Often, too often, we hear calls to practice Aikido at all times, 168 hours a week, in the morning and in the evening, at night, on Christmas Day, on Workers Day, during your wedding and honeymoon, when pregnant, with broken bones, on the evening of your partner’s birthday… Beyond the obvious and necessary bi-three-weekly commitment, are we really sure that an average developed human being does not also need other and different sources of inspiration for his/her own psychophysical and socio-cultural well-being?
by SIMONE CHIERCHINI
We all agree that in order to learn in a systematic way any part of the human knowledge one must be dedicated to it, and it is especially true that in the initial phase this commitment must be constant and practice repeated frequently over time. It is also quite clear that even when one reaches mastering of any technique, the necessity to keep it in constant exercise cannot be ignored; differently the quality of the technique itself would deteriorate.
However, our technique, that is Aikido on the tatami, corresponds to swimming in a pool: it helps to learn, but it is artificial. To swim in the natural environment we have to dive in the sea, while real Aikido should be applied in everyday life. Confining oneself in a swimming pool 10 hours a day does not teach you to swim in the sea, because the conditions are different; living life only performing Budo techniques within the dojo may create “monsters of the mind”.
Here I am quoting my friend Fabio Branno, who commented on a Facebook post of some time ago with the following: “One of the things you notice the most is that Aikido teachers (the serious ones) do too much Aikido. They only do Aikido… We should care also to enrich our hearts and broaden our horizons, maybe watch more films, read more books, listen to good music, travel a little and spend time with those we love without being “THE MASTER“.
I am going to add to the well-centered opinion above that often this excessive tatami-syndrome is a sign of other lacks: a ramshackle family, no friends outside the dojo, interests only concentrated on Budo and so on. This situation is the certification of the fact that Budo training has become a limit, not the launching pad it was supposed to be – a mocking reverse Aikido alchemy! It’s like sex, you can go on the whole day, but in the absence of someone to love, it remains only a pleasurable form of gymnastics and simply a waste of energy. Similarly, sometimes an hour spent hoeing in the garden is superior to an hour of bukiwaza… at least you are growing salads!
Too often those who have spent more time on the tatami end up being prey to a sort of pseudo-martial psychotic mania, which leads them to getting lost in a parallel world. In this made up world of fake Japan and cartoon-styled samurai, they are respected and revered, because they are the senior instructors of others who live in the same parallel dimension. Once you get used to the adoring energy of the junior students, your ego demands it like a drug. For others it is like drinking, getting drunk with company is better fun, but the next day headache is nevertheless a fact of life…
It is truly taunting to start training in Aikido to win one’s ego over, and after 15+ years of practice, have to give it Aikido doses to keep it at bay… Something must have gone wrong.
It is crucial to always keep in mind that Aikido is a means, not an end. If after years and years of practice, all we continue to see is always and only the means – that is, people locked in a room busy with their elaborate pretend fighting – it simply means that our Aikido from the key that should open the world has become a key to lock oneself in a comfortable cage, not even a too golden one.
Here’s an easy test to identify the compulsive maniacs among the Aikido “experts” around you: would you go on your yearly holidays with them, just you, alone, if absurdly you had the chance? Ask yourself this simple question and give yourself an honest answer. Although there are thankfully numerous exceptions, too often the answer is negative, because when they are not on the tatami, the aforementioned Budo academy professionals have nothing to give/say…
Sweating on the tatami is nice, studying hard is great too, we all agree there. The relative awase, however, to become a reality requires a much wider range of stimuli and incentives than those offered by Budo, and above all it must be done with the world, not only with our ego and that of our friends and godchildren in pajamas and skirts…
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