I had the true honor and pleasure of being able to teach some classes at the Durango, Colorado’s Shin-Budo Kai dojo this past July! There are a lot of similarities between our dojo and the Durango dojo. The greatest strength and similarity between the two dojos is the emphasis on mindful practice. I believe that this component is critical in having students and teachers alike become their own best teachers. In order to best learn and teach, we must be as aware as possible as to what we are doing so that we can answer the “whys” of what we are doing.
I always emphasize that people practice at a speed with which they can maintain awareness as to what is happening with them and with the attacker. This forces a person to be mindful and in the moment. At another level, you can be more aware of what you are doing than the next person and if you are not able to “translate” that awareness into meaningful movements, so much for being aware….. We not only need to to be aware, but we also need to utilize our mindfulness so that our mental intent and physical movements are done in a martially effective manner. Whereas certain movements might look the same, but the way in which they are executed can be very different and have markedly different results. Mindful awareness and control helps us to make the right choices as to the nature of our movements.
Our practice needs to be 100% of the time on the mats. We should not relax our mindful awareness as uke by mindlessly attacking and taking mindless ukemi. The uke needs to be able to attack with an integrated body and the mindful intent should be obvious in the nature of the attack. The uke can continue to be mindful in how to manage the incoming forces as a technique is applied. this information helps to maintain a connection with the nage, while learning how to keep maintain one’s structural integrity throughout the ukemi process. The Nage needs to be mindful of what he/she is doing, rather than mindlessly “replicating” a technique that is being executed again for the nth time. Mindful awareness helps the nage to deepen the understanding of the martial principles of movement that are contained within a technique. This enables the nage to develop the “insides” of a technique, which is the heart and soul of what makes it all work.
We need to be mindful of our training environment. Everybody has issues related to conflicts and these issues get set off at one time or another. We need to be personally responsible for our own issues and use our practice to learn how to better manage them (and hopefully resolve some of them). Learning to deal with conflicts is part of our training experience and mindful awareness creates a type of practice that can inform us of areas that we need to address. We need to be sensitive to everybody in the dojo and look to create the most harmonious training atmosphere that we can personally create. Mindful practice helps us to see how our interactions with other people with their own unique set of issues can create opportunities for personal growth. Aikido provides us with a unique opportunity to put into action the empty words of many. Mindful practice helps us achieve that goal. I would like each student to reflect deeply upon this topic this month and see what can be gained from a month of training with this focus.
Marc Abrams Sensei
(Original blog post may be found here