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Despite my busy schedule today, I need to complete this task before it fades away…
This topic follows the discussion I have with S. Fuad (my dojo mate) after last night class and to share with it everyone else:
"It doesn't matter why it works. It only matters that it works." So say a soke of a martial art system.
For a start, let use handwriting skill as an example. Some of us started to learn to write at kindergarten, some even started before that. Some of us can't even stand looking at our own handwritings let alone showing them to others. My wife is one of those. She said that she got the ugliest handwriting. For all purpose and intend, her handwriting remains consistent and readable to all concerned. On the other hand, my handwriting ranges from bad to good depending on the purpose and intend. Bad -- when I am making notes for myself, sometimes after a couple of weeks I find that I can't understand what was written. Somewhere in between -- when I making notes to my subordinates. Good -- when I write to my superiors, even then not just the handwriting but the grammar and spellings, etc. How does this relate to the statement above? When our handwriting is legible, it doesn't matter. But given the care and patience, we can improve our handwriting for purpose of presentation, e.g. proportionate letter and spacing, putting the dots and crosses at the right places, etc.
We talked about muscle memory. The reason why some of us cannot vary our handwritings for different intend and purpose is because of muscle memory -- meaning at a certain stage of our education path (in school), we have lost the care to improve our handwritings, we were satisfied with it and our mind and body (hand muscle memory) have fused to it since then. But, it doesn't mean that we can't un-fuse and remodel it.
Learning aikido is no different from learning to write. Learning to write the alphabets is the start; in aikido you start with basics. You will then learn to spell words and then construct sentences using the rules of grammar; in aikido, this equivalent to applications of the basic techniques to different type of attacks. From the influence(s) of your grammar teacher(s), you will acquire your unique style of writing -- meaning your style of writing is either modeled from one teacher or a combination of teachers. In aikido, your techniques will be a reflection of your teacher(s). In the old days, a martial teacher was not just a teacher of physical skills; he/she also had the role of being a spiritual teacher. Having acquired the skill to maim or to kill, one must be taught to control the usage of this skill. Hence, the old saying, "You judge the quality of the teacher by the quality of his students". This saying does not refer to physical ability of the students alone but to the conduct of the students as well: if someone sees the student as "kurang ajar" (Malay for lack of teaching meaning an ill-mannered person) and egoistic then the teacher must be "kurang ajar" and egoistical as well. In the old days, when a student had caused his teacher to loose face due to his grave misconduct, the punishment could be in form of severance of student-teacher relationship or to extent of teacher taking away the skills from the student by maiming one or more of his limbs - that was very harsh. In our current time, this doesn't happen; now instead of the teacher picking his student(s), the students pick the teacher. The student-teacher relationship now is more commercial rather than spiritual.
Though you may have a good command of a language and its grammar, what is written would have no purpose or meaning if the handwriting were illegible. Similarly, if you have not gone past the basics in aikido, your techniques will not be effective and will only give pain and injury to your partners. Aikido is an art and the skill is ones craft.
Coming back to S Fuad's question, "When/how do we gain spiritualism in martial training?"
(IMHO) This depends on the individual and his/her teacher, and the combination of both. This is about individual's passion and attitude.
"It doesn't matter why it works. It only matters that it works."
If a student has the passion to learn and better his skill(s), then it does matter to know why it works. The student is always seeking for details. When he understands why it works, he may learn to apply the principles and rules to other skills -- this is wisdom.
"Change is inevitable, growth is optional."
Though a person assumes a teacher's role, he himself is also student (learning is ones lifetime). If he has the passion to learn, he must have the passion to share his knowledge hoping that his students can build something from that knowledge and he himself learns something new from that process. In short, the teacher must have the passion and attitude to teach -- teaching is a two way process. The teacher must also accept the fact that the student may have the intelligence and skill to surplus him one day.
Looking for details, learning about ones self and others, improving ones skill, acquiring good habits and discarding the bad, improving ones character by self-discipline, IMHO, will lead to spiritual growth. If a student lacks the passion and attitude for learning, having the best teachers will not make any great difference; hence, the saying, "when one is ready, the master will appear".
"Aikido is an art and the skill is ones craft."
To be a good craftsman, one must honk ones skill to be precise and perfect. As in any trade/art, one seeks to deliver the goods at the lowest cost, the quickest time and in the perfect quality. In short: minimum effort, maximum effect is the objective. This is effiency. That's why everyone seeks apprenticeship from the very best craftsman on the land. Isn't it obvious that almost every living Aikido shihan (past 60's) claims to be a direct student of O Sensei despite being in his presence for just a brief period of time? Even Sokaku Takeda, O Sensei's teacher, was considered to be the best swordsman and martial artist in his time.
When one has the passion to learn, to search for details, one begins to look at things from a 3-dimensional view rather from a 2-dimensional view (color verus shades of grey versus just black or white). Sometime problems and abstracts including religions are not 2-dimensional, that is why every religion is sectorian and diverse within. You can say it is God's design (a test for mankind) or a man's design (selfish motivations) but underneath all there is a true purpose for every religion. Aarh!! This is another topic for another day.
The spiritualism that I refer to is not about aikido or religion but about learning about ones self - strength, weakness and purpose and how one should conduct oneself with sincerity during ones brief moment on this Mother Earth. Aikido and other martial art helps to do that by enhancing our learning process - it tests us physically, mentally and emotionally, it tests our fellowship and interaction with fellow human beings - it makes us aware of our mind, body and spirit. Spirit is not about our religious beliefs; it is about our conscience, including our will to hurt or not to hurt others. O Sensei called aikido, "The Art of Peace". Terry Dobson, who trained diligently even to the last days of his life, told his students on the mat a few days before his death, "Aikido is not about techniques, aikido is the training of the heart".