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 to learn anything systematically we have to be dedicated to it. This is especially true at the beginning, when that commitment has to be persistent and training frequent over time. It is also common knowledge that even when we reach the mastering of any technique, we can’t ignore the need to keep it in constant exercise. Differently, it’s impossible to maintain the standard.
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”.
A fellow Aikido teacher and a friend, Fabio Branno, nailed it for us: “One of the things you notice the most is that Aikido teachers (…) 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“.
Often this excessive tatami-syndrome is a telltale for other needs: a ramshackle family, no friends outside the dojo, interests only concentrated on Budo and so on. It is the certification of the fact that Budo training has become a limit, not the launching pad it was supposed to be – some sort of mocking reverse Aikido alchemy! It is like sex, you may go on the whole day, but if you don’t have someone to love, it is only a sporting pastime and a waste of energy. Similarly, sometimes an hour spent digging 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 mocking to see how many of us started Budo training to learn how to keep the Ego in check and now, after 15+ years of practice, have to resort to daily Aikido doses to keep it at bay… Something must have gone wrong.
Aikido is a means, not an end. If after years and years of practice, all we continue to experience is always and only the means – that is, people locked in a room busy with elaborate pretend-fighting – it simply means that Aikido from a key to open our world, has become the key we use to stay locked in a comfortable cage.
Here’s an easy test to identify the compulsive maniacs hidden among the Aikido “experts” around you: would you go on your well-deserved vacations with them, just you, alone, if you had the chance? Ask yourself this simple question and give yourself an honest answer. Thankfully, there are numerous exceptions, but often enough the answer would be “No, thanks”. Why? Because when they are not on the mats, they have little or nothing to give or say, apart from Budo…
To sweat on the mats is great, to study hard is excellent, we all agree there. This awase we are always talking about, however, to become a daily life reality requires a much wider range of stimuli and incentives than those offered by Budo. Above all, it should be done with the world, not only with our ego and that of our friends and godchildren in white pyjamas.