Twice in the past two weeks I have had the great privilege of training under Tim Detmer, an American-born aikido instructor who has spent the last 29 years living and training in Shingu, Japan. Working with him was in equal measures challenging, educational, inspiring, and exhausting.
If nationality can be measured in years, Detmer Sensei is more Japanese than American. He was born and raised in Seattle, but has lived most of his adult life and done virtually all his formal aikido training in Shingu. He is, therefore, uniquely equipped to communicate a Japanese perspective on aikido to an American audience.
Apart from his insights on aikido method and technique (which would be difficult for a novice like myself to put into words and which would be very dry reading in any case), Detmer Sensei left me with two lessons that I'd like to preserve here, as much for my own benefit as for any reader's.
Do not be too focused on your opponent.
Another way Detmer Sensei put this was: "Do not give him the honor of being your enemy."
Aikido and life work better when we decide on our own course of action based on what we think it ought to be rather than on whom we want to defeat. In aikido, being too focused on our opponents can lead to badly aimed technique, exposure to reversal, and compromised balance. In an argument, becoming too focused on our opponent can lead to attacking the man and being dragged off onto tangents (yes, message board freinds, I'm guilty). In all things, there are goals and obstacles. If we focus on the obstacle, we tend to miss the goal.
One of the instructors at my old club used to say, "I don't care," as nage when talking about uke. I think he was trying to make the same point.
Undertake all things with gratitude.
In aikido and in life, learning to be grateful for what is keeps us from dwelling on what has been or what could be. This not only makes us more positive people, but it keeps us in the now. Detmer Sensei claimed that gratitude was a determining factor in the success of any undertaking.
Another way Detmer Sensei put this was: "Want what you have." He illustrated his point by saying, "I really wish I had a great aikido class with 20 students," then looking around and observing, "I do!"
We in aikido love to talk about taking what we learn in the dojo "off the mat". There are a lot of people who take this idea much further than I'm comfortable with, believing that everything they do is somehow a manifestation of aikido. I don't think I'll ever buy into that kind of thinking, but these past two weeks Detmer Sensei has shared a few things that I'll definitely be taking home with me.
(See the original post on The Young Grasshopper here