Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard
As always, great questions and a most worthy post. Thank you.
Yes, I would say time is relative here. In short, we can't say that time spent on the mat is the most important thing at the same time that we show a reluctance toward signifying the presence or absence of time that is spent doing that thing. However, more is involved here than just hours. Time committed to something is also demonstrative of a great many other things -- things that show what I consider more mature levels of practice. These things are what are being recognized by the measuring of time. For example, time spent on the mat necessitates that one's dojo life and one's non-dojo life find a harmony with each other. To find harmony between these two things one will have to actually embody the union that needs to exist between the two -- that union is necessary for the higher levels of the art to be practiced. Thus, a distinction has to be made between a person that has no job, no external commitment, no life, etc., and thus trains daily and a person that has a job, a spouse, children, etc., and trains daily. In the former case, training may very well be a matter of convenience. In the latter case, training is a matter of insight and of practical application; a matter of seeing training as life and life as training. In the initial stages of this distinction, it is the difference between us finding time for our training and us making time for our training. If we figure it out, we can move from dabbling to true practice. If we do not, even if we are the former person, come marriage, a new career, some children, and ZAP! No more daily practice -- but the same old way of relating to our practice via convenience still remains.
I will have to ask for leeway concerning the "average aikidoka." Of course, I have done no study to determine who or what such a person might be (hugely assuming that such a study could even exist and/or achieve such an end). Thus, I am sure someone somewhere can always come up with experiencing another -- evenly completely opposite -- average aikidoka. This is just my experience -- which undoubtedly has a lot to do with who I am, how I train, and who I train with. However, before I let go of the term, I think I should point out that I am referring to the more subtle aspects of such a perspective. Like I said before, I do not think that a bunch of folks who are not experts are out there saying they are experts. I too have never met a decent amount of folks that do such a thing, such that such a thing could be though of as a mark of the average aikidoka. Perhaps, I've met one or two that have ACTED like that -- in Japan -- but if you pushed them to say "I am an expert," they will never go that far. As I said, I don't think any will. Too much culture in Aikido that works against that type of gross demonstration of what we are talking about (e.g. shoshin, etc.)
The examples of delusion that I am thinking about, and that I think the article is writing about, are the more subtle ways in which we maintain our habitual responses via the self-deception that is mandated by an attachment to the small self. In other words, I think we are not referring to the obvious braggart, etc., but, rather, the article is asking us to look at the very process by which we represent ourselves to ourselves. In other words, this is not just a humility question; it is an ontological one. If we are human, we are subject to these questions and to these issues. As humans that practice Aikido, we are thus going to want to understand these questions and these issues via the way we use the art to represent ourselves to ourselves. Thus, in a way, I am not referring to the "average aikidoka" but rather to every aikidoka (i.e. every human that uses Aikido to represent themselves to themselves).
That said, I think while we may want to see the self-aggrandizing practitioner as relevant to this discussion, we really want to focus in how we are ourselves misrepresent ourselves to ourselves, and thus also how we end up misrepresenting the art (since we are using that to represent ourselves to ourselves) for the sake of satisfying the small self (the ego: our fears, our pride, our ignorance). In other words, the article is not the usual call of "Aikido is only for serious practioners!" The article is really a call for self-reflection -- period.
Perhaps an example of what subtle things I'm talking about might help -- though it won't address the really subtle things (which are even more important)…
--- A deshi of mine is very committed to her training. Lately, she has been making great progress -- at all levels of training. She has nearly developed a capacity for daily training (with a spouse, career, two kids, etc.). She's found a way to balance her training according to our schedule -- having lecture, zazen, weapons, striking, ground fighting, spontaneous training, etc., be a part of her weekly routine. Since there is a day or two where she cannot train due to current scheduling issues that require more time to reconcile, she has opted to train multiple times a day (morning and evening) on certain days. She's perhaps around 5 feet tall, maybe 100 lbs., and nearly 40 (she's 39 now). We managed to impart in her the importance of being conscientious in one's training and in being proactive in one's healing when it comes to dealing with injuries, etc. -- which is something one must be able to address (and address over a long haul) when one is training daily. Currently, she is suffering from a nagging shoulder injury and a nagging neck injury (which may or may not be related). Knowing she had trained in Yoga and with weights in the past, I asked her how that is going now. She said: No more weights; doing some Yoga. "How much Yoga?" She said: "Not that much." "How much is not that much -- once a week?" She said: No, more than that -- maybe two or three times a week?" "How long each time?" She said: "About ten minutes."
REAL ANSWER: No/none -- no Yoga; No weights: No conditioning outside of mat time.
REAL PROBLEM: Aiming oneself toward the higher levels of training while not preparing the body for the long haul of such an endeavor.
REAL SOLUTION: As a woman, and one small in stature, now coming up on 40, take note of the tolls one is asking of one's body and what all is necessary to address those tolls - such that one can pay them and still continue to train, to progress.
REAL PROACTIVE PRACTICE: Work more to condition one's body for what one is asking it to do, or lower one's expectations to address the current state of one's body. Failure to do one or the other will make one prime for quitting one's training altogether.
Besides, Camilla, I'd have to say that you are quite unique - not to sure you represent the "average" aikidoka. :-) Anyone can see that there is a level of self-honesty in your posts that is not at all that common. ;-)
As always, thanks for sharing,