According to the late Mizukami Sensei, Aikido was about repetition. You came to practice. You came to the Dojo to just train. Sensei said that I came to practice even when ‘I don’t feel like it’. If I had a bad day or was pissed off, I still came to train. I leave all my shit at the Dojo door. When I’m in the Dojo, I’m open to train. It’s on. So, my training starts even before the Aikido training. I check my ego at the Dojo door.
Yeah, I’m free to take my ego back with me when I leave the Dojo. After sweating, throwing others, and being thrown a couple hundred times, I left my ego at the door, too. Just saying.
O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” I don’t contest my opponent on the mat. Instead, I apply the technique on myself. I overcome me, my GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) opponent.
Years ago, Mizukami Sensei told me, “There’s no competition in Aikido.” Also, that’s what makes Aikido so difficult to train. Aikido is never about who’s stronger, who’s better. Aikido is a selfless pursuit. Sans ego. Aikido invents your greater self.
In Aikido, I apply the technique to myself, overcome me, and train my greater-than version. In doing so, I help make others greater, too. I don’t have to prove anything. I just train.
Sensei Bobby said the heart of Budo, Japanese martial arts, is “to serve”, to serve others. We serve so that others can grow and evolve into their greater-than selves. Through my trials and tribulation, I get that the World is not all about me. Yes, I train to heal myself, to make myself work, so that I can make a difference for others.
In Sunday Aikido class, it was just Sensei Bobby and me. A visitor came to watch the class because she was interested in Aikido and thought about taking classes. She watched Sensei teach me how to take falls (Aikido body rolls) correctly. I reinvent my falls with Sensei, after nearly 30 years of bad habits, old ways. Sensei is Rokudan, 6th-degree black belt. I’m Yondan, 4th-degree black belt. So we’ve been at it for a while.
I checked my ego at the Dojo door, listened to Sensei, and worked my ass off. I practiced rolls over and over and over and over again. The practice makes a difference.
As I reinvent my Aikido rolls, I really face my fear. I’m afraid of getting hurt. I have old injuries to my back and knees from years of Aikido training and a less-than-optimal falling technique. I practice my falls, keeping my feelings out, not balling my feelings inside, in fear.
Following Sensei’s instructions, I trust my body more, not fearing so much. I take my time. I hear my Mom’s wisdom, “Slow down, Jonny.” Amen.
I practice landing with the top of my feet placed flat on the mat, instead of jamming out my toes. I resist less against the fall and extend through. In the bigger picture, I reinventing my Aikido rolls and work through my fear to find balance, to find peace. I just train.
Observing Sensei and me train made a difference for our visitor. She experienced us creating our greater-than versions. There’s always something to learn. There’s always something to work on. Even after 30 years of Aikido. Then again, everyone’s zero, everyone’s starting point, is different.
In class, I worked on the 13 movement jo (wooden staff) kata, which I’m getting down. I move my body in response to predetermined jo attacks. I looked very intense while practicing the 13 jo kata. Sensei smiled, “You need to relax.”
Mizukami Sensei always said, “Wait it out.” I train the mindset of inviting the attack. I practice relaxing my body, and my face. Just saying. After class, I said, “I get it. I should smile when someone attacks.” Sensei smiled, too.
We spoke with our visitor after class. I said, “We train the body to train the mind.” Later, Sensei and I discussed our Aikido training over the years. He said that we train in Aikido to free our body and our mind. “Aikido is about freedom.”
I didn’t check out my ego when I left the Dojo on Sunday.
In the bigger picture, the World is not all about me, not all about you. We discover and practice freedom in life. As we heal ourselves, as we free ourselves from the past, from our own judgments, we are becoming our most authentic selves. We authentically express ourselves, making a difference for others, making a difference in the world in some way.
More than just saying. Amen.
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