute and honest commitment, why bother at all.

Correct teaching and example are primary, even as knowing your destination is vital to your journey. All your efforts and all your talents will avail you not when you insist on continually going East, instead of West. Of what value is the amassing of great wealth, without the efficient use and enlightened application of such immense potential to benefit others and achieve personal satisfaction, fulfillment, and happiness.

We owe it to ourselves to do the due diligence of continually seeking out, qualifying mercilessly, and supporting with honor and loyalty, those proven teachers of the knowledge, wisdom, and consistent example of what we seek. There may be no absolute truth, at least obtainable by fallible humans, and no state of perfection to be discovered, both without and within. Yet we can, and should apply the most stringent of guidelines and criteria in our never ending search for the powerful relative truths that are available to us. We must always be hungry for more, as we fulfill our own individually crafted programming for excellence, pushing our boundaries beyond the constraints of arbitrary rules, inflexible traditions and misguided wisdom from the ages.

One must ask, and consistently answer the self directed question, "How really important is it to me to continue my training in this fashion?". The fabled Miyamoto Mushashi is said to have sacrificed everything of human value, to become the Kensei, or Sword Saint of legend and history. He eschewed love, fame and the "good life" of a pampered vassal to some Lord, in order to persist on his lifelong existence as a Shugyosha, looking first without, and then finally within, for the elusive but all consuming justification for the life he led. How many of us are willing to do the same? A famed concert pianist, after a rousing performance, was accosted by a bejeweled and gushing matron of the arts, "Oh my, I would give my life to play like you just did!" To which he sagely and humbly replied, "I did."

And what about innate ability and natural talent, you may ask. Yes, without the raw materials and circumstance, even the finest sword cannot be forged. Yet, is only the finest of materials, and the most fortuitous of circumstance required for great achievement? It seems to me that we are all essentially the same, with differing proportions of talents, abilities and good fortune. We are all "ordinary", whatever that means, and can only be considered extraordinary when we are ready, willing and able to produce and apply that little bit "extra".

We must all come to grips with how attainable our dreams really are, and the feasibility of having all the forces that make the difference, converge for us to make it happen. If we happen to "fall short", is it failure? Or are the lessons we humbly learn through trial and error, essential parts of the whole of our very existence, and as perfectly suitable to the results that we can reasonably expect.

Yoku Gambatte Kudasai!

Francis Takahashi was born in 1943, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Francis began his Aikido journey in 1953, simultaneously with the introduction of Aikido to Hawaii by Koichi Tohei, a representative sent from Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by the Hawaii Nishi System of Health Engineering, with Noriyasu Kagesa as president. Mr. Kagesa was Francis's grandfather, and was a life long supporter of Mr. Tohei, and of Aikido. In 1961, the Founder visited Hawaii to help commemorate the opening of the new dojo in Honolulu. This was the first, and only time Francis had the opportunity to train with the Founder. In 1963, Francis was inducted into the U.S. Army, and was stationed for two years in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second instructor for the fledgling Chicago Aikido Club, succeeding his childhood friend, Chester Sasaki, who had graduated from the University of Illinois, and was entering the Air Force. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan Aikikai, and enjoys a direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation for the recommending and granting of dan ranks via his organization, Aikikai Associates West Coast. Francis is the current dojo-cho of Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California.

03-23-2012, 08:23 PM
Hello Francis Sensei. Thanks for again reminding us to keep eyes on the prize. As for me, I know that, realistically, many of my dreams cannot or will not be achieved, but if they give me purpose and momentum to continue in the effort, then are they truly unrealistic? Perhaps, but certainly useful, nonetheless.

Thanks for sharing!

04-21-2012, 01:57 AM
Thank you Francis. Great article as usual. Finding a good teacher is perhaps more important than the budo we choose. And all of us have the aptitude and talent to be good human beings.

For your point about effort and perseverence we each have our own decisions to make about sacrifice and about the balance in our lives. But we can all treat each hour or day or week or month as precious and train as sincerely as we can in that moment.

And there is another nuance there. The journey, really, is the destination. So we just have to keep walking.