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Old 04-17-2006, 01:27 PM   #49
Dennis Hooker
Dojo: Shindai Dojo, Orlando Fl.
Location: Orlando Florida
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 456
Re: Am i missing something??

Paige, sometimes it is in how we approach our training and why we train. I wrote this for Aikido Today some time ago and perhaps it will put a little different slant on things Or perhaps not.

Why We Continue to Train
by Dennis Hooker

I recently conducted a seminar in Pensacola Florida and was struck by the diversity of the people present. They ranged from flight students and instructors to doctors and housewives. They ranged in experience from rokudan to rokkyu (from 6th degree black belt to beginner) and the former was as eager to train, share my knowledge and share my life, as was the later. It was a humbling experience.

During the first day one of the younger attendees made the remark that he was a little bored with coming to the dojo everyday and doing shomen-uchi ikkyo (the first technique of Aikido). He said it got old after a while. Well as I have never been bored with anything concerning Aikido, I took pause to consider this statement. I thought about why I was there along with another rokudan, godan, yondan, sandan, nidan, shodan as well as a number of various other kyu rank. Looking at the more experienced Aikido folk I knew I shared a bond with them that the younger people, especially the one that made the comment, did not or could not share. It is a bond that transcends organizational structure. It is an understanding that all Aikido, all students of Budo (the martial ways), must eventually develop and nurture or they will soon become bored with technique. They will gain their shodan trophy (1st degree black belt) and move on to other endeavors. In doing so they will lose their grasp on the most precious gift offered by Aikido. That gift is not the ability to destroy another person, but a deep and abiding love of life.

This seminar had been postponed twice as I was going through another bout with a debilitating kidney illness and an episode of Myasthenia Gravis. Once I finally got well enough to teach, the seminar was rescheduled. Then ten days before the seminar I got a call that my mother was terminally ill with brain cancer. Two days before the seminar I sat with my frail, terminally ill mother in my arms knowing it would be the last time I saw here alive. Then I left to teach an Aikido seminar. I could never have brought myself to leave my grief and self-pity had it not been for Aikido and its lessons taught to me over a very long time by some very fine people. I could not have left my dying mother, had I loved her less. Among her last words to me were, "Denny, Aikido and Saotome saved your life. You have an obligation to pay them back, go." So I went.

Standing there looking at my fellow students all this went through my mind and I knew I had to try and teach the young fellow that nothing about our learning Aikido is boring. I had to try and teach him something of "ichi-go ichi-ye", or "one time, one beginning". I had to try and teach him that every encounter is a first and last. I had to try and get across that nothing can be repeated and nothing can be practiced. It can only be experienced once, and then it is gone forever. How can you become bored with something you only do once?

I had to try and teach him that each encounter with another of God's creations is a once in a lifetime event that can never be repeated nor taken back. Each encounter should be full and true, and never done with half a heart or half a mind. Each time you face another person, and that person gives their body to you in technique, right then you hold that life in your hands. You hold in your power a gift more precious than gold and one that can never be replaced. It is a unique and wondrous thing. How can you become bored with that?

I had to try and teach that young man that accepting the gift of that life is an ominous and yet joyous responsibility. You accept it; you protect it and you return it in better condition than it was before your encounter. Then you offer yourself in return. The uniqueness of good Aikido is that we can do this in total trust, and in so doing, we will all be richer from the encounter. I had to try and teach this young man we do not practice shomen uchi ikkyo. We experience it only once and in that one experience we share a lifetime with another of God's beings. How can you be bored with that?

You give yourself to me and I give myself to you in total trust. No equivocation or self-evasion what so ever. To learn to trust and be trusted is ikkyo. It is the first principle of Aikido, without which all other training becomes less by its measure. It is the first because it is the hardest. The hardest to learn and is the hardest to keep. I had to also try and teach the young man that coming to the dojo everyday should not get old and should not need to be boring.

As I looked at the faces of each of the more experienced men I knew they too embrace the concept of "shoshin", the beginner's heart. How else could those other old worn down tattered ragamuffins of old men, of whom I am one, be there. Our combined days of stepping through the doors of a dojo must be in the tens of thousands. Yet there we are class after class, seminar after seminar, day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade. Why do we not become bored to tears? It is because each time we step through that door it is with the heart of the beginner. We are ready to encounter shomen uchi ikkyo for the first time, and we can hardly wait.

Each time I hold my children, each time I kiss my grandchildren, each time I tell my wife I lover her, is the first and last time. And two days ago I held my mother for the first and last time. How, oh how, can one become bored with that? I am convinced that without Aikido this knowledge would have evaded me. This peace I have would never have been. I don't know if the young man really understood the lesson he got that day, but I hope so.

Dennis Hooker: (DVD) Zanshin and Ma-ai in Aikido
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