Dojo: MIT Aikido / Cambridge, MA
Location: Boston, MA
Join Date: Aug 2009
Why do you train in aikido
Someone recently asked me to answer this question. After I wrote this, it occurred to me that this might be a good exercise to do for anyone training in aikido.
Why do I train…It's an integral part of my life and who I am, it's the highlight of my day (every day). It's my yoga, like my five minutes stretching every morning, like sitting at my piano every evening. My body knows how to do it. It’s almost as if my body is a horse, and my mind and spirit and emotions are sitting on top riding along, leaning this way and that, sitting up straight, crouching down close, flying through the air.
Aikido is one place that my whole self knows, and returns to. When I sit before training, relaxing my mind, opening my breath, expanding myself outwards and inwards, and I feel my body that I now sit inside of, and sometimes I remember sitting in the same spot and space in a skinny little teenage body, surrounded by a room full of bigger, older people, my mind going in a million directions, my breath shallow, my legs hurting,...all excited and restless to move. At that age, I liked to say that to me aikido was “moving Zen”...whatever that is.
Now as I reflect on this question, I realize that over the years there has never been a period of boredom, or a time where I felt like my training was in a slump or declining. It has been a constant progression forward and up. Aikido has always been a better-and-better experience for me, for my body, and mind and spirit and feelings. Certainly it’s given me balance, clarity, and peace, and a greater connection to myself and to others. It has also somehow given me a stronger feeling of empathy and connection to the world, nature, and to all things.
I think back to when I was younger, when I had limitless energy and endurance, spending an entire hour of breakfalls and challenging physicality. Now I seem to spend half of my training sitting and catching my breath. As I continue, I realize that all of us are moving forward and we all together (in our own cities and towns) are continually progressing in our training. I gives me much pleasure to train with someone I haven’t seen in many years, and to see how much we have progressed and how different our feeling is as we train with each other. I look at our older sempai, and admire how relaxed, unassuming, sensitive, and how happy they are. Moreover, I look forward to that place for me when I’m an old man.
I used to like to say that aikido training forces me/us to deal intimately with another person, one-on-one, on many levels, all at the same time: physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, politically, spiritually, etc. But now I don’t really think like that at all. I don’t feel like I’m relating to my partner this way or that way. I try to have no ideas or preconceptions about them, who they are, their intentions, or what is about to happen. When I face my uke (or nage) I try not to preconceive what the attack (or defense) will be, or how it will be, and what we’re going to do. I try to just feel the person as we connect and move, and respond to our balance and center, and if I can apply the specified technique to the situation, I do. Or maybe circumstances lead to another technique or another way of moving and responding. It seems like from time to time I find that I’m concentrating (for a while) on a different specific aspect in my training. Right now it’s this “no-mind” state. It’s a challenge to me to continue to have this state of mind and feeling as I train one-on-one with you all.
I am also continually questioning the integrity of my training and technique, and forever striving to feel my partners’ center and keep my own.
It’s very difficult, and a bit mysterious to put into words what aikido really is for me, and why I train. Maybe in another forty years I’ll have a clearer understanding. I’d be interested in hearing your answer to this question.