In Aikido class, I practice like I’m 6’ 9”, even though I’m 5’ 3”. I train like I’m 6’ 9”, 250+ pounds Lebron James, one of the Greatest NBA Players of All-Time. Maybe, the next GOAT (Greatest of All-Time)? Just asking. Mad love and respect for the GOAT Michael Jordan.
LeBron played like the MVP in his 18th NBA season, before the COVID-19 pandemic suspension. In his career, GOAT Michael Jordan played 15 NBA seasons. LeBron has sustained excellence over the longer span. Perhaps, LeBron ties Michael with six NBA Championships. We shall see.
LeBron continually works on his greater-than version. He elevates his teammates to their own greater-than versions, too. LeBron wants to be defined by what he does off the basketball court, making a profound difference in the world. His I Promise School for underprivileged minority kids in his hometown of Akron, OH embodies his authentic commitment to his community. Mad love and respect for LeBron.
I’m not the LeBron James of Aikido. Yet, I train like I’m LeBron. I train into the bigger space of my greater-than version. In that space, I’ll fail and prevail. I learn. I move on. Just train.
Sensei Bobby instructs during Aikido practice. In the attack, I stand straight and tall like I’m 6′ 9″. I wait out the attack, whether a punch or grab. I “enter the attack and die with honor”. I’m present. I apply the Aikido technique to myself. The external opponent is irrelevant. Aikido Founder O-Sensei said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” I end the attack. I practice over and over and over again.
Years ago, my best friend John taught me to “listen others into existence”. We generate the bigger space in our listening of others so that they can grow into that space, or not. Really, they have to grind it out. They have to put in the work. That’s their choice. More than just saying.
When I made Shodan (1st-degree black belt), Sensei said, “You did it…” I got it. I swallowed my ego, listened from mushin (the empty mind), ground it out, and just trained. My choice. My dedication. Sensei was my guide.
While tying my black belt before my Sandan (3rd-degree black belt) test, I spoke with Mike. Mike was Sandan, my invaluable Sensei over the years.
Mike said, “Sensei already knows you’re Sandan. Just go out there and show what you know. Have fun.”
Mizukami Sensei listened to me, allowing me to exist in that bigger space to grow. That Sandan test was simply what’s next for me. I showed up and showed out. The test was brutal, and I had fun. I passed. Now, I’m Yondan (4th-degree black belt). Mercifully, Sensei recommended me for that promotion.
Sensei’s generous listening of me granted the space to be me, to my invent greater-than self. I trained like I’m 6’ 9” LeBron James. Well, almost.
We listen for others’ greater-than versions and create that space for them to grow. We invite them to step up, to grind it out, to become their greater-than selves. Some will grind it out. Others won’t. It’s their choice.
Some might decline the invitation to invent their next greater-than versions. That’s cool. They’re just fine. Becoming greater than they know themselves to be is still a possibility. When they choose to grind it out, we’ll be there for them.
So I train like I’m 6’ 9”. I take my baby steps. What’s next? I play like I’m 6’ 10”. Just saying.
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