I can always hear Sensei Dan’s voice saying, “Just train.” After all, I’ve probably repeated that at least a hundred times here. Perhaps, more. Yes, Sensei was a man of few words. The Master of Simplicity. He absolutely despised bullshit. He only taught what was useful. He only taught what was going to work.
Paramount, Sensei was about being of service, contributing to the greater-than version of others, of his students. What there was to do was “Just train.” “Make it work.”
Like the late Kobe Bryant, you put in your work, without question, without complaining, no excuses. You put in your time. You said, “Hai, Sensei!” even when you had no fucking clue what he was asking you to do. Because, he’d show you how to do the technique correctly, anyway.
“Aikido is repetition.” So that meant I would do Aikido technique over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. I get up from the mat after taking my fall and be ready to go at it again.
I keep training as I create my next greater-than version of myself. I train, because I loved what I do, Aikido. I train, too because I loved Sensei. Training is Sensei’s bit of immortality.
Aikido wasn’t really about training to get the next black belt, although it often occurred that way. With Sensei, my Aikido could always be better, be it: timing, distance, waiting it out, being willing to take a blow, and finishing the attacker in one move. The technique had to be done just “one time”.
Consequently, “just train” was about Mastery. Sensei Bobby further evolved the discipline by saying, “Apply the technique to yourself.” O-Sensei said, “Opponents confront us continually, but actually there is no opponent there. Enter deeply into an attack and neutralize it as you draw that misdirected force into your own sphere.”
There’s no real external opponent. Our greatest opponent shall be ourselves. Apply the technique to myself. I constantly overcome myself. O-Sensei said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” Just train.
As good and skilled as I got in Aikido over the years, Sensei reminded me that it’s more important to him who I was outside the Dojo, in the real world. In his heart, Sensei believed that the world would be a better place if everyone trained in Aikido. Yet, that was never going to happen. I think Sensei also knew that.
I got that Sensei wished for those he taught Aikido, to make the world a better place. To honor Sensei’s legacy, I try to make a difference in small or profound measures. I just train.
So, I just train whether it’s Aikido, writing, working with my therapist Lance, or guiding young officers like Lieutenant Jon in fostering their greater-than versions of themselves.
As I look at my life: There’s what happened in the past. The future has yet to occur. When Sensei said, “Just train”, he meant for me to be present, to reinvent myself in that moment. That invention could be throwing some 250 pound Dude coming to punch my face. That could be looking at my fear of my dad when I was 8 years-old with my Therapist Lance. That could be inviting Joanne to come to watch an Aikido class.
When I just train, when I don’t think about the outcome, when I have no agenda, I’m free to be me. I’m free to invent my possible greater-than version. It might not be the greatest version, yet it’s still greater than my current ‘zero’. Just saying.
So why “just train”? Maybe, to be present to life. Perhaps, to invent my next greater-than version. Or perhaps, to give something back to others, what Sensei gifted me over the years.
Really, I just train, because I love. I just train, because I’m free. I just train out of mad love and respect for Sensei. Amen.
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