21 Years - A Personal Journey
Apparently turning 21 is a significant life event for some.
For me, 2014 represents 21 years as a student of aikido. In that time I have been privileged to have been taught by some fantastic teachers whom I have a great deal of respect for, trained with some very talented aikidoka and shared in the celebration of my dojo mates' achievements. Through the years there have been frustrations, self doubts, injuries, breakthroughs, affiliations, arguments, splits, reconciliations, celebrations, understanding, improvement and the odd situation of having to use my training to get out off trouble. All par for the course really.
A number of years ago, at the behest of my Sensei, I agreed to take on the role of an instructor to help with the teaching load as class sizes had grown. It wasn't a huge commitment and it did help with my understanding, especially when I had to try to communicate the basics and fundamentals. Unfortunately, Sensei's health deteriorated and his work commitments escalated exponentially to the extent he could no longer teach for extended periods and it fell to his senior students to shoulder the load. I did more teaching and less training and felt like I was getting "stale". For me teaching was a something to help out but training and being a sincere and honest uke was what I was passionate about.
I made the decision to stop teaching and asked to be removed from the teaching roster as I felt there were other senior students who could step up. Initially, not so much of a problem but as the years went by and Sensei health improved to the point he could return to teaching, questions were asked about when I would return to teaching. When I said I wouldn't some were not happy with that, including Sensei but he was supportive of my reasons.
You see, Sensei felt it was time for me to make a commitment to pass on what I had learnt and that I had a responsibility to do so within the context of the "Ai" in Aikido; more specifically to take on the role of the head instructor at my own dojo. There were some of his senior students that questioned whether I still should be part of the dojo because of my reluctance to teach. I felt there were enough to share the teaching load and I would contribute through my training.
I continued to train at 2 dojos and for a period of time 5-7 times a week. It was a wonderful time to feed my quest to understand and just for the enjoyment.
So what's the point of all of this?
For me aikido is a journey, there is really no end. Gradings are but markers along your journey and not an end in itself. I've seen some stop when they reach shodan; which is a shame because you miss out on so much.
Train consistently and safely, enjoy the moment with your dojo mates; be an honest and sincere uke neither compliant nor resistant but cooperative so that both you and uke can learn. Look out for yourself; respect uke's energy and take care of Uke. In all my years, I have only had once instance where I have refused to train with someone because he lacked the understanding of Aiki and egoless training.
Seek to refine and gain a greater understanding through sharing and exploration. Basics and fundamentals is everything. Stance, balance, positioning/distance, blending, intent, extension/focus and body movement.
The joy of learning about myself was by far the most important thing for me. For me questions of martial effectiveness, self defence efficacy are really secondary to what it can show you about yourself and insights about who and what you are.
Above all persevere, have fun and enjoy; the frustrations and doubts are just speed bumps along the way. What you will gain is priceless. Yes I did finally open a dojo with a small number of students so that I can give them the attention they deserve.
Peace be with you all and may your journey be all the you wish it to be.
Re: 21 Years - A Personal Journey
Tremendous outlook, I myself hope to be training that long, if not longer. A lot of knowledge can be gained during that time period. Much respect to you good Sir!
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