View Full Version : What do you consider your "aikido" training

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Dan Richards
04-11-2013, 10:48 AM
An interesting discussion is emerging out of the current ranking systems (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22509&page=3) topic about the amount of time as well as what comprises "aikido training."

There's been the idea being thrown around that to reach levels of mastery takes 10,000 of practice. And this is really more about the pursuit, and not "reaching" a goal.

Well assuming 1 hour a day practice that comes to 27.4 years - hardly a lifetime.

1 hour a day is a good weekly average for those of us who do it for pleasure.

So, let's play around with what we feel comprises our training. If we look at just time on the mat, I think that's valid. But obviously there is so much more to aikido. Just as something like learning to play the violin - yes, there's the actual time you'd have the violin in your hands. But there comes a point where the "practice" becomes so much larger. After a point, it gets in your bones, in your nervous system, countless new neural connections and neural networks form.

I remember starting aikido in '88 at NY Aikikai, and I was training most every day on the mat, and would sometimes take two classes in a day. So, maybe 10-15 hours a week in the dojo. But more interestingly was how my entry into the world of aikido changed my life - on a daily basis, hour by hour, minute by minute.

After I began training, my "aikido" also included how I walked down the street, how I sat, how I worked. I no longer would sit on the subway, but would stand and have my hand near the vertical bar, but try and not touch it as often as possible. I would play with how my weight shifted, and learned to harmonize with the movement of the train. After not too long, I could freely stand - away from the bar - and experience the active practice of aikido by simply riding the subway.

About the same time I started aikido I began to read books on eastern thought, shamanism, and comparative religion. Through Castaneda's writings came - among other things - the concept of lucid dreaming. Those books, along with Tohei's "Ki in Daily Life" had me "training" in one way or another - almost every waking moment - and through lucid dreaming - a lot of time while I was sleeping as well.

I moved to Denmark in late '88 and began training Nishio aikido. It's interesting to look back and see how the catalyst of aikido moved me quickly into so many new experiences. I was working professionally in music recording studios, so the study, or "awareness" or "mindfulness" of aikido fit seamlessly with music and recording.

Aikido change how I rode a bike. [ and yes, I wiped out in the dark at night less than 6 months after starting to train - and did a perfect roll, and wasn't hurt at all, by an event that could have severely injured me.] It changed how I open and close doors, how I put dishes away, how I held a baby in my arms, how I related to people, how I cooked, how I played music, how I breathe, how I sneeze...

I could add more, but some of the questions would be:

What do you feel comprises your aikido training?

Over time, have you found that the principles encompass more of your life and activities?

If you played around with a calculator, how many hours would you estimate - based on your definition of your aikido training - have you put into to practice to date?

If you feel you've reached the 10,000 hours of practice needed, when do you feel that occurred?

Brian Beach made some excellent input in the Rank topic that people's experience of aikido is not universal. So, rather than have this topic be grounds for any debates on how to define it, I think it would be more productive to allow everyone to individually express their own range and their own experiences. Because from that, rather than trying to pigeon-hole anything, we can appreciate the wide diversity that aikido and its practice has brought to the world.


Brian Beach
04-11-2013, 01:31 PM
Letting your practice color the rest your experiences, letting it be the lens how you see the world is where it moves from "jutsu" to "do."

I think it happens in other activities as well. You can see it in the philosophy of coaches like Bear Bryant or Vince Lombardi. You may not share their views but it's hard to deny that their world view wasn't through the lens of Football and coaching.

“Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” - Julia Child

04-12-2013, 02:41 AM
Great post Dan.

I have the good fortune to work with people that know a lot about how the body works and develops. Both in a health perspective and in the light of competitive sports. If I have picked one thing up then it is that there are a world of myths out there when it comes to how we learn (especially through our body) and how we develop our brain and body - not to mention the link between the two.

I believe the old saying of '10.000 repetitions' or '10.000 hours of practice' is one of these myths. I have seen some people get on the mat for several hundred hours - probably pushing thousands, without showing much improvement in their Aikido. How they find they find the motivation is beyond me, but that's a different story. The point is that Aikido - or any other budo for that matter - should become what Dan describes. A passion.. a love that just wont die.Then it starts influence your whole life. Youre spouse and children will look at you overbearing when you sit in the car or at the dinner table suddenly getting lost in a hand movement or the way you hold your cutlery. Your friends will shake their heads in bewilderment when you choose to spend your money and holliday on a week long seminar returning tired, beat up and with aching knees. Not to mention when you spend hundreds of dollars on a particular odd piece of wood shaped like a sword in stead of replacing the beat up furniture or worn out car - not to mention buying an extra flat screen TV.

Or to put it in another way.When your art start making you happy just thinking about it.. yes you got the bug and it probably wont leave again any time soon. Most people who do a competitive sports version of a martial art will either loose momentum when they get too old to compete - or they will discover the same thing when they look for new aspects in what they do. In some Aikido dojo's we get a chance to look for it at an early stage, and for me that is the best type.

Of course time on the mat can not be omitted. You wont progress unless you do - but having the mind where the body is during that practice is essential, and having the practice in your mind at other time is a great facilitator for more progress.

And at some point you may realize that you don't progress in Aikido because you want to become better at kicking butt or because you want that next yudansha level (still haven't surpassed that completely myself) but because you enjoy what you do and because your body AND mind demands to have it's regular Aikido kick. Some may use a neurological approach and say it is because we are prone to having our established patterns of neurons enforced through repeating something we have already done many times - some may approach it in a different way and mark us as adrenalin junkies, sect members, suffering from force of habit etc etc.. It all depends on the type of social/scientific approach one chooses. Fact is.. the bug is here.. and I enjoy obeying it :)


04-12-2013, 12:50 PM
Hi Dan,

You used the word "catalyst", and I think it's an apt one. Aikido is a catalyst for a lot of people who are ready for some kind of transformation in their lives. Personally, I think it's important to make the distinction between the catalyst and the result. In my view, an action does not become "aikido" simply because one's experience in aikido provides a lens through which to experience it differently, derive more benefit from it, or take it further somehow. People were walking down the street, cooking dinner, hanging their laundry, riding the subway, etc. long before aikido came along. That's not to say that other activities can't contribute to your aikido training, but it's a chicken and egg problem. After I'd been training for two or three years, I noticed that my skiing had improved a lot, IMO as a result of aikido training -- but my skiing didn't become "aikido training" (IOW, there was a connection, but at least in that case, I think the influence/benefit flowed in one direction). As a counterexample, I think that when we come to aikido, most of us walk in ways that just don't work for aikido. In that case, altering how one walks down the street to practice good aikido mechanics, instead of the typical heel-toe gait, would be "aikido training" IMO.

04-12-2013, 05:14 PM
I believe the old saying of '10.000 repetitions' or '10.000 hours of practice' is one of these myths.

It's from a non-fiction book. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outliers_(book)

It isn't a myth.