Reflections from the Mat

Ruminations of Kokikai Aikido technique and philosophy

Month: May 2019

The Benefits of Working with a Training Partner

Introducing yourself to your training partners, getting to know them personally, and developing healthy relationships with them will maximize the likelihood that you can learn something new every time you train together. Throughout civilization for thousands of years the martial arts have held the notoriety of being an extraordinary form of exercise for a person’s body, mind, and spirit.  Aikido works to develop harmony of the body, mind and spirit as one.  Aikido students will learn how to develop these connections without isolating any of the three forces from each other.  Students are tested by their own ability to be present in the moment when training with a partner or a group of people.  Students new and old need to work together to keep each other accountable while training so that we can all train hard to achieve our own goals and also make an effort to better ourselves a little bit every time we step onto the mat for practice.

One of the four core principles of Aikido is to develop your positive mind.  Aikido does focus on physical development and good students of Aikido train hard to condition their bodies to their utmost potential. However, like many things in life, the mental aspect is the real obstacle that we work to develop so that we can evolve and grow beyond the limits of our physical bodies.  When we have a partner to train with over the course of our development as martial artists, we can monitor our progress with greater accuracy because our practice becomes a dialogue. Developing this dialogue requires great patience and respect so that we can all grow at our own pace.   Each and every interaction that we have with our training partners is an opportunity to step outside of our comfort zone and move onto the next level.

In fact, to sum up the whole matter, it is possible for us to grow as individuals only if we are able to communicate effectively with those that we interact with. The best martial artists are those that decide to take their practice seriously.  It takes time and dedication to develop good qualities like patience, discipline, and positivity.  Being a martial artist is a way of life.  You do not need to reinvent the wheel in order to learn martial arts.  You just need to show up to class with an open mind that is ready to learn.  The dojo is a place where students can grow beyond what they think they are capable of. When people come together with a positive attitude and a sense of discipline, people will naturally help each other to become the best possible version of themselves.  Instead of students competing with each other to beat each other, Aikido is an art that allows students to learn from each other and grow together so that we can achieve the goals that we set for ourselves.

 

Being a Good Steward of the Dojo Space

dojo mat space

 

It is an honor to be writing a blog for Chester County Kokikai Aikido, and for my first entry I will go over some details about what it takes to become a student of Aikido and what Aikido students need to acquire over time as they begin to practice the art of Aikido. If they are hungry for learning the art, new students of Aikido will quickly adopt the idiosyncrasies and rules that go along with the training. New students should strive to develop their ability to learn by doing or imitating the technique as they see it, and over time their particular skillset becomes more finely tuned and developed. Coming from a beginner’s perspective, Aikido, like other martial art disciplines take many years of dedication to become proficient.  You need to develop the will and the character to stick with it.  Some students may need to have certain goals and that can range from small things like getting out of the house, to exercising twice a week or greater achievements like becoming a black belt. In more than a few conversations with my instructors, though, I have heard that, “black belt is only the beginning of your training.”

CLEARING THE SPACE

How can a beginner student learn self-control and other skills necessary to start the journey that leads toward becoming a good steward of the dojo?

Sometimes class can become so interesting and exciting that we forget to take care of the little things that we need to get done like cleaning the floors of the dojo after class.  We should always dedicate five minutes to practice good hygiene before and after class. Taking the time to keep our dojo in a clean, pristine condition sends a good message to both the people we train with as well as ourselves.

Entering the dojo is entering a special space. Anyone with a will or strong mind can learn a great deal from Aikido. I have learned this after training in the martial arts for most of my life, to put it simply, new students just need to develop patience and give it time. You must learn the rules of the dojo and develop a positive attitude and patience so that the dojo space can be an open, inviting and abundant space full of potential to learn something new every class. The dojo is a place where people want to learn freely and grow as individuals and become more connected to other people. If new students can really understand in their minds that their positive mental attitude means everything, then we can aim to harmonize with our partners while we practice, and learn from each other in a harmonious way.

One goal of our martial art is to strive to learn from each other in an exchange of physical techniques. What better way to flex your social muscle than by practicing together with a partner or a group of people.

GATHERING GOOD INTENTIONS

What I am beginning to understand about training in the martial arts is that when you are a new student, you need to learn early that your presence and how you show up to class matters to your training partners. Sometimes, just getting to class is an effort in itself, but truthfully, I always feel great after a good sweat at the dojo. A student should be dedicated to showing up to class and finding the best way to learn at least one new thing every time.

The most important aspect of training in the martial arts is the continuous and simultaneous development of our self-discipline and our self-awareness. If you have an open mind and you can leave all of your emotional baggage at the door when you enter the dojo, your mind will be receptive and aware and you will be able to learn. If I am able to take one or two insights out of the class than I am learning and growing as an individual. 

So in conclusion, if the dojo continues to be a positive and welcoming space,  then the students will want to come and practice in harmony. In retrospect, it’s the students presence and actions that help keep the dojo a positive and welcoming space.